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Culture and Civilization of the Ancient Egypt

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The history of ancient Egypt is full of mystery and secrets. Egypt civilization is the longest in Africa. This country is situated near the NileRiver, so there has always been the wealthy land and good harvest. Such a situation helped the Egyptians last for a long time. Living in a subtropical climate they built their houses from mud bricks and made all the dishes, furniture, etc. from mud. It was easy to do because of constant floods from the NileRiver. People placed mud into wooden molds, baked and hardened it at the sun, then it could be used for different purposes. Houses were built from mud bricks and the thicker was the home, the wealthier was a family.  Trade was a common thing in Egypt, citizens sold products grown by them and bought what they needed.  They usually went to other countries to sell their goods and buy something that could be sold in Egypt. These were the first steps for an international trade. Regards to their life style, the majority of population was farmers, craftsmen or traders. Except them there was small percentage of people who were considered as nobles such as pharaohs, lawyers, priests, scribes, doctors or important military personnel. The Egyptians had their own social structure. At the top there was the Pharaoh who controlled the country. Priests and scribers went after the Pharaoh, they were considered as the most related people to him. At the bottom of social structure were slaves and unskilled workers. They represented half of the population in ancient Egypt. There was a great difference between wealthy and poor people at that time. Children of rich families were sent to school so they had the possibility to become a scribe or priest one day. Wealthy people were well-known and their lifestyle included expensive wine, fashionable clothes and private parties. They had the best houses, furniture and jewelry.

In ancient Egypt families were highly valued. Women usually stayed at home with children while men went for a work. Divorces were allowed only in cases when a husband hated his wife, she betrayed him or she could not have children. When a divorce happened, a woman returned to her parents. Birth of a child was an important event in Egypt. There were two reasons why it was considered so significant. The first reason is that the parents always relied on their child to take care of them when they were old.  Without children the olds were in serious troubles as they often could not walk, cook or help themselves. The second reason is that there was a big lack of workers. Greater wealth of the country and obvious advantage over invaders could be achieved only when the population was increasing, so Ancient Civilization aspired to this. The children were so important for any family that even if a couple could not have a kid; they would adopt a child. Children usually stayed at home with mothers till the age of 4, then boys were taught by their fathers how to do business or got education in schools (Ikram Salima, ‘Egyptian pyramids’). Girls stayed at home with mothers and learnt how to be good wives, if it was a daughter of rich nobles, she also could be sent to school as a boy. Religion of Ancient Egypt is complex, because they did not have a single god. The god for the Ancient Egyptians changed several times; therefore they did not have a clear mythology and myths from the old times. The Egyptians had a lot of difficult beliefs; one of them is about afterlife. They thought that after death a person has another life called afterlife. This belief caused a special way of burial. The body of a dead person was preserved, wrapped in linen, put in stone coffin and then put in pyramid with jewelries, dishes and clothes as they believed that he could use it in afterlife. In ancient Egypt people usually wore light clothes made out of linen as the climate was too hot. Most of men and women walked barefooted and did not cover their heads. Whether a person was rich or poor, he/she always wore jewelry. The difference was in material out of which jewelry was made, the rich wore gold, and the poor used silver or wood. The court system in Ancient Egypt was very unfair. Nobles were never judged harshly, pharaohs made a lot of strict rules to keep control of citizens. Bringing up a criminal was a great shame for a family and usually criminals died in very painful ways. The Ancient Egyptians were very creative and originate people. Their art usually depended on things that they were influenced by whether it was a king and his family or reflection of religion. Citizens of the Ancient Civilization also considered their writing language, hieroglyphics, as a form of art. The Egyptians have always been famous for using papyrus in order to write or draw, for inventing the method of embalmment, for creating mummies and hieroglyphics. Surely they are known for building the Pyramids, the seventh Wonder of the World.

The Pyramids

One of the greatest achievements of the Ancient Egyptians is that they could build the most mysterious pyramids in the world called the seventh Wonder of the World now. No one knows exactly how these pyramids were built and there are a lot of tales about them. The Pyramids of Egypt are incredibly old, but they still impress us. The pyramids of Giza are the most famous, although there are hundreds of these structures throughout Egypt. Each of them is believed to have been built near 20 years including planning, labor and power.  The Pyramids were considered to exist forever and protect the body of the dead pharaoh. They were built in a way to withstand the changes of the time and climate. Many Ancient Egyptians started to think about the death long before it so the tombs were built beforehand. The death of the pharaoh was considered as one of the most important events, it was associated with rising and setting of the sun.

The most famous pyramid is considered to be the Great Pyramid. It is also known as the Pyramid of Cheops. Despite forces of the Egyptians this pyramid was eroding for the last thousands years. It was built 146 meters high and 230.4 meters in length. Now this pyramid is 138 meters high and it continues to erode (Ikram Salima, ‘Egyptian pyramids’).  Originally it was covered with limestone and was planned to be white. Sides of pyramid were pointed at north, south, east and west. The Great Pyramid was designed almost without errors; the margin between the sides is less than 1 percent (Ikram Salima, Egyptian pyramids). How the Egyptians managed to build it so accurately still remains a puzzle. This pyramid consists of two million blocks of limestone, each of which weighs more than two tons. This tomb was built specially for the pharaoh Khufu to protect his body, nevertheless it is empty nowadays. The Great Pyramid is considered to be the last wonder of the ancient world that is still in existence.

Next pyramid is called Khafre’s Pyramid; it was built by a young and ambitious pharaoh. His decision was to build this pyramid near his father’s one, the Great Pyramid. This pyramid differs from others, because its top is of the different color and texture than the rest of the pyramid. Near the Pyramid of Khafre there is also a great statue called the Sphinx. Actually it was named the “Sphinx” 2000 years later after building it, because in the Ancient Egypt this word did not exist before.  This statue is believed to be the face of Khafre and it was built at the same time as his tomb. One of the most interesting things is that the nose of the Sphinx is missing and a lot of legends exist because of this. The most common belief is that Muslim fanatic Sa’im Dahr saw that the Egyptians made offerings to the Sphinx in hope that their wishes would be fulfilled. He was angry so much that he destroyed the nose and was hung for vandalism.

The smallest Giza pyramid is Menkaure’s Pyramid; it was designed specially for pharaoh Menkaure, but it was not finished till his death. Only after pharaoh’s death his son finished the building. The pyramid was made from two materials – white limestone and pink granite. It distinguishes this pyramid from the others. Menkaure’s Pyramid was seriously examined by different scientists and organizations. All of them wanted to find funerary boats, pyramid’s construction ramp, secret traps, etc. Their forces were not trifled as the 3m tall statue was found in this pyramid. It was made from a single block of stone and depicted the figure of Rameses II (Fish Everett, ‘Egyptian Pyramids. An analysis of a great mystery’). The statue was unfinished and it was the first large statue discovered at Giza.

How were the pyramids built?

The mystery of the centuries is how these wonders of the world were built. This question is still left without a clear answer; scientists cannot concur and give one single reply. Opinions differ and so many theories about building pyramids exist. There are some facts that we can be sure about such as a fact that people did a lot of hidden trap doors in the pyramids to keep robbers away. Also, it took approximately 20 years to build one pyramid and tombs of close pharaoh’s people were built near that of his. Near 100000 people were needed to build a pyramid and they were usually built from limestone (Fish Everett, ‘Egyptian Pyramids. An analysis of a great mystery’). Moreover, traditionally pharaohs started to build a tomb as soon as they took the throne. The pyramids were always built on the west bank of the Nile for some spiritual reasons. The ground was carefully examined and the workers were building pyramids only for three/four months when the Nile flooded. That time fields were covered with water and no farming was done.

Today there is no documentation or clues that would help scientist to find out the mystery of pyramids construction. Having the variety of controversial ideas I will distinguish two most common theories. The first one tells us about using wooden logs for moving large stones. Logs were put under large blocks to make the mobility of each block easier. The block was connected with long ropes and people pushed each block forward with the help of these ropes. Simultaneously several men were removing last uncovered logs. Each log was removed from the back and transported to the front. In this way the endless cycle was provided and it helped move blocks. Next question for a discussion is how the Egyptians place each block to its position. They were very heavy and it seemed to be impossible. Although there is an idea that the Egyptians built ramps around pyramid’s sides. With the help of ramps they placed one block on another. A famous Greek historian Herodotus supported this idea, but he thought that instead of ramps the Ancient Egyptians used some devices that helped them lift blocks. It is hard to imagine what kind of lifting machines the Egyptians could have at that time. Despite the fact that this idea is not backed with any proofs anyway we cannot ignore it.

Another idea is extraordinary but interesting. It is considered that aliens or other creatures that live in other corners of the universe built the Egyptian pyramids. This theory has some clues, for example, the Ancient Egyptians drew and talked about the beginning and opening the sky so much. Many of their writings depict bright lights that come down from the sky and teach them a wise technology. The majority of their symbols are of the UFOs and aliens forms. Some Ancient legends describe the “first time” or Tep Zepi. It is a period when “sky gods” came down to people on the Earth and raised it from mud and water (Fish Everett, ‘Egyptian Pyramids. An analysis of a great mystery’). Also there are some scientific facts that could be hardly known by the Egyptians. First of all, the Great Pyramid is lined up with the magnetic North Pole. When it was built the Egyptians did not have a compass, so no one knows how they could be so accurate. Another fact is that every time in the evening of the summer solstice the sun is setting exactly between two pyramids – the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx. To have such an effect the Egyptians should have been aware of solstice, the length of the year, etc. As far as we know, these things were discovered long after their death. Moreover, the Egyptians had very detailed descriptions about everything what happened in their times, there were narrations about kings, wars, structures that they had built, but there were nothing about building pyramids, not even a short record. If these facts are not persuading enough, then there is another one which tells that according to scientific calculations, the Great Pyramid is situated in the center of all land mass of the whole earth. Was it possible for people who lived in the ancient world many thousands years ago to be so exact?

Despite different theories, there are two questions that worry the humanity. Firstly, how did people in Ancient Egypt know exactly where to place a heavy block constructing the pyramids? Secondly, how was it possible to control and communicate with 100 000 people taking into account that workers were illiterate, so they unlikely could read and understand highly precise plans. In 2010 we have already received the possible answer to this question. Ole Bryn was that person who provided us with a simple and interesting idea that clears up the mystery. He is an architect and professor, specializes in architecture and art and has examined the pyramids for a long time. The answer for all questions seems to be very easy as everything of genius is simple. Bryn concluded that the Egyptians had invented the building grid. It helped them separate structure’s measuring system from the physical building. Such a method is used in modern engineering and architecture. Carefully examining the plans of all pyramids in Egypt, also the professor found out that the Egyptians used a pressure system in building each of tombs. It provided reaching the last and the highest point of the pyramid with impressive accuracy.  It means that if the architect knows the dimensions of a pyramid, he can project it as it is done in a modern building. So the Egyptians needed to know only sizes of a pyramid and they could build it according to their special building grid and pressure system. 

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