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Ancient Egypt


Ian Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press, 2000. ... In ancient Egypt the division of the year into three seasons was based on the ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt
  • Spring 2010

Egypt 5009030101 Arts and Sciences Ancient
Egypt 5660650201 Ancient and Medieval Era
The course introduces the students to the
Ancient Egyptian civilization from the early
Stone Age to their conquest by the Persians and
Greeks. It gives a comprehensive historical
account on the rise and fall of the Egyptian
dynasties, analyzes archeological and
anthropological evidence, discusses religious,
cultural and social patterns, and examines the
earliest masterpieces of art and architecture in
the Egyptian world. Instructor Dr. Toth Office
310 BSB Phone 225-6538 E-Mail http//
Class Thursdays 600-840 Office Hours
Thursdays 400-600 or by appointment Assignments
Three tests and a final Textbook Ian Shaw, The
Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford
University Press, 2000.
Chronologies and Cultural Change
  • Manetho (born in Sebennytus of the Delta), an
    Egyptian priest of the sun-god Re at Heliopolis
    during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (son
    of Ptolemy, one of the generals of Alexander the
    Great, c. 280 BC), wrote a condensed history of
    Egypt in three books, the Aegyptiaca (History of
    Egypt). It is essentially a record of events in
    forward chronological order. Using the sources at
    his disposal, he divided Egypts many pharaohs
    into 31 dynasties. (A dynasty is a sequence of
    consecutive rulers from the same line of descent
    usually united by location of the same principal
    royal residence.) Manethos system (with suitable
    refinements) is still used today. Egyptologists
    grouped the dynasties into kingdoms or periods.
    These eras are characterized by many common
    political and social values.

Predynastic Period c. 5300-3000
BC Early Dynastic Period c. 3000-2680
BC Old Kingdom
2686-2160 BC First Intermediate Period
2160-2055 BC Middle Kingdom
2055-1650 BC Second Intermediate Period
1650-1550 BC New Kingdom
1550-1069 BC Ramessid Period
1295-1069 BC Third Intermediate Period
1069-664 BC Late Period
664-332 BC Ptolemaic Period
332-30 BC Roman Period
30 BC- AD 395
Early Dynastic Period c. 3000-2680 BC 1st
Dynasty c. 3000-2890
BC Aha Djer Djet Den Queen Merneith Anedjib Semerk
het Qaa 2nd Dynasty c.
2890-2686 BC Hetepsekhemwy Raneb Nynetjer Weneg Se
ned Peribsen Khasekhemwy
  • Manethos dating system is a politically
    based chronology and does not take into account
    cultural and socio-economic changes. No copy of
    the Aegyptiaca has been discovered it exists
    only in quotes by the mid-first century Jewish
    scholar Flavius Josephus (c. AD 79), and later by
    Sextus Julius Africanus (c. AD 220), Eusebius (c.
    AD 320), and George the Monk (c. AD 800) also
    known as Syncellus.
  • Modern Chronologies
  • Relative Chronologies
  • Absolute Chronologies
  • Radiometric Methods.

Relative Chronologies
  • Stratigraphic excavation (stratigraphy) Based on
    the geological law of superposition
  • Sequence dating (seriation typology) of
    artefacts Based on how artefacts change through
  • (Flinders Petrie 1899). Examples
  • 1. Pottery, stone tool styles
  • 2. Middle Kingdom Coffins
  • 3. Oil lamp, loom weight styles.

Stratigraphy I
Stratigraphy II
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Absolute Chronologies
  • The Abydos King List (Hall of the Ancestors in
    the Temple of Osiris of Abydos. Problems with
    regnal years, coregencies, and intermediate
  • The Palermo Stone (recording annual events such
    as festivals, warfare, the Nile heights)
  • The Turin Royal Canon (Ramessid papyrus)
  • Astronomical observations (the heliacal rise of
    the Sirius) along with Manethos Aegyptiaca
  • 5. Synchronism with non-Egyptian sources
    (Assyrian king lists).

  • The Abydos King List (19th Dynasty, c. 1300 BC)
  • In the Abydos King List (Temple of Osiris in
    Abydos) Seti I and prince Ramesses (the future
    Ramesses II) present offerings to the total of 75
    former kings of Egypt. (Seti I finishes the royal
    cartouches and is repeated 19 times to fill the
    bottom.) The purpose of the Abydos King List is
    not recording history but ancestral worship.

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  • The Palermo Stone (5th Dynasty)
  • The Palermo stone exists in fragments (1 in
    Palermo, Sicily, 4 in Cairo and 1 in London). It
    has short, year by year accounts of major events
    and also records the Nile heights. We analyze two
    details of the Palermo fragment.
  • Detail 1. 4th row on the left recording the
    events during 6 years of reign of King Nynetjer
    (2nd Dynasty).
  • Detail 2. Middle 3rd row. Part of the reign
    of a king, possibly Den (2nd Dynasty).

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Year 1 Appearance of the King and the 2nd
Running of the Apis Bull. Year 2 Processional
tour of the King (Horus) and 8th time of the
enumeration census. Year 3Appearance of the
King and the 3rd time of the Festival of
Seker. Year 4 Processional tour of the King
and 9th time of the enumeration. Year 5
Appearance of the King, offering to the goddess
Nekhbet, Djet-Festival.
Smiting the bedouin Twice appearance of the King
of Upper and Lower Egypt, Heb-sed Numbering of
all the people of west, north, south and east
2nd time of the Djet-Festival Design of the
Temple Thrones of the Gods, attendance of the
Festival of Seker Stretching the cord for the
temple Thrones of the Gods by the
Seshat-priest, great door.
  • The Turin Royal Canon
  • It is a papyrus from the reign of Ramesses II
    and about 50 fragments survived. It is the most
    complete king list, and contains 300 pharaohs
    starting with the reign of deities and spirits.
    The list has very precise dates although the
    reign of the god Thoth was given 7,726 years.

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In ancient Egypt the division of the year into
three seasons was based on the agricultural
demands. The palm branch stripped from its leaves
is believed to have been used for measurement as
well as a symbolic representation of the time
passing (as the palm produces a new branch every
month). The seasons are as follows Inundation
mid-July to mid November Growing
mid-November to mid-March Harvest
mid-March to mid-July Each season was divided
into 4 months and each month contained 30 days.
Each month was divided into 3 weeks and each week
was 10 days long. (There is no word for week in
ancient Egyptian.) In this system x Season y
meant month x and day y in the respective season,
where x1,...,4 and y1,...,30. For example, 3
Growing 15 means the 3rd month and 15th day in
the growing season. The years were counted by
the so-called regnal year, that is, the counting
of the years started with the ascension of the
current king to the throne.
The ancient Egyptians realized that they
undercounted the year by 5 days and they added 5
extra days those over the year, after the end
of the year. These 5 epagomenal (added) days as
the Egyptologists call them, were days of
celebration of the births of 5 children of the
earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut Osiris,
Horus the Elder, Seth, Isis and Nephtys. During
the 5 epagomenal days nothing important was
supposed to be done by anyone. The first day of
the year, was the birthday of the sun god Re.
The day was divided into 24 hours 12 hours for
the day and 12 hours for the night. During the
Old and Middle Kingdoms, the length of an hour
was not fixed.
Converting the regnal years into our calendar
dates represents a major problem due to
inconsistencies in the available data. Counting
backwards regnal years from the firm date of 30
BC of the death of Cleopatra VII (the last
Egyptian pharaoh) leads to major discrepancies.
Year A more precise dating can be attained by
noting that the solar year is actually 365 1/4
days long. The modern day calendar accounts for
this by adding an extra day (in the leap year)
after each period of 4 years. The ancient
Egyptians had no leap years so that their
calendar was steadily slowing down compared to
ours. For example, if the new year fell on June
18, 4 years later it fell on June 17 etc. This
did not bother the Egyptian farmers who lived by
the agricultural cycle. The scribes must have
complained about it though a papyrus from the
Ramessid Period records Winter has come in
summer, the months are reversed, the hours are
all in confusion.
On the other hand, the Egyptian astronomers kept
meticulous records of astronomical events,
notably the rise of Sothis, the Sirius star above
the horizon at sunrise. (The Sothis disappears
from the sky for about 70 days in late spring and
appears about mid-July the time for the
inundation of the Nile.)
The rise of Sothis was supposed to fall on 1
Inundation 1 but, due to the backward moving
calendar, it usually fell on a different date.
In 4x365 1,460 years the rising of the Sothis
was on the same day. Due to some tiny
discrepancies (the solar year is not quite 365
1/4 days) the so-called Sothic Cycle is actually
1,453 years. From ancient records we know that
the Sothis rose on 1 Inundation 1 in AD 136-139.
Counting backwards, we know that it also rose on
1 Inundation 1 on 1317-1320 BC (136-1,453 -
1,317 which is converted to 1317 BC) and also on
2771-2774 BC. Now if we have an ancient record
stating which particular day did the Sothis rise
during a regnal year of a king then this
particular regnal year can be converted to our
calendar year. Very few of these records exist.
Radiometric Methods
  • Chemical and physical tests (radiometric
  • 1. Carbon Dating (rate of C12 to C14)
  • 2. Thermoluminescence or TL Dating (clay holds
    naturally occurring radioactive elements when
    the clay is fired these are released. Over time
    they are recaptured. Reheated again they are
    released again, and the released amount can be
    measured. TL dating is very inaccurate, mostly
    used to check whether an artifact is genuine or
  • 3. Dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) is used
    to convert radiocarbon dates to real calendar

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Chronological Problems
  • Co-Regencies (simultaneous ruling of kings give
    rise to overlaps in their regnal years). In the
    Middle Kingdom co-regents may have used different
    separate regnal dates resulting in the so-called
    double dated stelae (referring to the same
    event). In the New Kingdom this practice changed.
  • Intermediate Periods (Manethos Aegyptiaca and
    the Abydos King List are unreliable about the
    lengths of the Intermediate Periods)