Also where our words chemistry and alchemy come from.
Major Divisions of Ancient Egyptian History* Late Predynastic PeriodEgyptian Aesthetics
* Early Dynastic
Step pyramid built at Saqqara
* Old Kingdom
Great Pyramid at Giza
* First Intermediate Period
2125-1975 BCE (alternately: 2160-2055)
Memphis rules Egypt in the north and Thebes in the south
* Middle Kingdom
2055 BCE or 1975-1640 BCE
Egypt reunited and conquers Lower Nubia
* Second Intermediate Period
* New Kingdom
Empire in the Near East, Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Tutankhamen and Ramessid Period
* Third Intermediate Period
Nubians conquer Egypt
* Late Period
Assyrians, Persians conquer Egypt
332-30 BCE (Alexander the Great dies 323 BCE)
Greeks conquer Egypt, Rosetta Stone, Cleopatra
30 BCE - 395 CE
The British Museum's page on Ancient Egypt
Brooklyn Museum's Egypt Reborn
The Giza Archives Project
The Afterlife, an interview with mummy specialist Dr. Salima Ikram.
Dr. Bob Brier, aka: Mr. Mummy
Bowl with Human Feet, made from Nile clay, c. 3750–3550 BCE
The bowl standing on feet is very similar to the Egyptian hieroglyph meaning "to bring."
The Palette of King Narmer, slate, c. 3100
Detail of above
Coffin of Khnum-nakht, Middle Kingdom, c. 1900–1800 BCEOn the left side of the coffin box there is an architectural facade with a small doorway in the center at the bottom. This is the equivalent of the Old Kingdom false door, which allowed the spirit of the deceased to move between the land of the dead and the land of the living. Above the door are two eyes that look forth into the land of the living. The face of the mummy would have been directly behind this panel. The rest of the exterior is inscribed with invocations to, and recitations by, various primeval deities, particularly those associated with death and rebirth, such as Osiris, foremost god of the dead, and Anubis, god of embalming. [From The Metropolitan Museum's Egypt Highlights]
Nany's Funerary Papyrus, Papyrus, Nany, "Book of the Dead"
(to ancient Egyptians known as "The Book of Coming Forth By Day"), c. 1040–992 BCEArchaeologists found this papyrus in the burial of Nany, a woman in her seventies. She was a chantress (ritual singer) of the god Amun-Re. Nany also had the title "king's daughter," which probably means that she was a child of the high priest of Amun and titular king, Pinodjem I.
As was customary during the Third Intermediate period, her coffins (30.3.23–.25) and boxes of shawabtis (30.3.26–.30) were accompanied by a hollow wooden Osiris figure, which contained a papyrus scroll inscribed with a collection of texts called the "Book of Coming Forth by Day" – bettern known to us as the "Book of the Dead." When unrolled, this scroll is more than seventeen feet long.
The scene depicted here shows the climax of the journey to the afterlife. Nany is in the Hall of Judgment. Holding her mouth and eyes in her hand, she stands to the left of a large scale. Her heart is being weighed against Maat, the goddess of justice and truth, who is represented as a tiny figure wearing her symbol, a single large feather, in her headband. On the right, Osiris, god of the underworld and rebirth, presides over the scene. He wears the white crown of Upper Egypt and the curving beard of a god. His body is wrapped like a mummy except for his hands, which clasp a crook. On the table before him is an offering of a joint of beef. Jackal-headed Anubis, overseer of mummification, adjusts the scales, while a baboon—symbolizing Thoth, the god of wisdom and writing—sits on the balance beam and prepares to write down the result. Behind Nany stands the goddess Isis, both wife and sister of Osiris. She is identified by the hieroglyph above her head.
In this scene Nany has been found truthful and therefore worthy of entering the afterlife. Anubis says to Osiris, "Her heart is an accurate witness," and Osiris replies, "Give her her eyes and her mouth, since her heart is an accurate witness." In the horizontal register above the judgment scene, Nany appears in three episodes: worshiping the divine palette with which all is written, praising a statue of Horus in his falcon form, and standing by her own tomb. [MMA]
Countless mummies have been destroyed by tomb raiders of all eras seeking treasures within their linen wrappings. Source: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/mummy/ikram.html
Mummy unwrapping invitation (Victorian)
Ikram: Hundreds and thousands of mummies were destroyed for medicine. Others were burned as kindling or wood, because there aren't that many trees in Egypt. There are 19th-century accounts of travelers who say, "Oh, it's unseasonably cold and we've run out of wood, so we have to throw a mummy on the fire."
NOVA: Amazing. And the Victorians also had "unwrapping" parties, didn't they?
Ikram: Mummies were considered very Gothic. And in the Victorian era, when anything neo-Gothic was cool, unwrapping mummies became very stylish. So people would bring back or buy mummies from Egypt and have unwrapping parties. We have invitations saying, "Come to Lord Longsberry's at 2 p.m., Piccadilly, for the unwrapping of a mummy from Thebes. Champagne and canapés to follow." A lot of mummies were destroyed in that way.
However, there were some people, such as a man called Thomas Pettigrew, who was later called Mummy Pettigrew. He was a trained medical doctor, and he did a lot of unwrappings to understand how mummies were made. In the 19th century, he published one of the first scholarly works on how mummies were produced.
NOVA: Were many mummies destroyed in the search for amulets in their wrappings?
Ikram: Yes. Lots of mummies were destroyed by robbers looking for gold and jewels on the bodies, and also the amulets. Heart scarabs attracted particular attention because a lot of tourists collected them, and tomb robbers knew where they would be located. So we often have mummies with big holes in their chests where the robbers took away the heart scarabs.
A great many mummies were lost because people didn't really think of them as artifacts, or even as human beings deserving of respect. They were regarded as merely the carriers of objects such as jewelry and amulets, and then later on they were seen as medicines or kindling or what have you. It's only very recently—in the past 40 years—that people have started to look at mummies in a different way and to treat them with respect.
Click the link above for the entire interview.
Statuette of a Hippopotamus, ("William"), c. 1981-1885 BCETo the ancient Egyptians, the hippopotamus was one of the most dangerous animals in their world. The huge creatures were a hazard for small fishing boats and other rivercraft. The beast might also be encountered on the waterways in the journey to the afterlife. As such, the hippopotamus was a force of nature that needed to be propitiated and controlled, both in this life and the next. This example was one of a pair found in a shaft associated with the tomb chapel of the steward Senbi II at Meir, an Upper Egyptian site about thirty miles south of modern Asyut. Three of its legs have been restored because they were purposely broken to prevent the creature from harming the deceased. [From The Metropolitan Museum's Egypt Highlights]
Step Pyramid of King Djoser (Zoser), by Imhotep, 27th century BCE. Djoser reigned 2668–2649 BCE.
The Great Pyramics of GizaClick here for Jonathan Shaw's article, "Who Built the Pyramids?" in The Harvard Review, and check out The Giza Archives Project to dig around on your own.
Giza Pyramids, Francis Firth, 1862.
The Temple at Karnak, (Ipet Sut in Ancient Egyptian, which translates as "the most venerated place".)
Construction work began in the 16th century BCE and continued through the reign of 30 pharaohs.
Menkaure (Greek form: Mycerinus) and female figure (probably wife or mother),Son of Khafra (Chephren) 2589–2566 BCE, grandson of Khufu (Cheops) 2558–2532 BCE, buillder of the Great Pyramid and son of Seneferu, who built the first true pyramid. Menkaure reigned 2532–2503 BCE.
Smaller image of above
Hatshepsut, reigned 1473-1458 BCE.MMA's Archived Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh
Hatshepsut, the great female pharaoh of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, ruled for two decades—first as regent for, then as co-ruler with, her nephew Thutmose III (ca. 1479–1458 B.C.). During her reign, at the beginning of the New Kingdom, trade relations were being reestablished with western Asia to the east and were extended to the land of Punt far to the south as well as to the Aegean Islands in the north. The prosperity of this time was reflected in the art, which is marked by innovations in sculpture, decorative arts, and such architectural marvels as Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. In this exhibition, the Metropolitan’s own extensive holdings of objects excavated by the Museum’s Egyptian Expedition in the 1920s and 1930s are supplemented by loans from other American and European museums, as well as by select loans from Cairo.
Hatshepsut in a Devotional Attitude
Hatshepsut wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt.
Sphinx of Hatshepsut
Hatnefer's Chair, early Dynasty 18; joint reign of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III (1479–1458 B.C.), Boxwood, cypress, ebony, linen cord
Senenmut with Neferure, the daughter of Pharaoh Hatshepsut.
Ostracon of Senenmut, c. 1473-1458 BCESenenmut was one of the most trusted of Hatshepsut's officials. Although he held many administrative positions, he is best known as chief architect of her temple. This artist's sketch is similar to known representations of Senenmut. Chips of limestone and broken pottery, known as ostraca, were frequently used as disposable sketch pads by Egyptian artists of all periods. This ostracon was uncovered by the Museum's Egyptian Expedition in 1936 in the vicinity of Senenmut's offering chapel and may have been used as a guide for the decoration of one of his monuments. [MMA]
Amenhotep IV, who became Akhenaten, reigned 1352-1334 BCE.
Akhenaten worshipping Aten
Nefertiti, Akhenaten's "Great Wife"
Head of Tutankhamun, Head, Tutankhamun, Amun's hand, ca. 1336–1327 BCE.This head is a fragment from a statue group that represented the god Amun seated on a throne and Tutankhamun standing or kneeling in front of him. The king's figure was considerably smaller than that of the god, indicating his subordinate status in the presence of the deity. All that remains of Amun is his right hand, which touches the back of the king's crown in a gesture that signifies Tutankhamun's investiture as king. During coronation rituals, various types of crowns were put on the king's head. The type represented here—probably a leather helmet with metal disks sewn onto it—was generally painted blue, and is commonly called the "blue crown." The ancient name was "khepresh."
Statue groups showing a king together with gods had been created since the Old Kingdom, and formal groups relating to the pharaoh's coronation were dedicated at Karnak by Hatshepsut and other rulers of Dynasty 18. The Metropolitan's head of Tutankhamun with the hand of Amun is special because of the intimacy with which the subject is treated. The face of the king expresses a touching youthful earnestness, and the hand of the god is raised toward his crown with gentle care. [MMA]
The Funerary Mask of Tutankhamun
Reconstruction of Tutankhamun's FaceMay 10, 2005—Is this the true face of Tut? This silicone-skinned bust is billed as the most accurate forensic reconstruction ever of ancient Egypt's Pharaoh Tutankhamun. It was based on recent 3-D CT scans of the mummy of the "boy king," who is believed to have been about 19 when he died some 3,300 years ago.
Led by Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, a National Geographic Society team commissioned French experts to create the lifelike bust. Using the CT scans (see "King Tut Mummy Scanned"), French forensic anthropologist Jean-Noël Vignal determined the basic measurements and features of Tutankhamun's face. Vignal deduced that Tutankhamun had a narrow nose, buck teeth, a receding chin, and Caucasian features. Such features are typical of European, North African, Middle Eastern, and Indian peoples.
Paris-based forensic sculptor Elisabeth Daynès then created the bust shown above. She used Vignal's estimates of skin thickness and other data, plus wooden sculptures of Tut made in his youth. Soft-tissue features, such as the nose and ears, had to be guessed at, though within a scientifically determined range. Daynès based the skin tone on an average shade of Egyptians today and added the eyeliner that the king would have worn in life. [Click here to go to the source for more information.]
The Outermost Coffin, Spring 1926
Harry Burton (British, 1879–1940)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Archives of the Department of Egyptian Art
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Harry Burton Film fragment at The Metropolitan Museum of Art - excavation of Tut's tomb, c. 1923.
Also, click here for more on Harry Burton and for more of his photographs.
The Temple of Ramesses (or Ramses) II the Great, 1275-1225 BCE.Ramses is the pharaoh usually associated with Moses, though with very little evidence to support this, as the dates seem to be at odds, as well (w/the pyramids having been built over a millenium earlier).
Wall art inside Ramses' temple at Abydos, an area sacred to Egypt's rulers.
Isis and Horus, c. 304-30 BCEFor the ancient Egyptians, the image of the goddess Isis suckling her son Horus was a potent symbol of divine kingship and of rebirth. This elegant faience sculpture dates to the Ptolemaic Period. On the goddess's head is the throne hieroglyph that represents her name. She also wears a vulture head-covering reserved for queens and goddesses. Following ancient conventions for indicating childhood, Horus is naked and soft-bodied and wears a single lock of hair on the right side of his head. [From: MMA]
Images of the Madonna and Child will be based on Isis and Horus later on.
Fragment of the Face of a Queen, yellow jasper, c. 1353-1336 BCE.This extraordinary fragment, polished to a mirrorlike finish, probably belonged to a composite statue in which only the exposed parts of the body were made of jasper. In Egyptian artistic convention, the color yellow usually indicates a woman, and the scale and superb quality of the work implies that it represents a queen. The back of the piece shows remains of the mortise that fitted into a tenon extending from the statue's body, which may have been made of Egyptian alabaster to represent a white garment.
Two headdresses might have fit this head, one of which is the so-called Nubian wig (like the one on a canopic jar lid in the Museum, Highlight #31), often worn by the women of Akhenaten's family. The royal woman represented here cannot be securely identified. It is difficult to imagine that Akhenaten's already aged mother, Queen Tiye—highly respected as a wise woman at Amarna—was shown as a beauty of such sensuous character. His principal queen, Nefertiti, and his secondary queen, Kiya, however, are both possible subjects. [MMA]
Ostracon (fragments of usually limestone used as sketchpads)
Portrait of a Boy, encaustic on wood , 2nd century BCE - Roman Egypt.The young teenage boy in this remarkably lifelike mummy portrait looks calmly at the viewer, his head in three-quarter view. He is dressed in a white Roman tunic with a narrow purple clavus (a vertical stripe) over the right shoulder. A mantle is draped over the left shoulder. The boy wears his dark brown hair short, with locks brushed to both sides of the forehead.
The inscription in dark purple pigment below the neckline of the tunic is in Greek, which was the common language of the eastern Mediterranean at the time. Scholars do not completely agree on the inscription's translation. The boy's name ("Eutyches, freedman of Kasanios") seems indisputable; then follows either "son of Herakleides Evandros" or "Herakleides, son of Evandros." It is also unclear whether the "I signed" at the end of the inscription refers to the painter of the portrait or to the manumission (act of freeing a slave) that would have been witnessed by Herakleides or Evandros. An artist's signature would be unique in mummy portraits.
Paintings of this type, often called Faiyum portraits (although not all of them come from the Faiyum oasis), are typical products of the multicultural, multiethnic society of Roman Egypt. Most of them are painted in the elaborate encaustic technique, in which pigments were mixed with hot or cold beeswax and other ingredients. This versatile medium allowed artists to create images that in many ways are akin to oil paintings. The boy's head, for instance, stands out from the light olive–colored background, creating an impression of real depth. His face is modeled with flowing brushstrokes and a subtle blend of light and dark colors. Shadows on the left side of the face, neck, and garment and below the right eye indicate a strong source of light on the boy's right. Most arresting are the dark brown eyes with black pupils reflecting the light with bright spots. This manner of painting, which is very different from the traditional Egyptian style but was well known in Ptolemaic Egypt, originated in Classical Greece in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. [MMA]
Cleopatra VII, reigned 51–30 BCE.Cleopatra ruled with her father Ptolemy XII, her brother Ptolemy XIII, her brother-husband Ptolemy XIV, and her son Ptolemy XV.
She later became the supreme ruler of Egypt by consummating a productive liaison with Gaius Julius Caesar (one son - Ptolemy Caesar nicknamed "Caesarion", which means Little Caesar). After Caesar's assassination (15 March 44 BCE), Cleopatra aligned with Mark Antony (42 -31 BCE), with whom she had twins and a daughter (Cleopatra Selene II, Alexander Helios, Ptolemy Philadelphus). Her reign marks the final end of the Hellenistic Era in 31 BCE with the Battle of Actium and the beginning of the Roman Era. She was the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt (her son Caesarion, ruled in name only at age 3 before Augustus had him executed).
The Death of Cleopatra, Reginald Arthur, 1892.Mark Antony committed suicide, having been told Cleopatra was dead. He was brought to Cleopatra's tomb and died in her arms. A few days later, Cleopatra also died by snakebite - she had two asps hidden in a fig basket so as she was eating she would never know when she would die. Octavian (Augustus), executed her Caesarian but spared Cleopatra's three children w/Antony, having Antony's wife (Octavia Minor, niece of Augustus) raise them.