Essay: Egyptian Society

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¶ … geography on Ancient Egyptian culture

Egyptian society is considered to be one of the most technically and socially complex of all of the ancient civilizations. Its geographical location, by the Nile, gave it a clear advantage in terms of enabling its people to survive under difficult conditions. Egyptians divided their land into two types of soil, that of the black and red lands. "The black land was the fertile land on the banks of the Nile. The ancient Egyptians used this land for growing their crops. This was the only land in ancient Egypt that could be farmed because a layer of rich, black silt was deposited there every year after the Nile flooded" ("Geography," Ancient Egypt: The British Museum, 2009). The Egyptians' complete and utter dependence upon the flooding of the Nile is reflected in their theology: the Nile's Inundation always took place around the time that the dog star Sirius became visible in the heavens, thus the goddess Sopdet (Sothis) became sacred as a personification of this star, and the appearance of this star always marked the beginning of the Egyptian new year (Seawright 2009).

The Egyptians were not aware of the scientific reasons that the Nile flooded: "because the snow in the mountains melted and brought nutrients in the form of silt" (Geography of Ancient Egypt, Egypt: emuseum, 20009). However, they quickly realized that Nile provided a source of fertile soil that allowed for biodiversity and thus a relatively healthy source of food: "The ancient Egyptians used the floods for horticultural and domestic use. The Egyptians grew many crops including: wheat, barley, legumes, lettuce, onions, emmer, leeks, dill, grapes, melons and gourds. They also grew trees like Christ's thorn, date palm and eucalyptus. Some of the other plants which they used were flowers, such as lily and lotus, tamarisk, papyrus, acacia, poinciana and jacaranda" ("Geography of Ancient Egypt," Egypt: emuseum, 20009). Many of these plants also provided the sources of the essential oils that proved so important in Egyptian religion.

The Egyptians were acutely aware of their dependence upon the Nile, and regarded it with reverence: "During the Eleventh Dynasty a sanctuary was built on the island specifically to celebrate Inundations" (Seawright 2009). Eventually, the Egyptians began to use their technological knowledge to gain greater mastery over the Nile in the form of the Aswan High Dam. Until the construction of the Dam, Egypt received only a yearly inundation from the Nile. Their early agricultural history influenced a system of belief that placed a strong emphasis on the capriciousness of their gods, and cycles of death and rebirth, such as the death and rebirth of the sun god that paralleled the coming into being and death of the fertility of the soil. Being able to preserve provisions when food was lacking was critical, and also may have influenced the rituals of the preservation of the dead.

The availability of food on a regular basis enabled a more complex 'culture' to take hold within the land. Amongst peoples who were constantly struggling for food, it was difficult to develop a relatively healthy art, religious, and political life. Cultural development was further facilitated by the fact that Egyptian topography rather schizophrenic. On one hand, there was a relatively small amount of land that provided sustenance. On the other hand, there was the red… [END OF PREVIEW]

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