These facts have been assembled from occasional recollections and in view
of historical linking of existing evidences – some are verified by
archaeologists’ findings and some are in fact my assumptions!
Click on the following links to get to them quickly.
1. What was the general character of the Egyptian arts?
2. Why are the tombs of the Pharaohs on the west bank of
3. (a) Remember Imhotep, the Mummy from the Mummy? Who
was he really?
(b) How far were the Egyptians in regards of medicine?
4. The first ruling queen of the ancient world,
5. (a) What are the Wisdom Texts of the Ancient Egyptian
(b) The influence of Ancient Egyptian Wisdom Texts on
(c) Were Alibaba and Sinbad Egyptian?!
6. How come we don't see any palaces or living quarters
remaining standing in Egypt, but only the Tombs and Temples?
7. How was the later age architecture influenced by the
8. Influence of the Egyptian Sculpture on the Greek.
9. Do Egyptian texts say about the common people, rather
than the achievements of the Pharaohs?
10. The astronomical expertise of the Egyptians.
The Egyptian arts – architecture and decorative paintings – were
profoundly based on the politico-religious character of the nation
itself. Great monuments were built with ardent passion to satisfy the
needs of magnifying the divinity of the great Pharaoh and also of
glorifying the several gods – which actually represented the clergy of
the different holy cities. These religiously and politically important
cities saw great advancement in architecture and art.
The Pharaohs' Tombs were built in the delta and along the valley of
the river Nile. Some monuments had religiously positioned locations on
the east or west side of the Nile – for example, all the Pharaonic
burial grounds were constructed on the west bank of the Nile, according
to the belief that the sun god Ra, after traversing the mortal world,
enters the realm of the dead in the western direction. Nile was thought
to be a tributary of the ancient legendary river Nun, the one that
separates the world of the dead from the mortal world.
Imhotep was the high priest of the great Pharaoh Djoser and was the
one to oversee the construction of the first pyramid – the Step Pyramid
at Saqqara. Aside from his position in religion and architecture, he was
also a renowned physician. He had written several medical treatises,
which were, as should be expected, were not probably free from religious
influences and included the chanting of spells for the healing of the
diseased. Scrolls of papyri have been discovered, thought to be inspired
or initiated by the medical talents of Imhotep, that are extremely
out-of-time, with the anatomy of the human body described like the
famous 19th century Gray’s anatomy – describing the organs
and limbs of the human body going consecutively from the upper part to
the lower. But it should be remembered that although the ancient
Egyptian physicians achieved a great deal of knowledge about the human
body, they lacked the knowledge of the functions and workings of the
organs – for example, they thought the brain to be completely
unimportant for the human body. Well, that’s yet a matter of research,
because after some excavations around the Great Pyramid of Giza,
archaeologists found a village of the ancient builders of the monstrous
monument. They were not slaves, as was said by Herodotus, rather they
were paid workers and even had their medical expenses carried out by the
state. In this village was found a skull of a man that has a fracture on
his head – no, not from any accidents during action. After some testing,
it is found that probably the man had a tumor in his brain and was
suffering tremendously from the pressure that it exerted on the skull.
That fracture was probably done by an ancient Egyptian doctor – who can
say, probably by a disciple of Imhotep – to relieve the pressure and
minimize the pain of the patient.
Hatshepsut (1498-1483 BC) was the first queen of Egypt (who ruled as
a Pharaoh) and probably the first truly ruling woman in the history of
human civilization. She declared herself as the Pharaoh or the King and
made for herself a masculine image of power for the sake of
administration and the unity of the country. After her husband Thutmose
II died, she came to power as regent of the young Thutmose III and
eventually declared herself Pharaoh. With her trusty vizier, she managed
to fend off all political and religious repercussions. It is also
suspected that she might have had physical relationship with this
vizier. She constructed a great temple at Thebes (Deir-el-Bahri) that
can contend with any modern architecture. Architecture and art
flourished greatly. Although it was thought that she refrained from
expanding the boundaries of the New Kingdom, that thought has been
curbed as evidences have been found of her conquests in Nubia and
commercial missions/fleets sent to Somalia (the land of Punt as the
Egyptians called it). After her death, her son Thutmose III came to
power and made tremendous expansions on the boundaries. He is renowned
as the Napoleon of Ancient Egypt. But the name of Hatshepsut and her
images were obliterated during this period and replaced by the name or
image of Thutmose, probably due to the new Pharaoh’s feeling of
indignation that a woman became Pharaoh against ancient traditions or
due to the fear that this history may repeat itself again and obtain an
unfriendly view from commoners and the priests.
Wisdom Texts were written in Ancient Egypt to feed
morals and advices into the people by way of narration. Sometimes these
were ordered to be written by the Pharaoh to boost the morals of the
government officials. The most famous of these are 'The Maxims of
Ptahhotep' and 'The Eloquent Peasant'. The ‘Maxims of Ptahhotep’ were written by the 2500 BC vizier
Ptahhotep. In this aesthetic and moral work, Ptahhotep passes on his
advices to his son in forty verses. This, along with other literary
works of ancient Egypt, may be thought of as one of the many sources of
the literatures of later religions. For example, the Verses of Aten
written during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaton can be compared with the
Psalms of David of the Old Testament. Even the verses of these two works
match almost word by word. Through the Maxims, Ptahhotep advises his son
to be kind, forgiving and moral. Almost half of these order the son to
acquire knowledge and morality. Ptahhotep even advises his son to
sacrifice all worldly pleasures and happiness for the sake of truth and
morality. The Memphite Drama written probably around 4000 BC is the
basis of Akhenaton’s monotheistic religion that emerged 2000 years later
and is probably directly or indirectly one of the origins of the later
Monotheistic religion of the Hebrews. Again, many legends of the Arabian
Nights can also be traced to Ancient Egyptian legends and true stories.
For example, the legends of Sinbad the sailor can be rooted back to an
Ancient Egyptian story of a young sailor who suffered from a shipwreck
and traveled many strange lands and finally returned to Egypt. There is
another legend concerning two brothers and this one can be compared with
the story of Joseph of the Old Testament. The story of Ali Baba and the
forty thieves has some of the ideas lent from the history of the wars
waged by Egypt to conquer the Syrians and the Hebrews. A General under
Thutmose III had the ingenious idea of stealing into a caravan to enter
the great Hebrew city of Joppa (Jaffa) and conquer it. The evidence is
found from letters written to Thutmose III that were found conserved in
the rooms of his great tomb.
The Egyptians were very advanced in architecture, because along with
a great theoretical knowledge of geometry, they also procured the
knowledge of engineering. They used ingenious techniques to build great
stone monuments, including the pyramids. But stone was not used as the
component of their residences or they did not pay even much attention to
their living places. Rather they used stone and their technology
abundantly to build great temples, tombs and monuments glorifying the
power of the Pharaoh, the state and the gods. It is these monuments that
survived the attacks of time.
The building of pyramids was abandoned after the Old Kingdom. During
the Middle Kingdom, great monstrous temples were constructed abundantly.
Among these, the most famous are the temples of Karnak at Luxor. There
now stand huge columns made of mud-bricks. These columns are immensely
decorated. The Hypostyle Hall of Karnak can be compared with later
Byzantine and Christian Cathedral Halls. Also later Byzantine and Roman
Cathedrals employed clerestory windows, the earliest example of which we
can find at the Clerestory Hall in the valley-temple of Khafre at Giza,
and also at the Great Hall at Karnak.
Sculpture also became prominent along with the advancement of
architecture. The fact is that the entrance Pylons and the walls of the
temples and tombs were decorated with sculptures. Later on, unique and
freestanding sculptures of the Pharaohs and even the different working
classes (for example, a well-detailed seated statue of a scribe) began
to be made. But the figures from ancient times to later, lacked
dynamism. The forms were not freed from the rigid traditional frames.
Pharaohs were portrayed as muscular omnipotent. Art and paintings did
break away a bit from their original form of drawing in profiles, and
achieved some dynamism. But the face was most of the time drawn in
profile and the eye was fully exposed to the viewer. It is thought that
this was done for religious reasons – that the eye of the Pharaoh must
not be fully covered because it is the Eye of Horus. Later on,
Mycenaeans, predecessors of the Greeks, borrowed sculpture forms from
Egypt and gave dynamism to them.
Egyptian Literature was deeply centered around religious legends and
maxims. But papyri have been found containing the different folklores
that speak mostly of the general people of the Nile delta.
Egyptian astronomy was greatly advanced and they had invented the
Sothic cycle based on the star Sirius or Sothis and they had a solar
calendar, which is thought to have been invented around 4000 BC. The
entrances to their tombs and pyramids are also oriented with certain
stars. Yet their belief about the Earth itself was not so much different
from the other civilizations. For example, they thought that the earth
is beneath the belly of a sacred cow and the belly of that cow is the
sky in which the Sun-god Ra traverses.