Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ancient Egypt (3500 - 1000 B.C)

   The history of Ancient Egypt, long more than 3000 years, is divided into 8 or 9 periods, sometimes called Kingdoms. The Ancient Egyptians themselves rather seem to have developed the notion of dynasties throughout their history. It developed along the river Nile, in Eastern Africa.

   The importance of religion and the respect for death ruled their art. They built mostly temples, graves and adopted strict canons controlled by the priests. Our knowledge of Egyptian civilization rests almost entirely on them and their contents since they were built to endure forever. Conventions of ancient Egyptian believes and culture strongly affected the art. The Pharaoh (King) considered divine. Representation of the figure presented the most reflexive view of each part of the body. Preparation for the afterlife was of extreme importance. The body must be preserved if the soul or ka is to live on in the beyond in a same body. They built great tombs for their Pharaohs (kings), who were not only the supreme rulers but gods. Tombs contained everything the deceased might want or need in the afterlife and much of our knowledge of the culture comes from tomb paintings. After Pharaoh's death, his body was laid right in the centre of the huge mountain of stone, along with many weapons and food. Even his servants were buried to help him on his journey to the other world.

Pre-Dynastic and Early Dynastic Period (3500-3000 B.C.) 

From about 5000 BC to 3000 BC, Egypt was not a unified nation and that time is known as the Pre-Dynastic period. Around 3000 BC, Upper and Lower Kingdom conjoined and lands along the Nile River were united under one ruler and the Dynastic period began.

The Old Kingdom (2700-2200 B.C.) 

The old kingdom is an important period in political and cultural development of Ancient Egypt. Centuries of uninterrupted rise, established one of the most powerful cultures of the ancient world. During this period Hieroglyphic writing reached its sophistication. The techniques of crafts developed to a high professionalism. King Djoser, builder of the step pyramid at Saqqara, is the first and most celebrated king of the third dynasty. The works of Cheops, Chephren, and Mycerinus, the creators of the three pyramids at Giza represents the peak of achievements in the architectural field. A strong centralized government, as well as a divine kingship characterizes this period. Towards the end of the period, central authority disintegrated and the country fell into a state of rapid decline.

The Middle Kingdom (2050-1800 B.C.) 
The middle kingdom started with the re-foundation of the Kingdom under single administration by Mentuhotep II. It was an epoch of restoration of the Egyptian culture. The kings of the following dynasties enlarged their control over the land, promoted the economic and political development. Egyptian trade flourished, and a developed irrigation system was re-established. Pyramid building was also revived, but much humbler then in the old kingdom. This rise was followed by the ultimate downfall and the country fell into the hands of foreign rulers.

The New Kingdom (1550-1080 B.C.) 

During this period Egypt reached the zenith of its power. Egypt extended further south in Africa and into the Middle East under these rulers. Tutmosis III was among the pioneers in the military field. The degree of refinement of this age is clearly manifested in the architectural heritage. Under the rule of queen Hatshipsut, the artistic revival began. The reigning monarchs of this period showed a genuine interest in art and architecture. Khenaton, the heretic pharaoh, reached the peak of artistic innovations with his unique art style that accompanied his religious reformation.

Late Period (after 1080 B.C.)
The late period was a period of deterioration. Kingship suffered a decline in prestige, and the political and social systems were unstable. Egypt was now ruled from two separate capitals, one in the north and one in the south. Large foreign colonies developed and Egypt for the first time opened its borders to the foreigners who settled in the delta.

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