Category: Ancient Egypt

Built more than 3,000 years ago, Abu Simbel contains two temples, carved into a mountainside. The larger of the two temples contains four colossal statues of a seated pharaoh Ramesses II (1303-1213 BCE) at its entrance, each about 69 feet (21 meters) tall.

About 3,300 years later, when the Aswan Dam was to be built to control the flooding of the Nile River, the temples were threatened. Their location would be beneath the water of the lake created by the dam. UNESCO stepped in to save Abu Simbel and many more ancient Egyptian sites by disassembling and reassembling them, very carefully, above the waterline.

Built more than 3,000 years ago, Abu Simbel contains two temples, carved into a mountainside. The larger of the two temples contains four colossal statues of a seated pharaoh Ramesses II (1303-1213 BCE) at its entrance, each about 69 feet (21 meters) tall. About 3,300 years later, when the Aswan Dam was to be built to control the flooding of the Nile River, the temples were threatened. Their location would be beneath the water of the lake created by the dam. UNESCO stepped in to save Abu Simbel, and many more ancient Egyptian sites, by disassembling and reassembling them, very carefully, above the waterline.

After Tutankhamen died age 19, his beloved wife (and half-sister) Ankhesenamun was in a perilous position. There was no clear successor, and the country remembered the turmoil of the previous reign under the heretic Akhenaten. Eventually, the throne was taken by the much-older Ay, who had been Tutankhamen’s grand vizier and may have been Ankhesenamun’s grandfather. Ay ruled for just four years before being replaced by Horemheb. He was commander of the Egyptian army and well-placed to take over should anything occur.

Under Horemheb, Ankhesenamun disappears from history. We do not know when she died. We do not know where she was buried. Wife of two pharaohs, daughter of another, her fate is a 2,300-year-old mystery.

Did you know that ancient Egyptians enjoyed the sweet sap of the marsh mallow plant? Or that France was very important in creating the confection we know and love today? Read more…

THE First Labor Strike in History and the Bronze Age Collapse.

This video deals with the first recorded workers strike that took place in Ancient Egypt under Ramses III, this touches on a variety of issues and subjects such as the Bronze Age Collapse and the effect it had on the Egyptian population and economy after the invasions of the Sea Peoples.

Merit Ptah, the ancient Egyptian often cited as the “first woman doctor,” was likely made-up in the 1930s. A historian confused some names, and their mistake ended up in a book that has gone on to be widely cited.

The good news? The doctor who was mistakenly called Merit Ptah does exist! Her name was Peseshet, she was an “Overseer of Healer Women,” and there is strong evidence thanks to the 2400 BCE tomb of her son.

Recent work on the mummies of working people at Deir El-Medina in Egypt suggest that tattoos were much more common than previously thought 3,000 years ago. In the local cemetery, seven mummified women have been identified with tattoos. One had over 30!

The subject of the tattoos included sacred motifs such as Wadjet eyes, baboons, cobras, cows, scarab beetles, and lotus flowers. Some tattoos appear to have religious meaning, while others appear to offer healing or protection. Just like today, ancient Egyptians got tattoos for many reasons.

This is the cubit rod (aka ruler) of Maya, “treasurer of king Tutankhamun.” He also served under Tutankamun’s two successors, Ay and Horemheb. The cubit rod was an important part of being a treasurer because the Egyptian government was built on land management, and taxes were mainly agricultural products. To know how much to tax, you had to know how to measure the field, and the unit of measurement was the cubit.

This rod measures the royal cubit of seven palm-lengths (52.3 cm) and the common cubit of 6 palm-lengths. There are also a number of gradations shown including “digits,” palm-lengths, and fractions of digits from halves to sixteenths. Just in case Maya needed to measure really small distances.

ANCIENT History Magazine #24 is out now: http://bit.ly/ahe-ahm

Throughout much of Egyptian history, foreign and local trade networks were critical to the country’s economy, and there is a great deal of evidence for state-run commerce. However, records of private traders and merchants remain far more scarce. In issue 24 of Ancient History, we look at how trade both sustained and spread Egyptian culture, from the Old through New Kingdoms.

Image: A reconstruction of the ancient capital (and trade hub) of Pi-Ramesses, by Rocío Espin.

IMMORTALITY OF WRITERS IN ANCIENT EGYPT:  

For the ancient Egyptians, life on earth was only one part of an eternal journey which continued after death. One’s purpose in life was to live in balance with one’s self, family, community, and the gods. Any occupation in Egypt was considered worthwhile as long as one was performing one’s duties in accordance with ma’at (harmony and balance as personified in the goddess Ma’at), the central value of Egyptian culture. This is evident through inscriptions as well as artwork depicting people engaged in various jobs presented, for the most part, admirably.

The inscriptions were set down by scribes, among the most highly respected professions in Egypt, and while most of their works have other people, professions, or events as subject matter, there are a number which celebrate the occupation of scribe above all others. The most famous of these is The Satire of the Trades (from the Middle Kingdom, 2040-1782 BCE) in which a father encourages his son to become a scribe because it is better than any other profession. Another well-known work, this one from the New Kingdom (c. 1570 – c. 1069 BCE), is A Schoolbook or Be a Scribe which delivers the same message, this time from a teacher to a lazy student.

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This is Meritamun. Her name means “beloved of Amun,” the great Egyptian creator/sun god. She lived in ancient Egypt, sometime between 1500 BCE and 331 BCE, and was likely high status judging by the quality of the linens she was mummified with. Meritamun was between 18 and 25 when she died.