Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Docent Note: A Very Very Brief Egyptian Timeline, To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum

by Kathleen Durham

Egypt is a gift of the Nile.”
 – Herodotus, 450 BCE

Egypt is a desert country with only a tiny percentage of habitable land. The Nile River, beginning in the highlands of Central Africa, flows north for over 4,000 miles to the Mediterranean Sea. Its yearly flooding determined the patterns of the lives of the ancient Egyptians. The floodwaters receded between November and March, leaving rich silt ideal for planting. Around 7,000 years ago settlements rose up along the banks of the Nile. Eventually canals and terraces were built to use the water more effectively. The ancient Egyptians felt that the river was a gift of the gods, but since they made no distinction between river and god, they used the word Hapy (Hapi) to mean the river, the flood and the God of the Nile. They grew crops, especially wheat and barley, and raised livestock. Eventually Egypt divided into two parts. The South was known as Upper Egypt, and the Northern Delta of the Nile, where it meets the Mediterranean Sea, was called Lower Egypt. In what is now known as the Early Dynastic Period (3000-2675 BCE) the first Pharaoh, Narmer, (or Menes) unified Upper and Lower Egypt.

EARLY DYNASTIC PERIOD (3000-2675 BCE) Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. First Pharaoh Narmer. Brick tombs. Capital Memphis.

OLD KINGDOM (2675-2170 BCE) Pyramid Age, Giza, Sphinx, Saqqara, Cheops. Toward end of period Nile failed to flood for several years. Just one of the factors leading to dissolution of central government.

FIRST INTERMEDIATE PERIOD (2170-2008 BCE) Central government dissolved. Last days of royal house in Memphis, rivals in Herakleopolis and Thebes.

MIDDLE KINGDOM (2008-1630 BCE) Central government renewed in 11th Dynasty, Mentuhotep II, capital Thebes.

SECOND INTERMEDIATE PERIOD (1650-1550 BCE) Foreigners (Hyksos) dominant in Lower Egypt (Delta), local princes in Thebes.

NEW KINGDOM (1550-1075 BCE) Egypt expands into Syria, Euphrates. Amun is national god. Temples at Luxor, Karnak, rock tombs in Valley of the Kings. Under Amenhotep II and III kingdom and culture at its peak. Amenhotep IV changed religion to worship god Aten, changed own name to Akhenaten, built capital at Tel-el Amarna, married to Nefertiti. On Akhenaten’s death, Tutankhamun restored old gods. In 19th and 20th Dynasties there were 11 Pharaohs named Ramesses. Ramesses II built great temples Abu Simbel, Karnak.

THIRD INTERMEDIATE PERIOD (1075-656 BCE) Foreign rulers from Libya, Nubia.

LATE PERIOD (664-332 BCE) Foreign rule by Persians, Libyans, Ethiopians, alternated with Egyptian rule.

PTOLEMAIC PERIOD (332-30 BCE) Alexander the Greek conquers Egypt, establishes great center of learning at Alexandria. On his death his general, Ptolemy, takes over. Dynasty continues until Cleopatra’s death in 30 BCE.

ROMAN PERIOD (30 BCE-395 CE) Egypt is a Roman Province


ARABIC_MUSLIM (642- to present) Byzantines expelled, Egypt was a province of caliphate