Wondering Egypt

Ancient Egyptians
By Ethan Gelber & the BikeAbout team
  |  Gorp.com

Egyptian history began some 5000 years ago with the development of a written alphabet (it's hard to have history without some sort of written records). Most of the monuments we will visit are over 4000 years old! We're talking about numbers that are hard to comprehend — the sort of numbers that are used to describe geological changes rather than human activity. To put it in some perspective, we are closer to the events that occurred during the lifetime of Christ than the people living at that time were to the period of Egyptian pyramid building.

Around the Third Millenium (3000) BC, a ruler named Menes unified the two existing parts of Egypt, Upper Egypt (which, just to confuse us, refers to the southern part of the Nile River Valley), and Lower Egypt (which of course refers to the northern part of the Nile). With Menes as their Pharaoh, or king, the Egyptians enjoyed their first period of stable and orderly government. The civilization was already quite advanced, as demonstrated by the complex irrigation projects along the Nile as well as the elaborate burial chambers called mastabas. However, the Egyptian civilization reached the height of its wealth, creativity and power during the five hundred year period commonly called the Old Kingdom, which lasted from roughly 2700 to 2200 BC. Characterized by peace, prosperity and the splendor of the Pharaoh's court, this period also saw the building of most of the 70 or so pyramids, the biggest of which, the great pyramids at Giza, were constructed during 27th and 26th centuries BC.

The Delta of the Nile River was just as important in the development of Ancient Egyptian civilization as the ruins in the south are its modern claim to fame. However, the wet and coveted fertility of the Delta did not allow for the preservation that the marginal sands of the desert did. As ancient cities in the Delta bloomed and then faded, all the materials used to build them were recycled, and all the foundations (buildings, and other structures) were destroyed when the land was returned to the farmers.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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