Geography The ancient Egyptians thought of Egypt as being divided into two types of land, the 'black land' and the 'red land'. The 'black land' was the fertile land on the banks of the Nile. The 'red land' was the barren desert that protected Egypt on two sides. Lower Egypt is to the north and is that part where the Nile Delta drains into the Mediterranean Sea. Upper Egypt is to the south from the Libyan desert down to just past Abu Simbel. The ancient Egyptians built pyramids as tombs for the pharaohs and their queens. The pharaohs were buried in pyramids of many different shapes and sizes from before the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the end of the Middle Kingdom. The most powerful person in ancient Egypt was the pharaoh. The pharaoh was the political and religious leader of the Egyptian people, holding the titles: 'Lord of the Two Lands' and 'High Priest of Every Temple'. All government administrators, ranging from personal staff to imperial officials, were subject to the approval of the pharaoh. Religion guided every aspect of Egyptian life. Egyptian religion was based on polytheism, or the worship of many deities, except for during the reign of Akenaton. The Egyptians had as many as 80 gods and goddesses. Some, such as Amun, were worshipped throughout the whole country, while others had only a local following. Often gods and goddesses were represented as part human and part animal. The priests duty was to care for the gods and attend to their needs. The priests had many duties such as funeral rites, teaching school, supervising the artists and works, and advising people on problems. The Egyptians saw death as a transitional stage in the progress to a better life in the next world. They believed they could only reach their full potential after death. Pyramids & Tombs When a pharaoh died he was buried in a tomb designed to protect his body forever. This tomb was called a pyramid. The theory behind the tomb was that if a pharaoh’s body were destroyed, his Ka (soul) would have nowhere to go and would die. If his Ka died, he would not be able to be united with the sun. This in turn would cause the gods to become angry, and they would no longer protect the land or people of the pharaoh. At least, this is what the pyramids started out to be. They soon became not only a final resting place, but a symbol of power. The first pyramid built was for King Djoser. This pyramid and a few after were called Step Pyramids. These pyramids had steps from the top to the bottom. This was supposed to represent a gigantic stairway for the king to climb to join the sun god in the sky. The largest, and most famous, pyramid is the Great Pyramid located in the Giza plateau, near Cairo. This pyramid was built for the pharaoh Khufu (Cheops). Over two million blocks of limestone were used, and it took over twenty years to build. The base of the Great Pyramid covers the size of almost ten football fields. The Valley of the Kings in Upper Egypt contains many of the tombs of pharaohs from the New Kingdom including Tutankhamun and Ramesses the Great. Society The pharaoh, as the living god, stood at the pinnacle of the social pyramid in ancient Egypt. The people viewed pharoah as the owner of all lands and citizens, the bestower of all public offices, the leader of all armies, and the high priest of all gods. The nobles and military leaders held the highest positions in the bureaucracy or administrative departments of ancient Egypt. Important families controlled the most influential offices and passed these positions along to family members from generation to generation. Priests and scribes were the eduacted class of ancient Egypt. Although the pharaoh was high priest of every god, he or she could not be in all areas of the empire at once. Religious functions were therefore delegated to the priests. Scribes were highly respected members of Egyptian society because of their ability to read and write the Egyptian script called hieroglyphics. A wide variety of skilled craftspeople earned a living in ancient Egypt, including weavers, sandal-makers, mat-makers, incense moulders, potters, brick-makers, jewellers, carpenters, stonemasons, silversmiths, and goldsmiths. The fellabin or peasant farmers were the common folk. They made up the majority of the population. We know very little about them except that they were illiterate and were with attached to the estate of the pharaoh, a temple, or a rich landowner. Slaves in ancient Egypt were prisoners of war brought back by the armies during the Middle Kingdom and later. Female and child slaves did household work for the wealthy. male slaves were put to work as soldiers, farmers, or maintenance labourers around the household. Slaves in ancient Egypt could own property or rent land, and could even be set free if their masters chose to do so. Hieroglyphics English is based on 26 characters--letters. Letters that are combined into words... and then into sentences...which tell a story. Ancient Egyptian writing uses more than 2,000 hieroglyphic characters. Each hieroglyph represents a common object in ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphs could represent the sound of the object or they could represent an idea associated with the object.