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For almost 30 centuries—from its unification
around 3100 B.C. to its conquest by Alexander
the Great in 332 B.C.—ancient Egypt was the
preeminent civilization in the Mediterranean
world. From the great pyramids of the Old
Kingdom through the military conquests of the
New Kingdom, Egypt's majesty has long
entranced archaeologists and historians and
created a vibrant field of study all its own:
Egyptology. The main sources of information
about ancient Egypt are the many monuments,
objects and artifacts that have been recovered
from archaeological sites, covered with
hieroglyphs that have only recently been
deciphered. The picture that emerges is of a
culture with few equals in the beauty of its art,
the accomplishment of its architecture or the
richness of its religious traditions.
Built during a time when Egypt was one of the richest
and most powerful civilizations in the world, the
pyramids—especially the Great Pyramids of Giza—are
some of the most magnificent man-made structures in
history. Their massive scale reflects the unique role that
the pharaoh, or king, played in ancient Egyptian society.
Though pyramids were built from the beginning of the
Old Kingdom to the close of the Ptolemaic period in the
fourth century A.D., the peak of pyramid building began
with the late third dynasty and continued until roughly
the sixth (c. 2325 B.C.). More than 4,000 years later, the
Egyptian pyramids still retain much of their majesty,
providing a glimpse into the country's rich and glorious
Ancient Egypt's gods and goddesses looked at least
partly like humans and behaved a bit like us, too. Some
deities had animal features, like heads, on top of
humanoid bodies. Since they were gods, people were
supposed to worship them. There wasn't one right way
to do this throughout all of Egyptian history and in all
places. Different cities and different pharaohs favored
one set of gods over another.
Gods and Goddesses
The god of funerals. He is depicted as half
man, half jackal.
The goddess of protection. She was seen as
half human, half cat.
Was the son of Isis and Osiris. The
protector of pharaohs. Viewed as half
falcon, half human.
Osiris’s wife and sister. She was the
goddess of life. Shown as a beautiful
Gods and Goddesses
The goddess of the sky. She is depicted as blue
with stars covering her body and the sky on her
The god of death. Osiris is depicted a s a pharaoh.
He is brother of Set and Isis (also her husband).
He is the son of Nut and the father of Horus.
The god of the sun. He was the ruler of
Brother of Osiris, he is the god of chaos, evil, and
storms. He is depicted as composite animals.
Egyptian Mythology: Worship
The ancient Egyptians believed that temples were the
homes of the gods and goddesses. Every temple was
dedicated to a god or goddess and he or she was
worshipped there by the temple priests and the
The large temple buildings were made of stone so that
they would last “forever”. Their walls were covered
with scenes that were carved onto the stone then
brightly painted. These scenes showed the pharaoh
fighting in battles and performing rituals with the gods
Egyptian Mythology: Mysteries
Buried for most of its life in the desert sand, an air of mystery has always
surrounded the Great Sphinx, causing speculation about its age and
purpose, method of construction, concealed chambers, role in prophesy,
and relationship to the equally mysterious pyramids.
The monument is the largest surviving sculpture from the ancient world,
measuring 73.5m in length and in parts 20m in height. Part of the
uraeus (sacred cobra which protected from evil forces), the nose and the
ritual beard are missing; the beard is now displayed in the British
Museum. The extensions at the side of the head are part of the royal
head cloth. Although the head of the Sphinx has been badly affected by
thousands of years of erosion, traces of the original paint can still be
seen near one ear.
It is thought that originally the Sphinx’s face was painted dark red. A
small temple between its paws contained dozens of inscribed steal placed
by the Pharaohs in honor of the Sun god
Egyptian Mythology: Mysteries
The Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone, which is housed in the British Museum, is
a black, possibly basalt slab with three languages on it (Greek,
demotic and hieroglyphs) each saying the same thing. Because
the words are translated into the other languages, it provided
Jean-Francois Champollion the key to the mystery of Egyptian
Discovered at Rosette in 1799, by Napoleon's army, the
Rosetta Stone proved the key to deciphering Egyptian
hieroglyphs. The person who found it was Pierre Francois-
Xavier Bouchards, a French officer of engineers. It was sent to
the Institut d'Egypte in Cairo and then taken to London in
Notable Egyptian Kings and
Very interesting stories of the boy king. He died at the young at of 19. There was the “kings curse”
that whomever entered the tomb of King Tut would die shortly.
King Ramesses II
He had lived a long life of 96 years, having many wives, sons, and daughters. He is famous for his long
life and his great temple.
Queen Hatshepsut reigned over Egypt for more than 20 years. She served as queen alongside her
husband, Thutmose II, but after his death claimed the role of pharaoh while acting as regent to her
nephew, Thutmose III. She reigned peaceably, building temples and monuments, resulting in the
flourish of Egypt. After her death, Thutmose III erased her inscriptions and tried to eradicate her
The struggle with her teenage brother over the throne of Egypt was not going as well as Cleopatra VII
had hoped. In 49 B.C., Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII—also her husband and, by the terms of their father's will,
her co-ruler—had driven his sister from the palace at Alexandria after Cleopatra attempted to make
herself the sole sovereign. The queen, then in her early twenties, fled to Syria and returned with a
mercenary army, setting up camp just outside the capital.
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