The world’s longest river – it flows northward toward the Mediterranean Sea for 4100 miles --- longer than the distance from NJ to CA!
Herodotus – The Greek historian said that “Egypt was the gift of the Nile.”
Upper and Lower Egypt
For most of their history ancient Egyptians knew only the lower part of the Nile – the last 750 miles before it empties into the sea.
Upper Egypt (think UP river and thus to the south) – a skinny strip of land never more than 12 miles wide.
Lower Egypt (began about 100 miles before the rivere reached the Mediterranean Sea. At that point, branches of the river fanned out to form the Nile Delta. The Nile Delta covers an area of about 14,500 square miles.
The Nile as a Transportation Link
Northbound – the current moves ships along
Southbound – the prevailing winds push the sails of ship
Benefited the commerce of Egyptian cities
The Nile flood – “Egypt is the gift of the Nile.”
Rainfall in Central Africa and melting snows from the Ethiopian highlands caused the Nile to flood each year, reaching its highest point in Egypt by the end of August. The average flood measured 25 feet high, enough to flood the whole valley up to the desert. When the waters receded, the soaked earth was covered with a fresh deposit of rich, dark, silt.
Kemet – Egyptians actually called their homeland Kemet, meaning “The Black.” In contrast, they referred to the desert as Deshret, meaning “The Red.”
Worshipping the Nile
Hapy – The Egyptians worshipped the Nile as a god they called Hapy. Hapy gave them life and seldom turned against them. Thus, the Egyptians were careful to observe all the rituals that were supposed to please Hapy and keep Egypt safe. In a religious festival on the Nile’s banks, they sang: “Hail to thee, O Nile, that issues from the earth and comes to keep Egypt alive.”
From villages to a united kingdom
Farm villages – Egyptians lived in farm villages as far back as 6000 BCE
Nomes – eventually the villages united into agricultural districts called nomes. Each nome had its own rituals, gods and chieftain.
Two kingdoms – by 3200 BCE, the nomes of Egypt were divided into two groups under two kings. One king ruled Lower Egypt and wore a red crown. The other king ruled Upper Egypt and wore a tall white crown shaped like a bowling pin.
Menes united Upper and Lower Egypt
Strong-willed king of Upper Egypt
United Egypt about 3100 BCE
Established his capital in the city of Memphis, at the spot where Lower and Upper Egypt converged.
Palette of Narmer
Commemorates how Narmer (aka Menes) unified of Upper and Lower Egypt
Palettes were used to mix black eye make-up. This black eye liner protected the eyes from the sun.
Palette of Narmer was most likely a ceremonial palette and not used for this everyday purpose
One of the earliest surviving works in Egyptian art (3150 BCE)
The palette is carved in bas relief.
The images are arranged in registers.
The sculptor used hierarchical scale. Naturally, Narmer is the largest figure.
Narmer is shown on Side A wearing the crown of Upper Egypt. He is shown subduing a defeated enemy who probably represents Lower Egypt. Narmer holds him by the hair, an act that symbolizes conquest and domination.
The sandal bearer holds Narmer’s sandals indicating that Narmer stands on holy ground and his acts are sanctified by the gods. He is involved in a sacred act. (Recall that God told Moses to remove his shoes before He appeared to Moses as the burning bush)
The top register depicts Hathor twice (pronounced hattor) – the goddess of the heavens and protector of the pharaoh’s family and has Narmer’s serekh (name in hieroglyphics) in the center
The bottom register shows two more enemies fleeing from all-powerful Narmer.
The hawk is the god Horus, a powerful sky god and associated with the pharaohs. He holds a creature with a human’s head and six papyrus blossoms symbolizing Lower Egypt.
On Side B, Narmer is again barefoot. He walks in a procession to inspect the decapitated bodies of the enemy. Note his is now wearing the crown of Lower Egypt. The artist gives you an aerial view of the scene for clarity of the story. Optical realism would show only some of the bodies. This view gives you more information --- A great number of enemy soldiers have been killed.
Narmer is shown twice on Side B. On the bottom register, he is depicted as a horned bull trampling his enemy and attacking a city.
In the center register, there are two creatures which are sometimes called “serpopards,” because of their leopard bodies but serpentine necks.
Why are their necks intertwined?
What was the purpose of the Palette of Narmer? What are three ways it conveyed its message?
Organizing Egyptian History
How did the ancient Egyptians organize their history?
Manetho, a fourth century BCE Egyptian priest, divided the history into 30 dynasties or royal families.
Archaeologists use Manetho’s list of pharaohs, other inscriptions in temples and royal burial sites, and solar calendars to date recorded events and place the pharaohs in correct chronological order
The research is still ongoing, and the history changes. This is currently the best we know.
Periods of Egyptian History
Predynastic Period – 3300 – 2960 BCE
Early Dynastic Period (Dynasties 1-2) 2960 – 2649 BCE
OLD KINGDOM (Dynasties 3-6) 2649 – 2150 BCE
First Intermediate Period (Dynasties 7-11) 2143 – 1991 BCE
MIDDLE KINGDOM (Dynasties 12-14) 1991 – 1700 BCE
Second Intermediate Period (Dynasties 15-17) 1640 – 1550 BCE
NEW KINGDOM (Dynasties 18-20) 1550 – 1070 BCE
Third Intermediate Period (Dynasties 21-25) 1070 – 660 BCE
Late Dynastic Period (Dynasties 26-30) 688 – 342 BCE
Ptolemaic Period (after Alexander the Great visited – governed by one of his generals) 332 – 30 BCE
Power of the pharaohs
Pharaohs were gods in human form. Were worshipped as gods after their death as well.
They ruled according to the principle of Maat, the goddess of truth – The pharaohs could not intentionally rule badly without being judged by her. Her symbol was the feather.
The pharaoh’s had full responsibility for Egypt’s well-being
Immortality for the pharaoh
The ka – Egyptians believed that their pharaoh lived on after death. He had an eternal spirit called a ka. The ka was believed to be part of the soul. Gods as well as people each had a ka. A person’s ka accompanied him or her throughout life and provided guidance after death.
Even though the ka was a spirit, it needed to refresh itself occasionally by entering its human body. Thus the Egyptians preserved the pharaoh’s body by making it a mummy.
By 3000 BCE, Egyptians developed a 72-day process of mummification
First step removal of the internal organs, except for the heart, which was believed to be the seat of understanding. The heart would be removed by Anubis, jackal god associated with mummification, to be weighed for the judgment of your soul. The brain was discarded.
The body was then packed in dry natron (a natural compound of sodium carbonate and bicarbonate), which dehydrated the cadaver and dissolved its fats. This took many days.
The corpse was then washed, treated with oils, and ointments, and bandaged with as many as 20 layers of linen in a way that conformed with its original shape.
The substances applied to its skin caused the body to turn black. Later travelers took this to mean that the body had been preserved with pitch (tar). The Arab term for pitch is mumiya – hence the English name mummy.
No less important was the preservation of the internal organs, which were removed and also mummified. They were then placed into four CANOPIC JARS. These canopic jars were discovered with the mummies and have the animal head images of various gods. Even these are considered art – a type of funerary sculpture.
Old Kingdom architecture – The Pyramids
Introduction – Pyramids were monumental expressions of the pharaoh’s power and the Egyptian belief in the afterlife
MASTABAS – These box-like structures preceded the pyramids. Named after the Arabic word for “bench.” These were single-story, trapezoidal structures with a shaft and burial chamber below ground. There was another ground-level chamber with a statue of the deceased, to which family members could bring offerings of food and drink.
Built by IMHOTEP, history’s first known architect (his name is recorded as the builder inside the pyramid). Imhotep became a legendary figure in ancient Egypt revered for his wisdom as a magician, astronomer, and healer. The movie “The Mummy” is based on him. He was worshipped as a god by an Egyptian cult.
It is 200 feet tall and seems to be composed of a series of mastabas of diminishing size
Its purpose was to: protect the mummified King Djoser and his possessions; symbolize King Djoser’s absolute and god-like power; a small temple stood on the side of the pyramid for priests to perform funerary rituals for Djoser
This step pyramid was built in Saqqara, the necropolis (city of the dead) of the city of Memphis, the capital at the time.
The Saqqara complex is also significant – It contains the first known use of columns! The columns are ENGAGED – attached to the building. The CAPITAL (tops of the columns) are shaped like lotus leaves (sacred for the afterlife and symbolic of Upper Egypt) and papyrus (symbolic of Lower Egypt).
To demonstrate his fitness during his lifetime, King Djoser had to run a lap around the whole complex.
Pyramids at Gizeh
About 80 pyramids were built
The three at Gizeh are the most famous. The largest was built for Khufu. It is called “The Great Pyramid” and is the only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World that we know so far. The other two were built for his successors, his son Khafre, and grandson Menkaure.
The Great Pyramid
Original height was 480 feet, equal to a 40-story building
Its square base had sides of 755 feet and occupies 13 acres, equal to 10 New York City blocks
It is comprised of 2.3 million blocks of stone and estimated to have a total weight of 6.5 million tons!
Built for Pharaoh Khufu
Old Kingdom sculpture
Largest colossal statue of the ancient Near East – monumental size symbolized the power of the pharaoh
Carved out of stone from a quarry
Probably a colossal statue Khafre (Khufu’s son) but may be Khufu himself
A sphinx was a lion with a human head; sphinxes were associated with the sun god. Pharaohs were associated with the sun god.
Guardian figure --- head of a human for intelligence; body of lion for power and authority(king of beasts)
Face was damaged by Napoleon’s soldiers during his expedition to Egypt
Pharaoh Khafre from Gizeh – ca. 2500 BCE
Alternate dwelling place for the ka if the mummy should deteriorate too much
Found in his funerary temple, offerings of food and drink were made to it. Egyptians believed that priests could make this statue come to life.
Carved out of DIORITE, one of the hardest known stones.
The body appendages are carved close to the torso and throne so that no parts will break off.
Designed to show his power and authority. One hand is clenched on his lap and the other is laid flat on his knee. It is a very rigid pose that was used for important people. His body is erect, idealized and not natural (would an older many usually be this built?) Egyptians followed these conventions and canons to depict important figures.
He wears the nemes headdress (a special headdress to show his pharaoh). Also, it serves to make him look more monumental and important.
Important symbols: Horus (the falcon, sky god, and protector of the pharaoh) spreads his wings behind Khafre’s head and intertwined plants on the side of the throne to symbolize his authority over Upper and Lower Egypt.
Khafre is carved closely connected to his throne (no spaces were carved out of the stone to separate his body from the throne). This symbolically links him to the throne of Egypt.
Pharaoh Menkaure and Queen Khamerernebty
This serene and idealized royal image is one of the finest pieces of Egyptian sculpture known. It is 4 feet, 6 inches high. The statue is located in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Made of stone, its surface subtly modeled and gives a very real sense of bodily form and structure.
Menkaure assumes the classic pose for high-ranking men in Egyptian art, striding forward, his left leg advanced, arms rigid and by his side, with an idealized body type.
The queen has her arm around him, clasping him in a traditional gesture of intimacy and respect. Her foot is also striding forward but not as far as his (lower position of women). She is rendered more naturalistically; she has more curves and a little more expression than Menkaure.
The royal couple shows no other sign of affection or emotion and look not at each other but out into space. Royal portraits must adhere to the strict canon of Egyptian art.
Seated Scribe (Kay?) from his mastaba at Saqqara, Egypt
Less monumental and permanent – just 23 inches high, made from painted limestone
Spaces between the arms and body
Not idealized – note the pot belly and flabby pectoral muscles
Does not follow the strict canon of appearance – a sense of personality in his face
Must have had a higher status because he had his own tomb
In position to do his responsibility even in the afterlife; he is a scribe or keeper of written records.
Ka-Aper, from his mastaba at Saqqara
Carved out of wood --- it has cracks in it
Note the spaces
A sense of expression when looking at his face
Still a conventional pose – one foot striding forward
Probably a noble – a tall walking stick in his left hand, a baton (missing) in his right
Note his paunchy build – contrasts with Khafre’s and Menkaure’s idealized muscular statues – his build may symbolize that he led the comfortable life of a noble – obesity was common for non-royal Old Kingdom portraits.
Old Kingdom Tomb Painting
Purpose: Entertaining the ka in the afterlife. The deceased wanted to be surrounded by familiar scenes: work/responsibility, hunting, family, parties, and servants to enjoy for eternity
Location – on the walls of tombs, often combine bas relief with painting
Ti watching a hippopotamus hunt, relief in the mastaba of Ti, Saqqara, Egypt
Ti, his men, and his boats move slowly through the marshes, hunting hippopotami in a dense growth of papyrus
Foxes chase birds in the upper part of the relief
Below, the water is teeming with fish and hippopotami
Compare Ti to his men.
Ti is twice their size. The men are frantically hunting while he stands there in a rigid pose reserved for someone important
Can be interpreted in different ways. Hunting hippopotami was compared to conquering the forces of evil.
Note the conventional, Egyptian depiction
Ti is shown partially in profile (his face, legs, and feet)
Partially frontal – torso, two arms are shown, frontal eye
Slight turn at the waist to transition to legs in profile – shows his navel
Artists used a canon of proportions. This stayed fairly consistent (some minor changes, a short-lived period of big change) over thousands of years
Goats treading seed and cattle fording a canal, painted relief from the tomb of Ti
The Middle Kingdom
About 2150 BCE, Egyptians revolted against their pharaohs and there was a period of localized rule. This period, called the First Intermediate period, lasted for a little over a hundred years.
A pharaoh reunited Egypt under one government again about 2040 BCE. This reunification was called the Middle Kingdom.
Fragmentary head of Senusret III
Notice how his face is more expressive than seated statue of Khafre or Menkaure from the Old Kingdom.
Notice his eyebrows, the outline of his mouth, and his expression
He fought four brutal military campaigns against the Nubians, a group of people south of Egypt. Senusret III never fully gained control of Nubia
Pyramids are plundered (pharaohs of New Kingdom followed the example of the nobles and built rock-cut tombs for the afterlife.
HOMEWORK due: Read Annotated Mona Lisa (AML) – pp. 8 – 11
Egyptian Masterpieces of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Read about each work of art below.
Quiz worth 20 points! Directions:
1. Go to http://www.metmuseum.org and click on “enter here”
2. Click on the Permanent Collection link on the left.
3. Scroll down and click on Egyptian Art
4. Click on Collection Highlights
5. Click on, view, and read about the following works:
a. Tomb of Perneb (page 1)
b. Statue of an Offering Bearer (page 2)
c. Model of a River Boat (page 2)
e. Statuette of a Hippopotamus (page 3)
f. Seated Statue of Hatshepsut (page 4)
g. Fragmentary Head of a Queen (page 5)
h. Akhenaton Sacrificing a Duck (page 6)
i. Canopic Jar in the Shape of a Royal Woman’s Head (page 6)
j. Haremhab as a Scribe (page 6)
k.Temple of Dendur (page 9)
l. Portrait of a Boy (page 9)
Middle Kingdom broke down
Hyksos (people from Syria and Mesopotamia) invaded Egypt
Introduced the horse to Egypt
Overthrown by Ahmose I, first king of the 18th Dynasty
Begins the New Kingdom
Egypt at its peak
Hatshepsut (1473-1458 BCE) – first famous female pharaoh
Thutmose III (1458-1425 BCE) – great conqueror who expanded Egyptian influence
Akhenaton (1353-1335 BCE) – religious iconoclast are artistic innovator
Tutankhamen (1333-1323 BCE) – tomb discovered in 1922
Ramses II (1290-1224 BCE) – ruled for 67 years, father of over 50 sons (he had 8 official wives) and built gigantic statues of himself
New Capital at Thebes
Pylon Temples (Temple of Amen-Re, Karnak, Egypt)
Diagram and Parts
Avenue of deities (a walkway lined with statues of gods, often in animal form)
Obelisks – tall, tapering four-sided pillars ending in a pointed tip called a pyramidion
Colossal statues of the pharaoh
Pylon – sloping towers or gateways flanking the entrance to the temple (like the front wall of the temple) 146 feet high, 50 feet thick!) Most commoners could never go beyond this point.
Courtyard – farthest point nobles could venture into the temple on special holidays
HYPOSTYLE HALL – a hall with a roof supported by a row of columns
Supported by post-and-lintel construction
CLERESTORY – row of windows in the upper part of a wall
Sanctuary – only the pharaoh and the priests could enter. Here the priests washed the god’s statue every morning and clothed it with a new garment. Twice every day they provided it with tempting meals.
QUEEN/PHARAOH HATSHEPSUT (1479-1458 BCE)
Daughter of Thutmose I and wife and half-sister of Thutmose II
Around 1479 BCE, Hatshepsut became a regent for her stepson/nephew but soon exerted her right to succeed her father and rule Egypt
First great female monarch whose name was recorded
Her strong character and political acumen (mental skill and sharpness) contributed to her success
Statues at the Met
over 200 statues carved
Show her as a male figure, a sphinx, and feminine mother figure --- Why this different personas?
Hatshepsut with offering jars, from upper court of her mortuary temple at Deir-el-Bahri
Mix of male and female attributes
Her statues were destroyed during the reign of Thutmose III
Skillfully reassembled and restored at the MET
Terraced Funerary Temple at Deir-el-Bahri
Work of SENMUT, Hatshepsut’s chancellor, advisor, chief architect, guardian of her daughter Princess Nefrua and possible lover!
Rises from the valley in 3 colonnaded terraces connected by ramps (these columns were also destroyed during the reign of Thutmose III)
Inner sanctuary is located inside the cliff
Painted reliefs on the walls constitute the first great pictorial tribute to a woman’s achievement in the history of art
AKHENATON (1353-1335 BCE) and the AMARNA style
Fascinating religious reformer and iconoclast
A new style of art
The Religious Reformer
Akhenaton made the new and shocking claim that the sun-disk god, Aton, was the only true god
Changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaton (follower of Aton)
Moved the capital from Thebes to Tell-el-Amarna. Built a glorious new city their dedicated to Aton.
Challenged the power of the priests. Akhenaton ordered the religious cults that worshipped the cat-god, the crocodile god, the baboon-god, and all other gods to shut down their temples and worship only Aton.
How did Egypt react to such drastic changes?
Meant to last for eternity
Function was to embody the ka of a royal person
Rigid, formal posture – arms at sides, fists clenched, left leg forward, little or no emotion, looking out into eternity
Perfect physique – no deformities, fitting for a person of importance
Examples of the Amarna Style
Statue of Akhenaton
Queen Tiye (Akhenaton’s mother)
Smenkare (was a co-regent with Akhenaton) and Meritaten
Bust of Nefertiti (Akhenaton’s queen)
Beautiful wife with whom he had six daughters
Characteristics of the Amarna Style
Curvilinear body types, not erect and rigid
Long necks and thin arms
Wide hips and legs
More naturalistic approach – full lips, heavy-lidded eyes, and more expression
New androgynous image of the pharaoh as the manifestation of Aton, the sexless sun disk
What happened to Akhenaton and his reforms?
The priests reluctantly complied with the reforms during Akhenaton’s reign. After his death, Egypt reverted back to its previous beliefs.
The next pharaoh, Tutankhamen reinstated Amen as the chief deity as well as the priestly hierarchy and worship of other gods.
Revival of the traditional artistic styles
Tell-el-Amarna abandoned; capital returned to Thebes
Akhenaton’s tomb has been identified, but only recently have archaeologists identified his mummy. It seems that later rulers attempted to eradicate traces of this time period.
Tutankhamen (r. 1333-123 BCE)
Life and times
The son of Akhenaton and young woman (possibly Akhenaton’s other wife Kiya).
Kiya died in the 12th year of Akhenaton’s reign, the same year that King Tut was born. It is possible she was his mother and died in childbirth. King Tut permitted his nurse to construct an opulent tomb for herself next to his. Maybe, she became a mother figure.
Guided by relatives to move the capital back to Thebes
Changed his name from Tut Ankh Aton to Tut Ankh Amen – Why?
Reinstated the worship of Amen as the top god
Died when he was 18 or 19 (reason why is still uncertain). Had a painful deformity of the foot and broke is leg later (could have fallen while walking or from his chariot) – Could have died of an infection
Is now Egypt’s most famous pharaoh but why?
The Valley of the Kings
Opposite Luxor, 400 miles south of modern Cairo
Five miles west of the Nile
Lord Carnavon – Carter’s wealthy patron
Five futile years of searching
“The glint of gold” (November 26, 1922)
At first I could see nothing…but presently as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold – everywhere the glint of gold.”
The Treasures of King Tut’s Tomb
The treasures of Tutankhamon are located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Let’s look at some of the most famous objects.
Over 5,000 objects
A lotus flower surmounted by a King Tut’s head (being born into the afterlife)
The young pharaoh’s chair
The golden throne
Selket – the goddess protector. “These four goddesses shall be your flesh, exterminating those who come against you.”
Three nested coffins
Innermost coffin – solid gold and weighs 243 lbs.
Death mask of Tutankhamon
REPOUSSE technique – hammering the material (usually metal) from the inside to create a design on the outside
Notice traces of the Amarna style
Mummified fetuses – unclear why they are there – Attempts to have children?
Many walking staffs, more than any other pharaoh’s tomb – Why?
Portrays Tut as a warrior in his chariot shooting down the enemy like wild game
Probably was too young to be a warrior pharaoh but this appropriate for someone of his status
Three tiers of his soldiers are in chariots behind him, much smaller (hierarchical scale, shows many soldiers)
Usually painted pictures of scenes from life on the walls of tombs to entertain the ka
Hu-Nefer was a royal scribe and steward of the pharaoh Seti I
The scene is part of a papyrus scroll found in his tomb that was part of his BOOK OF THE DEAD
At left, Anubis, jackal-headed god associated with embalming leads the ka of Hu-Nefer toward the Weighing of the Heart ceremony.
Hu-Nefer’s heart is being weighed against a feather representing Maat, goddess of truth.
If his heart is lighter than the feather, Hu-Nefer will proceed into the afterlife
If the weighing is unfavorable, Ammit, a half hippo/half lion monster will devour Hu-Nefer’s heart
Egyptian pantheon of gods observes proceedings
Thoth- god of scribes records the proceedings.
Horus – son of Osiris, brings Hu-Nefer to meet Osiris, god of the underworld. Osiris is flanked by his sisters Isis and Nephthys.
Hu-Nefer hopes to receive the award of eternal life
Notice that the scene lacks the stylistic features of the Amarna period. The rigidity of the figures, the lack of emotion represents the return to the conservative Egyptian style of art.
Fowling scene from Nebamun’s tomb
PURPOSE: to entertain Nebamun’s ka
Nebamun was a scribe and took inventory of grain during the 18th Dynasty
This scene shows Nebamun taking some recreation time. He is about to throw a stick at a flock of birds while he stands on his papyrus boat
The painting is a fragment from a wall which also included a scene of Nebamun spear-fishing. The tip of his spear can be seen entering the water in the lower left hand corner.
His wife, Hatshepsut (not the pharaoh), is behind him dressed in elegant clothing and his daughter sits between his legs
A cat jumps up and bites one of the birds and a duck sits on the corner of his boat
Painting may be more than just a fowling scene. There are symbols that include sexual love for his wife and there are references to the afterlife and rebirth.
Egyptian power declined
Alexander the Great of Macedon invaded Egypt and was proclaimed a god. His general Ptolemy took Egypt after Alexander’s death and established the Ptolemaic line. Cleopatra and her brother were the last pharaohs of the Ptolemaic line.
Romans conquered Egypt under Octavian (Caesar Augustus) when they defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s forces at the Battle of Actium
Egypt style and architecture still remained prominent in the Roman Empire (many obelisks were taken to decorate the Roman Empire
Consistency of Egyptian Art
Mentuemhet from Karnak, Egypt
Rich and powerful man who was mayor of Thebes during the 26th Dynasty
Notice his stiff, upright stance, compact pose, little space between limbs, one foot striding forward, frontality of the pose