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Ancient Egyptian Culture: Religion, Art, Sports Essay

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Updated: May 13th, 2021

General Overview

Ancient Egypt was one of the first civilizations in Africa. The history of Ancient Egypt encompasses more than 3,000 years, from around 3,150 BC when Lower and Upper Egypt united, and the first pharaoh was proclaimed, to 30 BC when Ptolemy XV, the last pharaoh and the son of Cleopatra VII and Julius Caesar, died, and the Roman Empire annexed Egypt. This makes Ancient Egypt one of the longest-lasting civilizations in human history (Ancient Egyptian culture facts 2016). Certainly, for such a long period, the Egyptians invented many things that were later adopted by other nations and developed their own unique culture that is quickly recognizable nowadays.

Architecture

Ancient Egyptian Architecture comprises a great variety of structures along the Nile including monuments, temples, and pyramids. The Great Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx of Giza, the Karnak Temple Complex, the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, and the Temples of Luxor are among the most famous constructions in the world (Ancient Egypt: culture 2015).

Since wood was scarce in Ancient Egypt, the two main building materials were stone and sun-baked mud brick. Stones were mainly used in the construction of temples and tombs, whereas mud bricks were used for fortresses, palaces, and walls around towns. The pyramids’ cores consisted of gravel sand, mud bricks, and quarried stone. The houses were made out of mud from the Nile, which was dried under the sun in certain forms and used for construction (Petrie 2013). Thus, due to the hot and dry climate in Egypt, some mud-brick buildings have preserved their original appearance, among which are the fortress of Mirgissa and Buhen, the town of Kahun, and the village of Deir al-Madinah.

The majority of constructions in Ancient Egypt were post-and-lintel with flat roofs made of stone blocks that were supported by walls and columns. Interior and exterior walls, piers, and columns were covered with painted carvings and pictorial and hieroglyphic frescoes. Temples in Ancient Egypt were aligned with various important astronomic events, such as equinoxes and solstices that require accurate calculations (White 2013). Besides, the Ancient Egyptian scientists conducted these measurements with extraordinary precision.

The most famous Ancient Egyptian architect is Imhotep. He designed and built the first pyramid, the Step Pyramid of Djoser, at Saqqara in approximately 2,630 BC. He is allegedly the first engineer in history (Ancient Egyptian culture facts 2016). Additionally, he is considered the first person who began to use columns and invented stone architecture.

Religion

Religion was an indispensable aspect of the daily lives of Ancient Egyptians. Known today as Egyptian mythology, in ancient times, it was considered accepted religion. The Ancient Egyptian pantheon consisted of gods who possessed supernatural powers and were regarded as protectors of people. Egyptians believed that initially, there was chaos, then the great god Atum appeared from it and created Ptah who, in his turn, began creating other gods, Earth, and people (Ancient Egypt: culture 2015).

In Ancient Egypt, gods were worshipped in temples, where priests acting on the pharaoh’s behalf appeased them with prayers and offerings. Every temple had a shrine in its center, from where priests conducted ceremonies. Common citizens were not allowed to worship in the temples. Instead, they had small statues and amulets in their homes that they used while praying (Mark 2013). Additionally, later, a system of oracles was developed aiming to communicate the gods’ will to the common people.

The Egyptians believed that humans were composed of two main aspects, namely physical and spiritual. The spiritual aspect was divided into four parts: soul or personality, name, shadow, and life-force. After death, these spiritual parts were released from the physical body and could move separately (Ancient Egypt: culture 2015). However, the physical remains or their substitute in the form of a statue are needed for the spiritual aspects to rejoin and to ensure life after death in the spiritual world.

Thus, the most famous Egyptian means of ensuring immortality after death was mummification. This burial custom aimed at preserving the body. This process presupposed the removal of the internal organs, the envelopment of the body in linen, and its burial in a wooden coffin or stone sarcophagus (Petrie 2013). As for the pyramids, they served as crypts for the Ancient Egyptian elite, while the poor people were buried in the desert.

Arts

Ancient Egyptian art is unique and therefore easily recognizable. It includes ceramics and stone, wooden sculptures, paintings, drawings on papyrus, ivories, and faience. The art of Ancient Egypt mostly represents their socioeconomic status, belief systems, and history (Wilson 2013).

One of the most famous and recognizable Egyptian art forms is hieroglyphic frescoes that were painted on the walls of the majority of buildings. Most of the motifs of these pictures are symbolic and depict the solar disk, vulture, and the Egyptian sacred beetle scarab (Wilson 2013). Additionally, there are pictures of the lotus, papyrus plant, and palm leaves.

The hierarchical proportion is crucial in Egyptian art. It means that the size of depicted figures depends on their importance. Therefore, the pictures of the gods are the largest ones, the pharaohs and other officials are a little smaller, the common people are even smaller, and the slaves, animals, trees, and other objects are the smallest. Ancient Egyptian art is imbued with symbolism. For example, the pharaoh’s regalia represented the power to sustain order. Even colors were symbolic: black meant the land’s fertility, white was the color of bones and silver, red meant chaos, blood, and desert, yellow stood for the gold, green meant regeneration and plants, and blue represented water and youth (Ancient Egypt: culture 2015). Thus, Ancient Egyptian art is permeated with symbols.

Artisans of Ancient Egypt carved fine reliefs and statues using stones and their cheaper substitutes using wood. They obtained paints from different minerals such as limestone, charcoal and soot, copper ore, and iron ore. One of the most famous sculptural masterpieces of Ancient Egypt is the Bust of Nefertiti made by the sculptor Thutmose (Wilson 2013). Moreover, the Ancient Egyptian sculptures have many distinctive features that are easily recognizable.

Sports

Sport in Ancient Egypt was a very important entertainment for young people. Many pictures depicting various sports activities were found on the walls of buildings, on sculptures, and even in tombs. Some activities, such as martial arts, were available only for the elite. Nevertheless, in most kinds of sports, all classes could participate (Petrie 2013).

Many sports that were practiced in Ancient Egypt are practiced now, but some of them have completely changed over the years. Thus, among the popular Egyptian sports were athletics, boxing, chariot races, jump with the stick, archery, wrestling, water sports, and others. Many inscriptions on the monuments depict how these sports were practices. The most favorite kind of sport for pharaohs and other nobles was hunting, mainly for wild animals such as bulls, hippopotamuses, crocodiles, and lions (Petrie 2013). Thus, the Ancient Egyptians practice a variety of sports, some of which are extant.

Social Status

The society in Ancient Egypt was stratified, and the distinctions in social status were vividly expressed. Thus, slaves had no rights and freedom and were considered the lowest caste in society. Farmers who constituted the most part of the population were the next in the hierarchy. They worked on farms that belonged to noble families or the state. The next caste in the hierarchy was craftsmen and artists. Officials and scribes formed the upper class. Another caste consisted of engineers, physicians, and priests, which was equal in rights to the caste of officials and scribes. The highest caste in Ancient Egypt was royalty (Mark 2013).

According to Ancient Egyptian law, men and women had equal rights in all social classes. Thus, women as well as men had the right to pursue legal disputes, receive an inheritance, marry and divorce, sign contracts, own property, and rule the state. The latter concerns women as well, as it is seen from the example of Cleopatra VII and Hatshepsut who became pharaohs (Ancient Egyptian culture facts 2016). However, despite these rights and freedoms, the role of women, particularly in the administration and temples, was secondary.

Music

Music and dance were also very popular in Ancient Egypt. However, these entertainments were chiefly for those who could afford them. The most popular instrument in Ancient Egypt was a harp, and it is believed that only blind men played this instrument (Mark 2013). Additionally, there were such instruments as flutes, pipes, oboes, and trumpets. In the period of the New Kingdom, such instruments as drums, cymbals and bells appeared. Later, the Egyptians imported lyres and lutes from Asia (Wilson 2013). Additionally, they had the sistrum, a rattle-like instrument that was used in religious rites and ceremonies.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it can be stated that for such a long period of existence, Ancient Egyptian civilization had managed to create a culture that has many distinctive features which are recognizable all over the world. Ancient Egyptians had their own architecture, religion, art, sports, social division, and music. Some of their cultural features are used even today.

Reference List

Ancient Egypt: culture, 2015. Web.

, 2016. Web.

Mark, J J 2013, . Web.

Petrie, W M F 2013, The arts and crafts of ancient Egypt, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

White, J M 2013, Ancient Egypt: its culture and history, Courier Corporation, Mineola.

Wilson, J A 2013, The culture of ancient Egypt, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

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