The Rise of Egypt

                                         Among the first societies to emerge from Prehistory with a unique
                                        historical identity was Egypt.  The population of Egypt lived on the banks
                                        of the Nile river in Northeast Africa.  The Nile flooded annually, throwing
                                        new fertile soil onto the riverbanks.  Because of this annual flooding, the
                                        exhaustion of the soil's minerals and crop rotation were not issues,
                                        making Egypt a perfect locale for an agriculture-based society.

                                        The Nile ends in a delta, or swampy, muddy area where it flows into the
                                        Mediterranean sea.  This delta made navigation by large ships (i.e. war
                                        ships) impossible.  The presence of deserts and inhospitable lands on
                                        Egypt's other borders made hostile attack a rare, if not unheard of
                                        occurrence.  All of these factors worked together to create an extremely
                                        stable, structured society in which social status was determined at birth,
                                        and creativity was not encouraged.

                                        Egyptian religion permeated every aspect of life and was, not suprisingly,
                                        centered around the Nile that sustained Egypt's agriculture.  Religion in
                                        Egypt was  Polytheisticand controlled by a priest class.  Most of what we
                                        have learned about Egyptian life and religion is gathered from
                                       heiroglyphics written on  papyrus or painted/carved on walls.

                                        Between 1364 and 1347 B.C.,  Amenhotep IV  took the throne.  He
                                        neatly circumvented the power of the priestly class by declaring that he
                                        had received a message from Aton Ra . In this message Ra explained
                                        that he was the ruler of the gods, and that he would speak only to the
                                        Pharoh.  Amenhotep changed his name to  Akhenaton (servant of Aton)
                                        and ushered in the most creative era of ancient Egypt. During the rule of
                                        Akhenaton and his wife Nefertiti, art was used for more than religious or
                                        political function.  Called  Amarna Art,  it became moderately
                                        representational, and gave rise to the portrait bust of  Queen Nefertiti.
                                        After Akhenaton's death, however, the priests quickly regained control
                                        and returned art to its rigid form.

                                         Egyptian history fascinates us because it is filled with mysteries.  Perhaps
                                        the greatest of thise is that of Egyptian architecture.  The blocks that
                                        make up the great pyramids weigh in at over 60 tons each, and they were
                                        moved without the aid of modern heavy equipment or hydraulics!
                                       Imhotepis the genius who historians believe designed some of the earliest
                                        pyramids. The  Sphinx (having the body of the lion and the head of a
                                        man) is even more mysterious, as both its origins and use remain
                                        unknown, although its image is familiar to almost everyone.

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