This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Around the world. Most beautiful places. Egypt.

Egyptian civilization exerted a strong influence on other ancient Mediterranean civilizations. It is not surprising that the interest in the history of ancient Egypt and its monuments has been manifested since antiquity. This explains the great space devoted to Oriental foreign sources (the Bible), Greek or Latin. Numerous Greek philosophers, politicians and historians (Thales of Miletus, Anaximandru, Pythagoras, Solon, Herodotus) visited Egypt at the end of the 6th century and the beginning of the 5th century BC. Older information could have been transmitted by the Greek merchants from the colonies of Naukratis and Dafné (founded in the second half of the 7th century BC in the Nile Delta). In the following centuries, other historians: Diodorus of Sicily, Straub, Plutarch, Iphus Flavius, Sextus Iulius Africanus, Eusebius of Caesarea etc. have shown the same interest in Egyptian history and culture. They used the work of the great Egyptian priest Manethon (Egyptika), from the end of the 19th century, which established the chronology of the Egyptian state, meaning the names of the Pharaohs, grouped in 31 dynasties.

 

The pyramids stirred the interest and curiosity of the Arabs. Abbasid caliph Mamum al-Mamun (813-833) ordered the opening of the Keops pyramid inside of which the legend says that a statue of malachite, dressed in a golden armor adorned with precious stones, was found. One of the founders of the pyramid study is considered to be Ibrahim Ibn Wasif because he claimed that the ancient Egyptian’s science is contained in the great pyramid. For XIV century, Ibn Batuta is representative of his travels. Interested in antiquities, when he traveled to Egypt, he described the Alexandria lighthouse in ruins, visited the pyramids, climbing the Nile to Luxor. 

The deciphering of the hieroglyphic writing at the beginning of the 18th century allowed the use of valuables and rich internal sources, from which we highlight two major categories of documents:
a) texts of legal and accounting nature, cadastral records, wills, literary works, etc.
b) the archives of Tell el Amarna, important for the reconstruction of international relations under the last pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty.

In order to know some special moments in the history of ancient Egypt, as well as to establish the relative chronology, there are a number of sources, such as: a) the Palermo star which includes a chronicle of the ancient Egyptian protodinist and ancient events, as well as events from the court of the Pharaohs; b) The royal lists drawn up during the New Kingdom (the Ancestral Chamber of Karnak, the Tabula of Abydos, the Tabla de la Saqqara); c) Torino’s Papyrus or the Book of the Dead, published by R. Lepsius, indicates the names and deeds of the Pharaohs until the 17th dynasty; c) the annals of Tutmes III, preserved in part on the walls of the temple of Amon in Karnak (Teba) and Ramses II, written on the walls of the temples of Abu-Simbel and Luxor: e) The peace treaty between Hattusil III and Ramses II, etc. The basics of egiptology were put by the French philologist Jean François Champollion (1790-1832), a good connoisseur of the Coptic language, who succeeds in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs due to the trilingual inscription on a basalt star discovered at Rosetta when the French soldiers set up a fortress (Saint- Julien, 1799). The inscription was a decree of the Hellenistic King Ptolemy V Epipanes, written in Greek, with his translation into the demotic (Egyptian writing and popular language during the late period) and Egyptian hieroglyphs. He succeeded, from the name of Ptolemy and Cleopatra in the Greek text, to identify the hieroglyphs of the same significance and to reconstruct the signs of an alphabet. 

 

Champollion’s work was consolidated, confirming its value a few years later (1837) by German Richard Lepsius. His most important work is the Book of the Dead, based on a papyrus kept in the Turin Museum. The efforts of Champollion and Lepsius created a new discipline for the study of the Ancient East, Egyptology. Written sources have been substantially complemented by archaeological research results. The expedition to Napoleon Bonaparte (1798-1799) of Egypt, attended by many scholars, had a beneficial effect on the study of ancient Egypt. The foundations of Egyptology were put by Jean François Champollion (1790-1832), who succeeds in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs due to the trilingual inscription found at Rosetta. The character of Egyptology as science will be defined in the decades following by a number of researchers by the discovery and thorough investigation of some of the ancient monuments representative of Egypt. The first of these is the French Auguste Mariette (1821-1881), the discoverer of the Serapeum at Menphis, the sanctuary of the Greek-Egyptian Serapis divinity, with the underground necropolis of the Apis divine bulls, mummified and sarcofage. This discovery is dated between the beginning of the first and second millennium. 6 BC.Chr. (Dynasties 22-26). Mariette also initiated research to unveil Theba capital and then Luxor. It is also worthwhile to try to halt the exodus of the historical values of Egypt by creating a special administration (the service of antiquites of Egypte) and establishing a museum in Cairo to preserve the collection of antiquities discovered. Gaston Maspéro (1846-1916), a French archaeologist with thorough philological studies, opens and investigates the interior of the Sakarah pyramids (belonging to Pepi I, Merenre, Unas, Pepi II, Teti, pharaohs in the 5-6 dynasties), as well as temples at Karnak Luxor. All the copied inscriptions inside these pyramids are published between 1882-1892 in what we call the Book of Pyramids, a work of great importance for knowing the funeral beliefs of the ancient Egyptian Kingdom. Subsequently, the work will be published in four volumes in Leipzig, in a critical edition of German Kurt Sethe, titled Die Altägiptischen Pyramidentexte “, between 1908-1922. 

In investigating Egyptian antiquities towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the sec. XX, English and American researchers (Oriental Institute of Chicago), then others (Italian, Belgian, Egyptian, etc. brought to light a great civilization. The English Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) conducted research in the Fayum oasis (Hawara Resort, unveiling the first Egyptian city and the only one known today in the Middle Kingdom, as well as the pyramid and the funeral temple of Pharaoh Amenemes III.) The research of the established settlement of Sestoris II is very important because it allowed to know the structure of an ancient city: an octagonal plan with an enclosure of 400 x 350m, the interior divided by a transverse wall into two parts – the small area included the dwellings of the workers employed in building the pyramid and the temple, the other part was reserved the courtyard dwellings – the streets intersect at right angles, forming equal equal). His name is also related to the research of the settlement of Nagada, located north of Teba, which provides conclusive data on the prehistory of the Nile Valley. Remarkable is also the work of German philologist and archaeologist Heinrich Karl Brugsch. As director of the Egyptology School, created in Cairo by the vicar Mohammed Said, Brugsch founded in 1863 the Egyptian Philology Periodical Journal (Zeitschrift für egyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde), which continues today. His main work, however, resides in the research of demotics, publishing, after a diligent research, the first demotic grammar and a hieroglyphic-demographic (Hierogyfisch-demotisches Wörterbuch) in 7 volumes (1867-1882). Other large-scale research has been carried out around the pyramids and mastas of the Menfis necropolis, as well as that of Teba (Ramseum, the Ramses III Temple of Medinet Habu, the temples arranged in the rock of Der el-Bahri ), Djoser Sakarach’s pyramid or Tell el-Amarna and Tanis (the ancient Avaris), etc. The research of the last decades has pushed the beginnings of the process of crystallization of the Egyptian state in time (H. Kantor introduced the concept of the Dynasty 0, the works of Schild, Wendorf, Logan, Spencer, etc. confirm the age of the beginning of the kingdom, the early appearance of a political theology, adoption of long chronology).

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. helmibireuen

    Egypt is an extraordinary tourist destination, Artifacts and other historical objects are able to give a good and special view of the past, although it is still very primitive, but they have known life better.

    So that now humans must be better in guarding them against all the Cultural Elements that our children and grandchildren must know in the future, ..

    Interesting article on your trip @gabriel

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