History and Archaeology of Ancient Egypt



By the Editors of the Madain Project

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BCE (according to conventional Egyptian chronology) with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes (often identified with Narmer). Today the remains of this once mighty covilization are spread across the whole modern country of Egypt. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

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Brief History of Ancient Egypt

Prehistoric Era

Prehistory is the period that witnessed the development of humankind and its experiences since man lived in caves and rock-shelters. As a scavenger and hunter, the prehistoric man made his tools from stone to help him meet his needs and provide him with protection against danger. The oldest known man-made lithictools in Egypt are dated back more than two-million years ago. These tools confim the human presence in Egypt as it was the path taken by the human migrations from Africa during the ancient world.

Prehistoric Egypt

Predynastic Era

The Predynastic-period is the last stage of the Neolithic period, which preceded the invention of writing and the establishment of the state is the Dynastic period. It is characterised by the sedentary societies on the banks of the River Nile and the emergence of cultural centers. During the sixth millennium BCE, the Egyptians were aware of the agriculture and were constructing silo-structures for storing grain.

Predynastic Egypt

Archaeology of Ancient Egypt

FeaturedRelocated Ancient Egyptian Monuments

The construction of the Aswan High Dam in the mid-20th century brought forth the need to protect Egypt's invaluable ancient monuments from submersion. To achieve this, a colossal international effort was launched to dismantle, transport, and reassemble these architectural marvels on higher ground or to different museums around the world. Among the most famous of these relocated monuments are the grand temples of Abu Simbel, originally built by Pharaoh Ramses II, and the Temple of Philae, dedicated to the goddess Isis.

Featured Article Tombs in the Valley of the Kings

A comprehensive list of the known tombs and burials in the Valley of the Kings. The list includes descriptions and actual photographs of the tombs. This article deals with the of burials in the Valley of the Kings, in Thebes (modern Luxor in Egypt) and nearby areas. Egyptologists use the acronym KV (standing for Kings' Valley) to designate tombs located in the Valley of the Kings. Tombs that have been discovered since then have been allocated a sequential KV number (those in the Western Valley are known by the WV equivalent) in the order of their discovery. The tombs in the Valley of the Kings were designed to protect the pharaohs’ mummified bodies and treasures from tomb robbers.

Explore Tombs in the Valley of the Kings

Featured Article The Procession of the Aamu

An ancient Egyptian painting in the tomb of 12th Dynasty official Khnumhotep II, at Beni Hasan (circa 1900 BCE), shows a group of West Asiatic foreigners, possibly Canaanites, labelled as Aamu, including the leading man with a Nubian ibex labelled "Abisha the Hyksos" (Heqa-kasut for "Hyksos").

The Aamu people from this relief are further labeled as being from the area of Shu, which may be identified, with some uncertainty, with the area of Moab in southern Palestine, around the Jordan river, or generally the southern Levant, just east of the Jordan river and the Red Sea.


Featured Article The So-Called "Tombs of the Nobles"

The tombs of the nobles in Egypt are a group of ancient burial sites located throughout the country, which were used by the non-royal elite during the New Kingdom period. These tombs were built for wealthy officials, military leaders, and other prominent individuals, and were typically located near their place of work or in the nearby hills. Many of the tombs of the nobles are decorated with colorful and intricate paintings and carvings that depict scenes from Egyptian mythology, religious rituals, and daily life.

List of the Nobles' Tombs in Amarna / Aswan / Luxor / Saqqara

Featured Article 3D Rosetta Stone

In 1802 the stone arrived in England and was offered to the British Museum, where it has remained since. It is part of a grey and pink granodiorite stela bearing priestly decree concerning Ptolemy V in three blocks of text: Hieroglyphic (14 lines), Demotic (32 lines) and Greek (54 lines). The inscription is a decree passed by a council of priests, one of a series that affirm the royal cult of the 13 year-old Ptolemy V on the first anniversary of his coronation.

This 3D model of the Rosetta Stone was publiched by the British Museum, as part of their larger attempt to capture as many of our iconic pieces from the collection.

Pyramid of Menkaure

This pyramid was built approximately between 2532 and 2515, during the reign of Pharaoh Menkaure. He was a Pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty. We are here in the middle of the old empire. The Menkaure Pyramid is the third pyramid of the plateau of Giza. Much smaller than Khufu and Khafra, it marks the end of the era of giant pyramids. If it seems less interesting than the other two, it also introduces a number of innovative architectural elements. The pyramid of Menkaure was built in the Necropolis of Giza, southeast of the pyramid of his father, which was built in the south-east of that of his own father. This choice was not trivial.

Giza Pyramid Complex | Pyramid of Menkaure

Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut

Also known as the Djeser-Djeseru, the "Holy of Holies" in Ancient Egyptian language, the temple was built for the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Hatshepsut, the longest reigning female pharaoh, regarded by historians as one of the most successful leaders of Ancient Egypt and as the "first great woman in history". The sanctuary is a mortuary, or memorial, temple, constructed in honour of the pharaoh under which it was built. Despite being around 3500 years old, its long colonnaded terrace almost looks like contemporary architecture, and the elegant symmetry contrasts strikingly with the rugged cliff face that looms above it. In its heyday, the Temple of Hatshepsut would have been surrounded by glorious gardens filled with exotic trees and plants, reached via a sphinx-lined avenue. Over the millennia, as well as the usual erosion and decay suffered by the ancient monuments, the temple was vandalised by Haptshepsut's stepson Tuthmosis III and the early Christians, amongst others.

Hatshepsut's Temple | Deir el-Bahari

Great Hypostyle Hall of Karnak Temple

The hall was built by Seti I who inscribed the northern wing. The outer walls depict Seti’s battles. The massive columns in the hypostyle hall dwarfs the people and there is still some paint surviving on the under side of the capitals. The hall covers an area of 50,000 square ft (5,000 square meters) and filled with 134 gigantic stone columns with 12 larger columns standing 80 feet (24 meters) high lining the central aisle. The southern wing was completed by Ramesses II but he usurped the decorations of his father along the main processional walk ways. The south wall is inscribed with a record of Ramesses II’s peace treaty with the Hittites which he signed in 21st year of his reign. Later pharaohs including Ramesses III, Ramesses IV and Ramesses VI added inscriptions to the walls and the columns.

Karnak Temple Complex | Precinct of Amun-re | Great Hypostyle Hall

Khufu's Great Pyramid at Giza

Pharaoh Khufu began the first Giza pyramid project, circa 2550 BCE. It was the first of the pyramids to be built on the Giza Plateau. It was built as a tomb for the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Khufu over a period of around 27 years. It is believed that Khufu's cousin and vizier, Hemiunu was the architect of the Great Pyramid. His Great Pyramid is the largest in Giza and towers some 481 feet (147 meters) above the plateau. Its estimated 2.3 million stone blocks each weigh an average of 2.5 to 15 tons. Construction of the Great Pyramid was completed around 2560 BCE, and it was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years.

Funerary Complex of Khufu | Pyramid of Khufu

Recommended Readings

The Red Sea Scrolls: How Ancient Papyri Reveal the Secrets of the Pyramids

The Red Sea Scrolls: How Ancient Papyri Reveal the Secrets of the Pyramids

Pierre Tallet’s discovery of the Red Sea Scrolls, written some 4,600 years ago, and combined with Mark Lehner’s research, changed what we thought we knew about the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza. Tallet and Lehner narrate this thrilling discovery and explore how the building of the pyramids helped create a unified state, propelling Egyptian civilization forward.
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Giza and the Pyramids: The Definitive History

Giza and the Pyramids: The Definitive History

In Giza and the Pyramids: The Definitive History, two of the world’s most eminent Egyptologists, Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass, provide their unique insights based on more than four decades of excavating and studying the site. Through the ages, Giza and the pyramids have inspired extraordinary speculations and wild theories, but here, in this definitive account, is the in-depth story as told by the evidence on the ground and by the leading authorities in the field of Egyptology.
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The Complete Pyramids (Mark Lehner)

The Complete Pyramids

The book includes the Whole Pyramid catalogue, a unique survey and description of the pyramids and their development, from the first simple pit-graves to the sublime pyramids of Giza and beyond; a discussion of the rituals and mythology surrounding the death and burial of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt; accounts of explorers, looters, and archaeologists, from the later Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans to the modern explorations.
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