Ancient Egypt And Egyptian Numbers History Essay

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Stone Age hunters reached the lush Nile River valley in search for food about 8000 C.E. They started living in the area and grew barley, wheat, and vegetables. Early farmers eventually grew enough food to support permanent settlements .By 3500 C.E. many small farming villages clung to the banks of Nile River.

The people called their land Kemet, meaning rich, black soil that produced goodharvests.

Geographic Setting

The Nile River The longest river in the world is the Nile River. It flows from its highlands of central Africa to the Mediterranean Sea ,4,160 miles away. The river was considered the source of life in Egypt. Without the Nile , Egypt would probably an extension of the Libyan desert.

Think and Respond

How did geography influence Egyptian life?

Every year the Nile overflowed its banks following the rainy season in Africa. The floods in the Nile is predictable, and although it caused destruction or failed to bring enough water, Egyptians usually knew about how high the water rise. The floodwater carried silt and as the floodwater receed,the silt was deposited on the fields.

The rich soil replenished the farmland each year. At the mouth of the Nile ,where the river empties into the Mediterranean Sea ,deposits of silt have formed a delta, that is a triangle -shaped area of marshy flatlands.

Map of Ancient Egypt

The Nile has helped to unite the villages along its banks. It serves as a major highway, connecting the Upper Egypt in the south to Lower Egypt in the north. Trade along the river is active.

River Nile also influenced people's lives in many ways. It provided river wildlife which Egyptians hunted for food and sport .Added to this , Egyptians used a reed called papyrus that grew along the Nile's marshy shores for making paper.

Natural Barriers . The Libyan and Nubian deserts , the Mediterranean sea ,and the Red Sea form as natural barriers of Egypt. These barriers protected the early villagers from attack by outsiders. The south of the Nile is interrupted six times by cataracts or waterfalls and rapids .These posed an obstacles to invaders from Kush or present day Ethiopia.

Egyptians were not completely protected by natural barriers. However, over the centuries, Egyptian rulers faced many invaders .Most reached Egypt across the Sinai Peninsula ,a triangle of land that connects Egypt and western Asia .The northern Sinai also served as a path for Egyptian armies when they conquer people in western Asia.

The natural barriers of Egypt posed as a problem to the Egyptians themselves. Although the narrow strip of land along the river is fertile ,farmers could not grow crops in the surrounding deserts. Thus, most Egyptians lived in crowded Nile villages. As the population grew, they had to overcome the limits of their geography .They built irrigation systems to carry water from the Nile into the desert.

Think and Respond

In Sumer and in Egypt, rulers fulfilled important religious activities. How do religious values and institutions influence government, then and now?Religion. The religious beliefs of the Egyptians reflected the importance of nature in their lives. They believed that different gods controlled the forces of nature, giving good harvests or causing crops to die. They thought god had the power of life and death over everyone. Egyptians practiced polytheism,the belief in many gods . People in each village worshipped a village god in addition to other gods.

The most important Egyptian god was the sun god Amon -Re. To the Egyptians, the east , where the sun rose symbolized birth while the west ,where the sun set, represented death. Thus, they always built tombs and funeral temple on the west bank of the Nile.

Hieroglyphics. Egyptian priest develop a system of writing later known as hieroglyphics because probably of the need to keep records of religious rituals. Egyptians first wrote by carving hieroglyphics on stone or wood. later ,they flattened papyrus reeds into strip s and wrote on the strips with brushes and ink. The English word " paper " comes from the word "papyrus."

In the early 1800, a French scholar Jean Champollion deciphered the Rosetta Stone. The stone was a slab of black rock found by a French soldier in Egypt in 1799. Champollion spent years comparing Greek word with hieroglyphics .By 1822 ,he had translated the entire Egyptian text .

Government of Ancient Egypt At first there were many independent villages known as nomes ruled by local monarchs. In time, some villages united until two kingdoms were formed . There were two kingdoms that rose along the Nile valley; the Upper Egypt in the south between Memphis and the First Cataract and Lower Egypt in the north which consisted of the Delta. The bitter war between the two kingdoms was brought to an end when Menes ,the King of Upper Egypt, invaded and conquered the Lower Egypt uniting the nation under one rule at around 3100 C.E Menes became the first pharaoh and founder of the first line of dynasties . His power increased , he gained both farmland and access to copper mines in Sinai Peninsula. Trade in the Upper Egypt to the mouth of the Nile was controlled.

In a dynasty, the right to rule passes from the ruler to one of the children of the ruler. History says there were at least 30 dynasties in Egypt between 2700 C.E. and 1090 C.E. This was used by scholars to divide ancient Egyptian history into 3 major periods: the Old Kingdom or Age of Pramids ( 2700- 2200), the Middle Kingdom or Age of Nobles(2050- 1800 C.E.), and the New Kingdom or Empire Age (1570-1090 C.E.)

The Old Kingdom. Egyptian rulers acquired extensive power during the Old Kingdom. They were called pharaoh which means "great house". People believed that the pharaoh was god, the son of the sun-god, Amon- Re. The pharaoh had absolute power. He was the source of law , and he owned all land, quarries, mines and water in Egypt.

Having the absolute power, pharaohs could organize a strong centralized government .The kingdom were divided into provinces and appointed officials to supervise tax collection, building projects, and irrigation systems.

Think and Respond

How are the colossal monuments such as the pyramids a source of information about ancient Egypt?Significant achievements were made during the Old Kingdom. Hierogliphyics were improved by them. Developed engineering know-how which is necessary in building tombs for the pharaoh. They believed that as a god, it is befitting to make him a house suitable for a god for his afterlife. Imhotep, the chief minister designed the Step Pyramid at Sakkara for Pharaoh Zoser. This pyramid was constructed about 2650 C.E. and is one of the world's oldest structural stone.

Pyramid of Cheops(Khufu)

Old Kingdom was sometimes called the Pyramid Age because Zoser's successors as well as rich nobles constructed pyramid tombs. Today three pyramids still stand at Giza.

Massive tombs are evidence of wealth and power of Egyptian rulers in the Old Kingdom. Throughout the years that pyramids are being built, thousands of laborers had to be hired, fed clothed and housed. The cost was so enormous.

The huge expense of building pyramids exhausted the treasury causing the weakening of the pharaohs. By 2200 C.E. officials in the provinces seized control of their territories. There came about peasant revolt and civil wars disrupted trade and farming. There came about a period of disorder which lasted up to 150 years marking the end of the Old Kingdom.

The Middle Kingdom . A new dynasty from the south restored order in Egypt at about 2050 and established the Middle Kingdom. The prince from Thebes became the new pharaoh and made Egypt strong and prosperous. Art and literature were encouraged and started a new irrigation project that increased crop production. One project is the draining of swampland in the Nile Delta .It created thousands of acres of new farmland. Pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom also built canal that joined the business center of the Nile valley with the trade routes of the Red Sea. I t benefitted trade and transportation.

It was during the Middle Kingdom that Egypt expanded its borders and had greater contacts with other civilizations Pharaohs sent expeditions to Kush, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Crete. By 1800 BCE, a succession of weak pharaohs again left Egypt in turmoil with strong nobles battling for power in the provinces. A long civil war again wracked Egypt. Weakened by internal disorder, Egypt was conquered by nomadic invaders from western Asia known as Hyksos at about 1750 B C.E.

The Hyksos ruled Egypt for about 200 years. Egyptians learned important military skills from them and the making of bow and arrows and to wage war using horse-drawn chariots.

The New Kingdom. The Hyksos were driven out by the leaders of Thebes and restored Egyptian rule to Egypt. This marked the beginning of the new Kingdom, or empire which lasted from 1600 to 1100 C.E. An empire is a government that rules over a group of countries. Because of the growth of the New Kingdom this era was also called Empire Age.

The pharaoh of the New Kingdom started attacking neighboring peoples and extended Egyptian rule into southwestern Asia, as far north as the Euphrates River. Between 1490 and 1469 C.E. Egypt was ruled by the only female pharaoh, Queen Hatshepsut, who gain the throne in a coup. Her term was mark by building programs and the expansion of trade to present day Somalia.**http%3A//

Hatshepsut was succeeded by her stepson, Thutmose III .A brilliant military leader, Thutmose expanded the Egyptian Empire to its greatest size. He conquered Palestine and Syria and organized a navy to subdue cities along the eastern Mediterranean. Like other rulers, Thutmose erected monuments to his own greatness. On tall, pointed stone pillars, called obelisks ,stonemasons carved hieroglyphic inscriptions describing the pharaoh's military victories.

One controversial pharaoh of the New Kingdom was Amenhotep IV. He was not interested in foreign conquest than in changing some traditional religious practices. He wanted the Egyptians to worship the god Aton. He ordered the priests to stop worshipping other gods and to remove these gods name from the temple .He also changed his name from Amenhotep to Akhenaton, which means "pleasing to Aton".

Think and Respond

Rulers fulfilled important religious duties. How do religious values and institutions influence government?Akhenaton's policies created divisions in Egypt. The priests of other gods bitterly opposed the pharaoh's reforms. When Akhenaton failed to defend the empire because of his worship to Aton, he lost the support of the military.

His son -in law inherited the throne when he was only eight years old .The young pharaoh soon changed his name from Tutankhaton to Tutankhamon. His dropping of Aton to Amon signifies the return to traditional religious practices.

Decline of Egyptian Power. The last great ruler of the New Kingdom was Ramses II .Most of his 67 year reign was spent in reviving the empire and fighting the Hittites of Asia Minor. In 1280 C.E. the first written treaty in history ended the struggle between the Hittites and the Egyptians. he raised many monuments to commemorate his victories.

Egyptian empire steadily declined following the reign of Ramses II. By 1090 C.E. civil wars had left Egypt too weak to defeat a stream of invaders. First came the raiders known as the Sea Peoples, believed to have come from the islands in the Aegean. The Assyrians and the Persians conquered Egypt. In 331 C.E. the Greeks led by Alexander the Great occupied the lands in the Nile valley. Queen Cleopatra a descendant of one of Alexander's generals tried to restore Egyptian greatness. But Cleopatra was the last pharaoh. A Roman fleet defeated Egyptian naval forces in 31 C.E., and in the following year Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire.**http%3a// Egyptian Society

Throughout much of Egyptian history, the pharaoh had absolute power over their subjects, mainly because people believed that the pharaoh were descended from god and were god themselves. A government where religious leader rules the state as god's representative is called a theocracy.

In theory, the pharaoh owned all the land, commanded the army and controlled the irrigation system. And since no person can administer such a large kingdom, he appointed officials to assist him. However, all important decisions in the government were made by him. Starting in the Old Kingdom, Egyptian created a complex but efficient government that supported the absolute power of the pharaoh.

Social Classes

Egyptian society was divided into three classes. The upper class of people was made up of the priest, the court nobility and the landed nobility. Egyptians believed that gods , who controlled the universe required constant attention. Only the priests knew how to please the gods. Priests conducted daily sacrifices to the gods, cast spells to make the land fertile and recited prayers to help souls of the dead reached the afterlife. Priests enjoy great power and prestige .To support the priests and temples Egyptians paid taxes in the form of grain, linen gold and wine. The court nobles on the other hand advised the pharaoh and carried out their orders. Nobles often held the positions as governors, court officials or tax collectors. Usually, the chief minister who administered the business of the country was chosen from among the noble class. Many of these nobles owned large estates while the landed nobility managed their great estates.

The middle class included men and women who became rich through trade. Skilled artisans, who made furniture and jewelry, worked with leather and cloth were also in the middle class Professionals too are included such as teachers, artists doctors, and scribes.

The great mass of Egyptian people belong to the lower class. It was made up of two groups namely; peasants and slaves. The peasants, they worked on the farms, irrigation systems, roads, and building projects. The peasants had few political rights, and they lived poorly in small mud homes. However, for an ambitious Egyptians, he could rise to a higher rank. The slaves were usually prisoners of war. Like the peasants they worked on temples and irrigation projects.

Most slaves were descendants of people brought back to Egypt as prisoners of war. Some lived like a free peasants, farming plots of land. Those who served in the houses of nobles sometimes enjoyed comfortable lives. Loyal and able slaves sometimes were given freedom.

The Status of Women

Women in Egypt enjoyed a high status. During the New Kingdom, women had the right to buy and sell property and to testify in court. Like the male counterparts, women had the right to seek divorce. Property was inherited in the female family line in the Egyptian society.

Woman's role as a wife and a mother was especially valued in the society. They gained more status when they bear children.

In the royal family, the queen occupied a privileged position as a wife of a god. At times , queens ruled jointly with their husbands .Although the pharaoh might have more than one wife ,his first wife was the most important because her son would become the next pharaoh.


Reading, writing, arithmetic, and also religious ceremonies and rituals. As society become more complex, schools provided a more general education. Sons of the wealthy class attended temple schools while girls learned the skill they need at home.

Children were educated at an early age. The priests took charge of the elementary education of the children at schools attached to the temples. After elementary schooling, the boy was sent to a higher school or learned trade from his parents. The girls received little or no schooling.

The primary aim of education was to produce scribes. As scribes ,they were expected to have a thorough knowledge of the language, literature and history of their country. In addition ,they should be good in mathematics ,bookkeeping, law, management and were even expected to know mechanics, surveying and architectural design. A scribe occupied a high position in the official class. He enjoyed exemption from menial work as well as taxation.


Egyptians believed in afterlife; and that the soul could not enter into the future life without the body , the human body must be preserved after death as a mummy in order for the soul to live on.. And because they considered life beyond the grave to be exalted than one's earthly life ,they accompanied their body with the material possessions and surroundings which were used and loved during its earthly existence. This belief in the afterlife led the Egyptians to build large tombs called pyramids in which to keep the mummified bodies of their dead rulers. The biggest and most enduring of these pyramids was built by Cheops (Khufu).Pyramids yielded immense storehouses of valuable information about ancient Egyptian history.

The Egyptians worshipped many gods and goddesses, a practice called polytheism .The most important deities were Amon-Re ,the sun-god and Osiris, the god of the Nile and the underworld and lord of the afterlife. Egyptian gods were often pictured as beings with human bodies and the heads of animals. They also worshipped certain animals like cows, monkeys, crocodile and serpents.

During the reign of Akhenaton, who ruled from 1379 to 1362 C.E. a, new belief was born. Akhenaton outlawed the worship of all gods except Aton .This was known as monotheism. However , there were so many priests and they succeeded in convincing the people that to believe Akhenaton, they would suffer the wrath of god. After his death, Egyptians returned to polytheism.

Egyptian's Contribution to Civilization

Egyptian developed a form of picture writing known as hieroglyphics. The first writings consisted of pictures of objects. Slowly picture signs came into use for ideas as well as objects. The first Egyptian books were written on material made from papyrus, a reed plant. The earliest books written in papyrus were about religion.

Papyrus had also other uses .It was made into baskets and sandals. It was also tied in bundles to make columns for houses. Even rafts and riverboats were made of papyrus.

The Egyptians knew the Nile flooded about the same time every year. They used this knowledge to make a calendar. The calendar had three seasons of 120 days each and five special feast for the gods.

Egyptians were mathematicians. Because Nile floods washed away markings for land boundaries, they need to survey the land often, developing geometry to measure the boundaries. They invented addition, subtraction, and division. They also learned how to compute the triangle, circles, and other shapes. The builders of pyramids need to work on the precise measurements.

Egyptians were great builders, sculptors and engineers. The Great Pyramids and the Sphinx are examples of their work.

Pyramid of Egypt

Egyptian devised a method to preserve the human body after death which was called mummification. As they work on the human body, they became familiar with its anatomy. They made medical advances; like dealing with certain wounds, set broken bones, and perform surgery.

Early Egypt


Offers a rich soil that is good for farming

It has natural boundaries that serve as protection from invaders

Way of life is reflective of their environment

Early Government

Old Kingdom

Middle Kingdom

New Kingdom

Contributions Civilization









Choose one that does not belong to the group. Write only the letter.

_______ 1. Egypt is the "gift of the Nile" because

a. It makes the soil fertile.

b. It facilitated trade and commerce.

c. It hindered progress.

d. It provides food.

_______ 2. Natural barriers protected Egypt from early invaders. Which one is not?

a. Libyan Desert

b. Nubian Desert

c. Mediterranean Sea

d. Caspian Sea

_______ 3. Civilization of Egypt was shaped by its geography as proven by:

a. Egyptians became farmers.

b. Egyptian religion gave so much importance to nature.

c. Egyptians built irrigation system.

d. Egyptians became warlike people.

_______ 4.Population grew along the banks of the Nile river because

a. Surrounding areas in Egypt are desert lands.

b. Farming is good in the Nile valley.

c. So much economic activity was offered by Nile River

d. People are protected by the government in the Nile Valley.

_______ 5. Early Egyptian writing developed a system of writing known as hieroglyphics using

a. Stone

b. Papyrus

c. Clay

d. stick

Drawing Conclusions:

On the map on page - there are natural features that determined the boundaries of ancient Egypt.(the Nile River, the First Cataract, and the surrounding desert.)In your own opinion which of these features was most important to Egypt's history. Explain your answer. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Fill in the blanks to complete the analogy.

New Kingdom: Empire Age; Old Kingdom:_______________.

Mesopotamia: ziggurat; Egypt:____________________.

Euphrates River: Mesopotamia; Nile River:__________.

First Pharaoh: Menes; Last Pharaoh:________________.

Mesopotamia: Behuston Rock; Egypt:_______________.

Critical Thinking:

Why do you think the Egyptians became warlike after they freed themselves from the Hyksos? What evidence can you give to convince us of your answer? ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________

Match column A with Column B. Write only the letter.


_______ 1.The need for exact measurement a. Monotheism developed

_______ 2. Preserve the human body for afterlife b. Development of geometry

_______ 3. The rule of Akhenaton c. Development of anatomy

_______ 4. The need for absolute rule d. Development of zodiac signs

_______ 5.Dynastic rule e. Development of irrigation system,

canals, and pyramids

f. Power in the hands of the royal family


Which group believed in preserving the body after death? How did those religious belief affect their customs?



Response to the Essential Question

Egypt is the gift of the Nile.

Make Connections

Hatshepsut as pharaoh was a divine ruler and she had to be symbolically viewed as a man in order to carry out her role. How do we regard female rulers today?

Essential Question

How does geography affects the early civilization of India?