June 14, 2012

Prelude To The Ancient Egyptian Pyramids P2

The oldest source for our knowledge of Egyptian history is a list of pharaohs, drawn up in chronological order, by Manetho in the third century BC. Manetho was probably a priest at the ancient sanctuary of Heliopolis and he compiled his list in Greek at the request of Ptolemy I. No manscript of Manetho’s original work has survived and we have to depend on later transcripts made in the early Christian era by Josephus, Africanus and Eusebius. After Champollion had deciphered the hieroglyphs, additional historical sources became available from inscriptions on temple walls and from papyri. These earlier sources are particularly valuable since they give the kings’ names in hieroglyphic and not in the grecianised form used by Manetho. Finally, we have parts of an early stela, called the ‘Palermo Stone’ because the largest fragment known is kept in the museum at that city. The list on the Palermo Stone predates Manetho by over two thousand years and it was compiled when the events of the Pyramid Age were still fresh in the minds of the priests. One of the curious difficulties met by Egyptologists is the fact that every pharaoh had no fewer than five names, each of which had to be used for a particular purpose and the choice of which we do not fully comprehend. Thus it has happened again and again that events ascribed to persons of different names in fact referred to the same king.

Ancient Egyptian Pyramid
Even greater were the difficulties encountered when trying to ascribe actual dates to the various reigns and dynasties. In early times the Egyptian empire developed essentially in isolation, not providing the historian with any contacts with other civilisations from which comparative dates could have been derived. Only a few decades ago the opinion of individual Egyptologists concerning one of the early kings often varied by several centuries. However, due to such methods as radioactive carbon-dating and, above all, by painstaking correlation of all the available data, a remarkably reliable table of 3,000 years of Egyptian history has now been established.

Manetho begins his list of kings with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under a pharaoh whom he calls Menes, and this event is generally taken as the beginning of Egyptian history, now dated as about 3200 BC. There follows a series of no fewer than thirty dynasties, most of which seem to correspond reasonably well with the groups of pharaohs recorded by other sources. It has become customary to sub-divide this enormous list, spanning three thousand years, into a number of historical periods which are given in Table I.

The two intermediate periods, between the Old and the Middle Kingdom and between the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom respectively represent breaks in the even course of Egyptian history. The second break was caused by the incursion of foreign elements, Hyksos or shepherd kings about whom we know, of Egyptian history and that the ‘Pyramid Age’ proper did not last very long. In fact, the five largest pyramids were all built in the space of only one century. It is true that pyramids continued to be built for another thousand years but they became much smaller and soon also much shoddier. Mud brick was substituted for limestone and shapeless grey mounds of crumbled brick are all that is left of them today. On the other hand, the early impressive stone structures of the true Pyramid Age have, with one exception, survived in essentially the same form in which they were erected 5,000 years ago. The exception, the ruined pyramid of Meidum, will furnish the basis of our considerations.

Prelude To The Ancient Egyptian Pyramids :
Prelude To The Ancient Egyptian Pyramids P1
Prelude To The Ancient Egyptian Pyramids P2
Prelude To The Ancient Egyptian Pyramids P3
Prelude To The Ancient Egyptian Pyramids P4
Prelude To The Ancient Egyptian Pyramids P5
Prelude To The Ancient Egyptian Pyramids P6
Prelude To The Ancient Egyptian Pyramids P7

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