|Ancient Egyptian Pyramid|
The sudden appearance of this well-developed form of writing indicates that it was most likely imported into Egypt from elsewhere, and most Egyptologists are inclined to think that at about 3400 BG a large-scale invasion of Egypt took place. Where the invaders came from is not known. Burial customs and certain architectural features are similar to the earliest Mesopotamian civilisation but striking differences make it unlikely that this was the origin of the invaders. I.t seems more probable that the rulers of Egypt and of Mesopotamia had a common ancestry from which they derived similar traits. Who these ancestors could have been remains an open question and only a vague indication is provided by certain aspects of their beliefs which, as we shall see, are of a definitely African character.
The invading dynastic race which was to usher in the pharaonic civilisation of Egypt called themselves the followers of Horus. Horus was a skyrod whose totem animal was the falcon. The falcon appears on the Narmer palette, where it is shown holding an enemy captive, and it surmounts the name of the pharaoh on the memorial stelae which were erected at the tombs of the early kings. Horus also enters the name of the king himself as, for instance, in Hor-aha, and the falcon god is retained as the pharaoh’s title well into the Pyramid Age. Horus was thus closely connected with the divine kingship of the pharaoh and he stood high above the totem animals of the local tribes which represented the gods of the individual provinces. His only serious rival seems to have been the god Seth of Ombos whose totem was a composite four-legged creature with an ant-eater’s snout, large ears, cut off at the top, and a raised tail. Seth was possibly the god of the indigenous population whose stronghold appears to have been Upper Egypt, whereas Horus was originally connected with the Delta. It was perhaps through the Delta that the invaders first entered Egypt, conquering from there Seth’s country in the Nile valley. Although these events date back to Egypt’s prehistoric period, the juxtaposition of Seth and Horus as representing Upper and Lower Egypt is retained in representations throughout Egyptian history.
The enmity between Seth and Horus is expressed in a different form in the Osiris legend which probably stems from archaic times but reached its general religious importance only much later. The myth relates how the good King Osiris was treacherously murdered by his evil brother, Seth, who hacked his body to pieces and scattered them throughout the land. They were collected and buried by his wife, Isis, and Seth was defeated by Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis. The origin of this legend may have its roots in the struggle of the conquering dynastic race, the followers of Horus, with the original population of Seth’s worshippers. Its significance for our considerations lies in the identification of Osiris with the dead pharaoh, the recovery of his corpse and the continuation of his existence in a new form after death. The inviolate preservation of the body in a strong and well protected ‘eternal house’ thus became one of the foremost tasks of Egyptian civilisation.
It is, in fact, from the tombs that practically all our knowledge of life in ancient Egypt is derived. In the cities of the dead at the edge of the desert above the Nile valley, the dry, hot air from the Sahara has helped to preserve the dead and their possessions. It has also covered the graves with dunes of blown sand, concealing their entrances and guarding their rest until it was disturbed by the spade of the modem excavator. Unfortunately thousands of years before the curious arrived, the greedy had done their work only too 'veil. Almost everywhere they had stripped the dead of their wealth, broken and scattered what seemed valueless, exposing the odies and other contents of the tombs to disintegration. The further one goes back in history, the more time and opportunity did the tomb robbers have to wreak destruction. When we reach the Pyramid Age there are few objects left from that remote time of the first flowering of human society. Even the stones of the monuments were stolen to be turned into city walls and mosques, and only the pyramids themselves, whose immense bulk and strength withstood all onslaughts, remained to furnish us with the story of their time - provided we know how to read it.
In the development of man, death has been a fairly late discovery. The animal does not recognise death. A mother monkey will carry her baby around in the usual manner even after it has died, until its body has completely disintegrated. Less than a century ago the aborigines of central Australia had not yet accepted the inevitability of natural death. When one of their number died from illness or old age, they were sure that he had been killed by magic, and magic was invoked to discover the murderer. Once he was found, the deceased was avenged by either violence or again by magic. Even to this day man has not quite made his peace with the discovery of death. Many, if not most, of us still cling to the hope of a hereafter in one form or another in which we can continue as individual and recognisable personalities for ever.
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