October 25, 2006

Origin of Egyptian Civilization


Although Egyptian civilisation is at least seven thousand years old, a unified Egyptian civilisation with urban centers and a central authority emerged in Egypt with the coming of the Pharaohs beginning with the scorpion king Narmer/ Nirmer/ Naram- Ara of Sumerian origin. The Scorpion gods were warrior gods in Sumeria and it is a mark of respect to regard a great warrior king as one.

This movement into the Nile Valley may have coincided with the end of the Uruk period that in turn coincided with the Piora oscillation, a dry period  that began in c. 3200 BCE and ended in 2900 BCE that marked the end of a long wetter, warmer climate period from about 9,000 to 5,000 years ago, called the Holocene climatic optimum.


A prehistoric flint knife, with a handle carved from the tooth of a hippopotamus, in the possession of Louvre and found at Gebel el Arak near Nag Hamâdi depicts a scene from the conquest. On one side of the handle is a battle-scene including some remarkable representations of ancient boats. Many of the warriors are nude with the exception of a loin girdle, but, while one set of combatants have shaven heads or short hair, the others have abundant locks falling in a thick mass upon the shoulder. The nude warriors are obviously of local African origin. It displays the wisdom of the conquerors in utilizing locals for their campaigns. On the other face of the handle is carved a hunting scene. In the upper field is a remarkable group, consisting of a personage struggling with two lions arranged symmetrically. The rest of the composition is not very unlike other examples of prehistoric Egyptian carving in low relief, but here attitude, figure, and clothing are un-Egyptian. The hero wears a turban on his abundant hair, and a full and rounded beard descends upon his breast. A long garment clothes him from the waist and falls below the knees, his muscular calves ending in the claws of a bird of prey. There is no doubt that the heroic personage is represented in the familiar attitude of the Babylonian hero Gilgamesh struggling with lions, a favorite subject of early Sumerian and Babylonian seals. His garment is Sumerian rather than Egyptian. The design itself is unmistakably of Mesopotamian origin. There was no physical barrier to the use of the river-route from Mesopotamia into Syria and of the tracks thence southward along the land bridge to the Nile's delta.


After the conquest Nirmer appears to have returned to to his homeland leaving his son Menes in charge of the new kingdom with assistance of Priests and soldiers. Menes unified the scattered communities of the entire Nile Valley. There he established the First Egyptian Dynasty with an Uruk period Sumerian civilization. The unified state led to the development of writing, the start of large scale construction and the venturing out from the Nile Valley to trade. The most remarkable evidence of cultural connection is shown in the architecture of Early Dynastic tombs of Egypt and Mesopotamian seal-impressions showing exactly similar buildings. A problem that early Sumerian ruling class faced upon arrival in Egypt was the different, even contrary religious beliefs. Egyptians glorified the floods whereas the Sumerian dreaded it because of their religious records of the deluge that had originally flooded their homeland and beautiful cities perhaps on the western coast of India leading to their exodus. However the Sumerians soon assimilated everything useful they found in the new lands and thus developed their culture even further.

Unlike the colonists of eighteenth century the Sumerians arrived in any new territory with the intention of making it their home and progressed from strength to strength as they marched westwards. However the Nile valley was the limit of their expansion since their were no other great rivers flowing through vast arid plains to the west of the Nile.


Who was the Frist Egyptian Pharao


There is considerable confusion amongst scholars as to who the first Egyptian Pharaoh was, who ruled over all of Egypt from his capital at Memphis. According to the kings list made a thousand years after his time, his name was Men, Meni or Mena. The reason for using different vowels is because in Egyptian writing vowels are not written (as at times in Arabic) and these have to be guessed. The Greek historian Mantheo of 200 BC who was known for developing meticulous historical records, called him Menes in Greek. That is the most popular way Mene is mentioned in modern literature. This pharaoh is the legendary king that came from the town of Tinis in Upper Egypt and took over Lower Egypt (the North) by force. He then became the first king over the whole country and founded a new capital for united Egypt - Memphis, just where the two states bordered on each other. According to archaeological dating this was around 3200 BC. For thousands of years, King Menes was thought to be the first king of Egypt. Ancient Egyptian records clearly identify him as the first king of the first dynasty.

However since then much else has been discovered by archeological findings that have led to some confusion. In the last decade of the 1900s the old royal tombs in Abydos were re-excavated. Two seal impressions were found from the tombs of Den and Qaa, the fifth and eighth ruler of the first dynasty. The motif was a line of kings in a successive order, and both had Narmer as the founder of the first dynasty. This record should be an authentic one since it comes from a time much before Menthos or even the Kings list. Most of all, it was prepared by the descendents of Narmer himself. Some scholars postulated that Menes and Narmer may be the same person. Was it really so? The matter requires further enquiry. The seal impressions of Den and Qaa describe the kings of the first dynasty as:

Narmer,
Aha,
Djer,
Djet,
Den

Thus it is clear that Aha was the son and successor of Narmer. King Aha, on the other hand, was the first pharaoh who built monuments of substance over the whole country, and his large tomb constructions (with buried retainers for the first time) were in dimensions that far overshadowed his predecessors including Narmer his father. He has also left a written sign interpreted as the name "Mene" written beside his ordinary name on one occasion. This at once indicates that he is the same as king Mene (or its Greek form Menes). Thus available evidence indicates that it was Aha and Menes who were one and the same person and not Narmer and Menes.


Confusion may have arisen in interpreting historic records because both Narmer (Also known popularly as the scorpion King) and Menes together united Upper and Lower Egypt. The credit of unification would go to Narmer as the father and this is indeed supported by a later archeological find the -Narmer Palette. Menes or Aha on the other hand was the first king to build substantial monuments in Egypt and may have been regarded by many as the first real Pharaoh of Egypt, thus leading to the confusion.


Narmer's Palette found at the temple of Hierakonpolis shows that behind the king is his sandal-bearer, a high dignitary, possibly his son, who is identified by a rosette (seven petalled) the divine or royal emblem. This son is likely to be the legendary Menes who accompanied Narmer in the conquests. Both may have ruled different parts of Egypt together for a period after the conquest with the younger Menes focusing more on the building of a new Capital at Memphis. Thus it may be concluded that Narmer was the first king of united Egypt and his son Menes the first king that ruled over all of Egypt from Memphis. After the establishment of dynastic rule in Egypt, the villages of Egypt were transformed from members of a loosely organized society in which autonomous chieftains and merchants played the most significant roles, to one under the centralized control of an imperial king.


The kings list of later dynasties appears to have focused on listing the kings of Memphis and thus correctly listed Menes as the first king to rule from that capital, ignoring the father who affected the unification. The second dynasty of Egypt had different roots from the first one. When they came to power they replaced the falcon symbol of the first dynasty by the symbol of a dog. The descendents of Narmer himself would not however ignore their ancestor in developing their own list of kings and listed Narmer as the first king.

Published earlier by author at Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/314530




7 comments:

keiko amano said...

Ashok,

This is so interesting: In spite of contrary religious beliefs, Sumerians moved westward. Your description of Sumerians in mind, I wonder how they reacted to floods and the behaviors of Egyptians. They seemed to learn a lot from the Egyptians.

ashok said...

I revisted these posts after several years Keiko and found your comment here today :) Yes it does seem that at their root, three ancient civilizations based on Agriculture , The Indus, Sumerian and Egyptian had a common root but each then developed in its own way in their respective areas. Each had begun the process of writing and developed it into quite different forms eventually.

ashok said...

Today i added a picture to the old post which is left in its original form. I have become better at blogging now :)

keiko amano said...

Thank you, Ashok. I read it again, still with much interest. Now, I'd like to visit Egypt and neighboring countries.

ashok said...

I visited Egypt in the early nineties and it is nice country to visit in winter. However, there is unrest currently and it is not good to visit until that settles down. It may take a few years for that.

Ray Mangope said...

Ashok, it is obvious that the pyramids were constructed by a much more advanced race than any of those you describe in your article. In fact, modern man is still lacking in this regard as we speak. How would you then place these structures in the scheme of things? Is there any reference to the pyramids during the time of Aha, or their depiction in their artwork/beliefs? How would you then place them in your account of 'Human creation and civilization'?

Ashok said...

Individuals ( such as Einstein) and races ( such as the Athenian Greeks) have emerged on the planet from time to time. The Pansmeria hypothesis suggests an alien origin/intervention for such but the difference is that aliens do not have to arrive in physical form, just a gene for that advancement has to arrive as bacteria with embedded viruses from across the universe. How all that takes place is described, step by step in the earliest seven or so posts of this blog. Do visit and enter your thoughts as commnent, they are appreciated. best wishes.