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Nile Valley

ole timer Jan 31, 2015

  1. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

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    The River Nile has for centuries given work and spiritual sustenance to millions of people in Africa. In a region with unreliable rainfall and poor soil its waters have offered people a bounteous opportunity to build great societies like the Egyptian, Kushite and Meroitic civilisations.

    At 6,695 kilometres, the Nile is the longest river in the world, stretching from its source at Lake Victoria, in modern day Uganda, to the Nile delta where it joins the Mediterranean sea.

    The White Nile winds its way through Uganda and into Sudan where, just north of Khartoum, it joins the Blue Nile tumbling down from the Ethiopian highlands. This confluence of the two rivers is crucial to the region's history.

    The White Nile brings a steady flow of water all year round, but the Blue Nile builds into a torrent after summer rains cause floods in what we now call the Nile Valley.

    The Nile would break its banks each year, saturating the surrounding countryside. When the waters subsided, a rich, fertile silt ideal for crop growing would be left. The main flooding took place around present day Aswan in Southern Egypt, now the site of a major dam.

    Undoubtedly one of the key reasons for the rise of Egyptian civilisation was the development by early settlers of a way to control the flooding of the river Nile.

    The ancient Egyptians used a variety of techniques to trap the water, using canals, basins, dams and dykes. Their ability to develop techniques of irrigation created the fertile environment, which could provide the foundation for the great civilisations that followed
     
  2. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

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    Early Settlers

    As far back in time as archaeological evidence can take us we know that man has been living in the Nile Valley. Artifacts from the early Stone Age, particularly pebble tools, have been found from Sudan to Egypt.

    It is likely that settlement took place over thousands of years perhaps moving north from the Rift Valley of Eastern Africa, the so-called 'Cradle of Humankind', where it is widely believed that human life began.

    CLIMACTIC CHANGE
    From the end of the Neolithic Age, around 3,300 to 2,400 BC, the now-arid regions of Northwest Africa and the Sahara were wet enough to allow cattle rearing and agriculture. In this period people did not need to rely upon the Nile.

    But climate change meant that the Sahara became drier and many people moved themselves and their livestock eastwards to the Nile Valley, joining societies who were already exploiting the resources of the river.

    By about 3,000 years BC the fertile sediments left by the annual flooding of the Nile left a long strip of arable land supporting an estimated 1.8 million people. The key populations appear to have been around Aswan in southern Egypt, and the region just south of the Nile Delta, which is now the site of modern Cairo.

    Differing groups of people settled at various points along the valley and this pattern may have given rise to the territorial divisions or 'nomes' which formed the later political structure of Egypt.

    Although there may have been competition among the people of the Nile to secure land, it is believed that the early settlers would have lived a relatively prosperous life.


    "The population was very much smaller compared to today and therefore there was a lot of wealth in Egypt. Food was no problem and I think it was a very opulent kind of landscape.

    You had a lot of grapes, dates, figs, cucumbers, tomatoes, tamarisk trees…all sorts of vegetation. There was a lot of fishing and fowling and we know they had crops like barley and wheat…and also bee honey
     
  3. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

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    Egypt

    The Nile is without doubt the source of one of the most extraordinary and long lasting of civilisations, bequeathing an almost immeasurable legacy to Africa and the world.

    The formation of Egypt as a unified state came when the regions known as Upper and Lower Egypt were united. According to tradition, the first ruler was Menes or Narmer who began the first of thirty ruling dynasties.

    It was to take hundreds of years of consolidation before political stability was actually achieved. The Kings of the first two dynasties, or the archaic period, were mainly concerned with conquest and it was not until the Third dynasty of King Zoser that Egypt was secure as a united kingdom.

    DIVINE RULE
    The rulers of Ancient Egypt, known as Pharaohs, were regarded as gods on earth. They were also the embodiment of public service and responsible for national security and the well-being of their people.

    The ancient Egyptians had no single religious system but worshipped a wide range of deities. The most important ones were Ra, the sun god, from whom Egyptian kings claimed descent, and Osiris, king of the dead. In addition, there were numerous other gods who were worshipped in specific localities or temples.

    There was an important belief in reincarnation - life after death - and the ancient Egyptians regarded burial rites as of supreme importance. It was believed that by doing good deeds in the first life, the deceased would be assured a place in eternal paradise.

    The bodies of the wealthy were embalmed and mummified so they would stay in good condition before being put in a tomb, which was then filled with food and offerings that might be needed in the next life.

    It was believed that once the body arrived in the Kingdom of the Dead, the ka, or double of the earthly person, would be judged by Osiris and was either condemned to torture or sent to a heavenly realm.

    Listen to a hymn to Osiris, God of the Dead

    PEASANTS AND SCRIBES
    The Pharaoh, as King, was at the top of a rigid hierarchy. Below him were the priests of the temples and a vast army of officials including literate and wealthy scribes and civil servants.

    At the bottom of the hierarchy were the vast mass of the people - peasants who lived along the Nile in small mud huts, growing cereals, vegetables and fruit and caring for goats and cattle.

    The relationship between the administrators and the peasants appears to have been largely based on economic exploitation.

    Most years, the flooding of the Nile left the surrounding soil fertile enough for the farmers to harvest a large surplus. They were not allowed to keep it. Instead the civil servants would put the surplus in huge government stores.

    Officials also monitored the rise and fall in the levels of the Nile in order to calculate the amount of tax the peasantry was expected to pay in a given year.

    There was little chance of avoiding the officials. Egypt was divided into forty districts, each with its own governor. As every part of the kingdom could be reached by boat on the Nile, there were few hiding places.

    TEMPLES AND PYRAMIDS
    Many of Egypt's most important building projects were also inspired by spiritual beliefs, with temples and shrines built to a range of important gods.

    The Old Kingdom was the great age of pyramid building and this period saw the construction of the Great Pyramids of Giza built as a burial chamber for Cheops or Khufu.

    It used to be thought that pyramids were built by slave labour. Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the fifth century, believed 100,000 men were forced to take part in the construction.

    "In the building of the Great Pyramid, King Cheops brought the people to utter misery, for he compelled all the Egyptians to work for him. The stones were quarried in the Arabian mountains and dragged to the Nile. They were carried across the river in boats and then dragged up the slope to the site of the pyramid…

    the people worked in gangs of 100,000 men, each gang for three months…"
    Herodotus of Halicarnassus, Greek Historian.

    Listen to a dramatised reading of Herodotus's thoughts on the building of the Great Pyramid of Cheops

    But such theories are challenged by modern Egyptologists, including Zahir Hawass, Director of the Pyramids in Cairo, who has carried out extensive excavations over many years.

    He believes fewer than 25 thousand labourers were involved and that far from being slaves they were peasants who were well cared for and proud to take part in a 'national project', out of love and respect for their Pharaoh and his divine authority.

    "The myth of slavery is very good for everyone…it looks good for movies. In reality slavery can build huge buildings but can never produce something like this civilisation. If you look at every inscription and every scene in a tomb it shows love…it shows the idea of a national project.

    Ancient Egypt had a system called family support…every household in the north and the south used to participate in building the pyramid instead of paying tax. The pyramid was a national project for the whole nation."
    Zahir Hawass, Director of the Pyramids.

    Listen to Zahir Hawass, Director of the Pyramids, explaining how pyramids were constructed by families not slaves

    The construction of such buildings showed the Egyptians had an outstanding grasp of the principles of astronomy, mathematics and geometry - we can only marvel at these today.

    By the New Kingdom period, pyramid building had largely been abandoned and the Pharaohs were instead building stone tombs in the Valley of the Kings, in southern Egypt.

    The tombs were filled with golden treasures, priceless jewelry and lavishly decorated pottery and artifacts. The discovery of the tomb of the young Pharaoh Tutankamun in 1920 gave the public an extraordinary insight into the fabulous wealth of the ancient kings.

    Listen to Mahmoud El Halwagy, Curator of the Egyptian Museum describing the face of Pharaoh Tutankamun

    HIEROGLYPHICS
    Among the many achievements of the Egyptians was the development of one of the oldest forms of writing in the world, hieroglyphics.

    This was a system of pictorial images, each of which represented a sound or meaning, which could either be inscribed in stone or written on papyrus- an ancient form of paper made from dried reed pulp.

    Hieroglyphics were used for administrative purposes, such as recording crop yields or the level of the Nile but also for inscribing prayers around temples and tombs and recording the feats and lineages of ruling families
     
  4. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

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    Key Events

    AEGYPTIACA
    Our main source for the description of who was who in Ancient Egypt is a priest from the Ptolemeic period called Manetho. He wrote the Aegyptiaca, a text which organised the country's history into thirty dynasties.

    Egyptian history is broadly broken into the following key periods:

    PRE-DYNASTIC AND ARCHAIC (3200-2755 BC)
    This period marked the first appearance of Egyptian writing or hieroglyphics. It also saw the uniting of the disparate states that made up the early Nile Valley settlements into one administration.

    THE OLD KINGDOM (2755-2255 BC)
    These years see the building of the first pyramids. The architect, physician and priest Imhotep revolutionised pyramid construction by using stone rather than mud to build the famous Step Pyramid for the ruler Zoser. King Cheops later built the Great Pyramid of Giza.

    The Old Kingdom Egyptians also made huge advances in academic fields such as navigation, astronomy and medicine.

    THE FIRST INTERMEDIATE PERIOD
    A chaotic period was sparked by the death of the Sixth dynasty King Pepi the second, who had ruled for ninety-four years. There was increasing decentralisation and political confusion, as well as a period of civil war as local princes clashed with each other.

    THE MIDDLE KINGDOM (2134-1784 BC)
    Egypt was again reunited and the country's administration reorganised under Menthuhotep, who based his capital at Thebes. He managed to maintain the unity of the state against regional insurgencies.

    The twelfth dynasty king Sesostris I and his successor Sesostris III built fortresses in Nubia and formed standing armies to fight against the Nubians.

    THE SECOND INTERMEDIATE PERIOD
    The Hka-Hasut, or Hyksos, migrated to Egypt from Western Asia introducing the horse and chariot. He established a dynasty in the middle and north of the country which battled with the Theban-based ruler Kamose.

    Kamose's brother, Ahmose I, eventually defeated the Hyksos and reunited Egypt.

    THE NEW KINGDOM (1570-1070)
    Amenhotep I began a new period of expansion into Nubia and Palestine. Queen Hatshepsut ruled for two prosperous decades and organised an expedition to the land of Punt, to the south of Egypt. She was overthrown by Thutmose II who extended the Egyptian empire by waging seventeen foreign campaigns. With the country politically stable Egyptian art and building revived under Amenhotep III.

    This period also sees the short rule of the young Pharaoh Tutankamun whose richly furnished tomb was found in 1922. Ramses the second waged war against the Hittite peoples from Asia and conducted successful campaigns in Palestine and Syria.

    Listen to Mahmoud El Halwagy, Curator of the Egyptian Museum, describing Pharaoh Tutankamun's face

    THE THIRD INTERMEDIATE PERIOD
    Towards the end of the New Kingdom the power of the Pharaohs was challenged by the priests of the god Amun. Eventually Egypt was divided between Kings ruling from Tanis in the north and high priests based in the southern town of Thebes.

    THE LATE PERIOD (767-671 BC)
    The Kushite kings of the 25th Dynasty emerge as rulers of Egypt inaugurating the period of 'black pharaohs', from a culture which showed far more African influences than previous administrations. The Kushites were eventually ousted by the Assyrians.

    THE GREEK AND ROMAN PERIODS
    Alexander the Great occupies Egypt in 332 BC and one of his governors, Ptolomy, founds a dynasty, which comes to an end with the famous Queen Cleopatra. Cleopatra's forces were defeated by the Roman legions under the Roman commander, Octavian, and Egypt effectively became a province of the Roman Empire
     
  5. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

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    Nubia

    When discussing the civilisations of the Nile Valley, many histories focus almost exclusively on the role of Egypt.

    But this approach ignores the emergence further south on the Nile of the kingdom known to the Egyptians as Kush, in the region called Nubia - the area now covered by southern Egypt and Northern Sudan.

    The relationship between Egypt and Kush was a complex one, which changed depending on the political and economic climate of the time.

    "Nubia was the meeting place of the Mediterranean and African civilisation. The relationship between Egypt and upper Nubia was completely different from time to time and period to period. If the Egyptian king's power is widespread it catches everything under its control and Nubia comes under Egyptian authority, but if it is weak, then upper Nubia is ruled by itself."
    Osama Abdel Meguid, Director of the Nubian Museum in Aswan.

    KERMA AND NAPATA
    The Kushites were first based in Kerma, and then at Napata - both towns in what is now northern Sudan.

    Kerma was an advanced society and archaeological evidence shows that ceramics were being produced by 8,000 BC - earlier than in Egypt. By about 1700 BC, the town had grown into a town of 10,000 people with a complex hierarchical society.

    Egypt could not ignore its southern neighbour although its interest was predominantly economic. Nubia was rich with minerals such as stones needed for the building of temples and tombs, and gold, needed for jewelry. Indeed Kush was one of the major gold producers of the ancient world.

    At one stage Nubia, was occupied by Egypt for about 500 years and then the tables turned. From around 850 BC, the Egyptian state fell into such decline that what became known as the twenty-fifth dynasty rose in Nubia, with authority over all of Egypt.

    This dynasty based at Napata was known as the 'Ethiopian' dynasty. Although it was heavily influenced by Egyptian culture and religion, it was in many ways the first great African power.

    "They dealt like Egyptians, they dressed like Egyptians, but they were still proud of their black faces."
    Osama Abdel Meguid, Director of the Nubian Museum in Aswan.

    In 713 BC King Shabaka came to power in Kush and brought the Nile Valley as far as the Delta under his control. The name of one of his successors, King Taharqa, is found on inscriptions throughout the Valley.

    MOVING TO MEROE
    The dynasty ended following a military defeat at the hands of the Assyrians and in about 600 BC the capital of the Kushite kingdom was moved from Napata to Meroe, further south along the Nile.

    Listen to a dramatisation of Greek geographer Strabo's description of Meroe

    This, symbolically, was a move closer to black Africa, and the kingdom that grew up around Meroe was one that very much reflected African influences. The Meroites have been given much less historical attention than the Egyptians but in many ways it was a kingdom that rivaled Egypt in material wealth and distinctive cultural development.

    "From the graves and from the images painted on tombs we can see that people looked much more African than Mediterranean. The jewelry is really of an African nature - like anklets, bracelets, ear studs and earrings - and you can still find the style of the jewelry used by the Meroites on tribes of the savannah belt south of Khartoum."
    Dr Salah el-Din Muhammed Ahmed, Director of Fieldwork at the National Museum in Khartoum.

    Listen to Dr Salah El-Din Muhammed Ahmed, Director of Fieldwork at the National Museum, Khartoum, describing Meroite features as African

    Meroe was a complex, advanced and politically stable society. It relied on elected kingship with elaborate coronation ceremonies in which the Queen mother played an important role. Excavations of the large ancient city have revealed palaces, royal baths and temples.

    EXPANDING KINGDOMS
    Meroe's wealth was partly based on trade and commerce, particularly after the Second Century when the camel was introduced to Africa and there was a flourishing of caravan routes across the continent. Its position gave Meroe strategic access to trading outlets on the Red Sea. Pottery, jewelry and woven cloth were all produced to a high standard of craftsmanship.

    The kingdom also had the resources needed for the smelting of iron: ore, water from the Nile and wood from acacia trees to make charcoal. Iron gave the Meroites spears, arrows axes and hoes, allowing them to develop a mixed farming economy to exploit to the full the tropical summer rainfall.

    Although influenced by the Egyptian state gods, such as Amun, Meroe developed its own forms of religious worship. The most important regional deity was the Lion God, Apedemek - often portrayed with a lion's head on a human body.

    As Meroe became more distanced from Egypt, so too was the Egyptian language replaced as the spoken language of the court. Instead a Meroitic alphabet and script were introduced, which to this day researchers have been unable to decipher.

    The Kingdom of Meroe began to fade as a power by the first or second century AD, sapped by war with Roman Egypt and the decline of its traditional industries. The iron industry had used up huge quantities of charcoal leading to deforestation and the land began to lose its fertility.

    In around 350 AD, an army led by Ezana, King of the growing kingdom of Axum in what is now Ethiopia, invaded Meroe - but by then Meroites had already dispersed, replaced by a people described by the Axumites as Noba
     
  6. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

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    The Peoples of the Nile Valley

    For many years now there has been a debate about whether the ancient peoples of the Nile Valley were 'black' or 'white'. Much Western scholarship, particularly in the early twentieth century, refused to accept that black peoples could have built such a great civilisation.

    In 1930 for example, Charles Seligman (1873-1940), an English ethnologist who wrote a book titled 'The Races of Africa' said that the ancient civilisation of Egypt was created by a race he called 'Hamites', who he regarded as coming from Asia.

    Some African historians, including the Professor of Anthropology at the University of Nairobi, Simiyu Wandibba, believe that European writers developed such theories to discredit Africa and make it easier for the continent to be colonised.

    "In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries there were theories that Africa was inhabited much later than Asia and that the people occupying Africa today were the result of waves of migration from western Asia, the Middle East and the Far East.

    I want to say that this is not true. But if you want to rule a people, you don't want to give them credit."
    Professor Simiyu Wandibba, University of Nairobi.

    One of the main academic proponents of the view that the ancient Egyptian civilisation was founded by black Africans was the Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop.

    "Ancient Egypt was a Negro civilisation. The history of Black Africa will remain suspended in the air and cannot be written correctly until African historians dare to connect it with the history of Egypt. The African historian who evades the problem of Egypt is neither modest nor objective nor unruffled. He is ignorant, cowardly and neurotic. The ancient Egyptians were Negroes. The moral fruit of their civilisation is to be counted among the assets of the Black world."
    Cheikh Anta Diop, taken from The African Origin of Civilisation.

    In his two major works Nations Negres et Culture and Anteriorite des Civilizations Negres he profoundly influenced thinking about Africa around the world.

    Cheikh Anta Diop argues that:

    As humankind began in East Africa it was likely that people were black skinned.

    People populated other continents by moving either through the Sahara or the Nile Valley.

    In the period before the start of the great Egyptian dynasties the whole of the Nile river basin was taken over by these negroid peoples.

    To support his theory, Diop cited the writings of several Greek and Latin writers who had described the ancient Egyptians.

    The Greek historian Herodotus, for example, described the Colchians of the Black Sea shores as "Egyptians by race" and pointed out they had "black skins and kinky hair."

    Apollodorus, the Greek philosopher, described Egypt as "the country of the black-footed ones" and the Latin historian Ammianus Marcellinus said "the men of Egypt are mostly brown or black with a skinny desiccated look."

    Diop also argued that the Egyptians themselves described their race as black and that there were close affinities between the ancient Egyptian tongue and the languages of Africa.

    The issue of the peopling of Egypt came to a head in 1974 when UNESCO hosted a conference in Cairo aimed at discussing the latest research.

    The symposium provoked ferocious debate and many of Diop's theories were strongly challenged, however, the meeting concluded with the following statement, "the overall results…will be very differently assessed by the various participants."

    The closing statement also pointed out that not all participants had prepared for the conference as painstakingly as Professor Diop or his academic ally Theophile Obenga of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    The argument still remains largely unresolved to the extent that UNESCO's General History of Africa is somewhat cautious in its final analysis of the issue.

    "It is more than probable that the African strain, black or light, is preponderant in the Ancient Egyptian, but in the present state of our knowledge it is impossible to say more."

    The issue was given more impetus with the publication in 1987 of Martin Bernal's Black Athena in which he argued that Classical civilisation had it roots deep in Afroasiatic cultures which had been systematically suppressed for mainly racist reasons
     
  7. ole timer

    ole timer Forum Owner Forum Owner

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    Forces For Change


    IRRIGATION
    Undoubtedly one of the key reasons for the rise of Egyptian civilisation was the development, by early settlers, of a way to control the flooding of the river Nile. The Nile would break its banks each year, saturating the surrounding countryside. When the waters subsided, a rich, fertile silt ideal for crop growing would be left.

    The ancient Egyptians used a variety of techniques to trap the water and irrigate the land, using canals, basins, dams and dykes. The early settlers then manually watered more outlying fields by carrying water in jars.

    PAPYRUS
    Papyrus was effectively the note paper of the ancient Egyptians allowing them to record daily events throughout the kingdom. It was made from the stem of the papyrus plant, cut into a horizontal row of strips. A layer of resin was applied and a second row of strips was placed on the surface - this time vertically. The layers would then be pressed and allowed to dry. Papyrus sheets could be made to any size
     
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    Nile Valley Timeline





    8,000 BC - Evidence of pottery and agricultural production in Nile Valley


    3200-2755 BC - Pre-dynastic/Archaic
    Early Nile Valley settlements united into one administration. First appearance of Egyptian writing or hieroglyphics

    2755-2255 BC - The Old Kingdom
    The building of the first pyramids. Architect, physician and priest Imhotep revolutionises pyramid construction by using stone rather than mud to build the famous Step Pyramid for the ruler Zoser. King Cheops later builds the Great Pyramid of Giza. [PHOTO] The Old Kingdom Egyptians make huge advances in academic fields such as navigation, astronomy and medicine.

    2200-2160 - The First Intermediate period
    Chaos sparked by the death of the Sixth dynasty King Pepi the second after ninety-four years of rule. Central authority collapses leading to civil war as local princes clashed with each other.

    2134-1784 BC - The Middle Kingdom
    Egypt reunited and the country's administration reorganised under Menthuhotep who based his capital at Thebes. He maintains the unity of the state against regional insurgencies. The twelfth dynasty king Sesostris I and his successor Sesostris III build fortresses in Nubia and form standing armies to fight against the Nubians.

    1783-1570 BC - The Second Intermediate Period
    The Hka-Hasut or Hyksos migrate to Egypt from Western Asia introducing the horse and chariot and establish a dynasty in the middle and north of the country which confronts Theban-based ruler Kamose. Kamose's brother, Ahmose I, eventually defeats the Hyksos and reunites Egypt.

    1570-1085 - The New Kingdom
    Amenhotep I begins new period of expansion into Nubia and Palestine. Thutmose II extends the Egyptian empire by waging seventeen foreign campaigns. With the country politically stable Egyptian art and building revives under Amenhotep III. The young Pharaoh Tutankamen dies aged 18 and hisrichly furnished tomb is found in 1922. Ramses the second wages war against the Hittite peoples from Asia and conducts successful campaigns in Palestine and Syria.

    1450 BC - Egypt destroys Kushite kingdom of Kerma and occupies Nubia for 500 years

    1085-767 BC - The Third Intermediate Period
    The power of Pharaohs is challenged by the priests of the god Amun. Egypt is divided between Kings ruling from Tanis in the north and high priests based in the southern town of Thebes.

    1075 - Governors of Kush begin to assert independence.

    850 BC - Rise of the Kushite state of Napata.

    767-671 BC - The Late Period
    The Kushite kings of 25th Dynasty emerge as rulers of Egypt starting the period of "black pharaohs" from a culture which shows far more African influences than previous administrations. The Kushites are eventually ousted by the Assyrians.

    553 BC - Kushite kings move to Meroe.

    332 BC - Alexander the Great occupies Egypt and one of his governors, Ptolomy, founds a dynasty which ends with the famous Queen Cleopatra.

    30 BC - Cleopatra's forces are defeated by the Roman legions under the Roman commander, Octavian, and Egypt effectively became a province of the Roman Empire.

    12 BC-12 AD - Golden age of Meroitic culture under King Netekamani.

    300 AD - Decline of Meroe