Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Ancient Egyptian Empire

The Middle Kingdom
In about 1975bc Egypt was reunited by Mentuhotep, the ruler of Thebes in Upper Egypt. This began the period known as the Middle Kingdom. The Middle Kingdom covered the 11th to 13th dynasties. It was a period famous for fine arts and beautiful craftwork.

In 1490bc the pharaoh Thutmose II died leaving Egypt to his son Thutmose III. The new pharaoh was a child so his stepmother Hatshepsut became regent. After a few years she had herself made Pharaoh. She ruled Egypt for 15 years, but dressed as a man to look like a pharaoh.

The Aten
In 1352 the pharaoh Akhenaten abandoned the gods of Egypt in favour of a new god called the Aten. He built a vast new city to be the capital of Egypt and a new temple to the Aten. The Aten was a sun god that is shown as a disk from which sun rays burst forth. The next pharaoh, Tutankhamun, restored the old gods.

Rameses the Great
The greatest ruler of the New Kingdom was Rameses II of the 19th dynasty who lived from 1279bc to 1213bc. Raises conquered lands to the northeast of Egypt as far as Syrian to establish a might empire. He used his wealth to build vast temples, all carved with pictures of himself.

Egyptian Society
During the New Kingdom, Egypt had a strictly ordered society. The pharaoh was believed to be descended from the gods and to be divine. The priests and royal officials were almost as important as pharaoh. Beneath them came the noblemen and scribes who organised the kingdom. Craftworkers and vast numbers of peasant farmers were the least important.

Climate Change
Egypt relied on water flowing north from Africa in the Nile. It is thought that the Middle Kingdom may have come to an end when the climate changed and drought struck Egypt. Shortage of food caused riots and rebellions that destroyed the power of the pharaohs. When the climate became wetter again the time of troubles ended.

Quiz Question
Which pharaoh abandoned the old gods to worship the Aten?

Make a magic eye charm
You will need
Self-hardening modelling clay
Thick cord or string
Poster paints

Shape the clay into a wadjet eye, as shown. Add extra clay for the pupil of the eye and at the top of the charm. Use the pencil to make the top piece into a loop. Leave the clay to harden. Paint it in bright colours and leave to dry. Varnish. Thread the cord through the loop and wear your charm for extra luck.

This is an extract from Action Files: Egypt by Rupert Matthews

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