Early Dynastic Egypt

Early Dynastic Egypt

Early Dynastic Egypt

Early Dynastic Egypt

Synopsis

Early Dynastic Egypt is the most comprehensive treatment of Early Dynastic administration and religion. A wealth of complex information is explained in a clear style accessible to the general reader, whilst students will welcome the book's thematic approach to early Egyptian civilization.Written in a scholarly style and arranged in three parts this is the result of over thirty years of international scholarship. It includes recent dramatic discoveries and is presented in a single volume.

Excerpt

Ancient Egypt holds a unique fascination. No other civilisation of the ancient world has such popular appeal, none is as significant for the history of human society and its organisation. The valley of the River Nile witnessed the world’s first example of that enduring and now omnipresent political structure, the nation state. Today, practically the entire land surface of the earth is divided among nation states, which number nearly two hundred. But the origins of this phenomenon go back five thousand years, to the formation of a unified territory and government in Egypt. Moreover, that government, centred on the royal court and the person of the king, succeeded in creating and promoting an élite culture which expressed itself on a grand scale. Hence, ancient Egyptian civilisation has left an unparalleled series of monuments to allure and intrigue countless generations of visitors.

The pyramids of the Old Kingdom are perhaps the most remarkable, and certainly the most captivating, of Egyptian monuments. Those at Giza were hailed as one of the wonders of the ancient world; to modern eyes they are perhaps the quintessential symbol of the ancient Egyptians’ extraordinary creativity and craftsmanship. Yet the cultural and political developments which led to the construction of the pyramids have been comparatively neglected. Without central control of the economy, the royal court would not have had the resources to engage in monumental building projects. Without the ability to command the necessary manpower, the pyramids could not have been raised. Without the religious and ideological motivation, the construction of huge funerary monuments would, quite literally, never have got off the ground. All these prerequisites for pyramid-building have their roots in the Early Dynastic period. Hence to understand the most potent symbols of ancient Egypt, we must look at what went before. Five hundred years separate the birth of the Egyptian state and the erection of the pyramids. This half-millennium constitutes the formative period of civilisation in the Nile valley, when Egypt’s early kings developed the mechanisms of rule and the élite culture that were to characterise their country for the next three thousand years. This crucially important formative stage is the subject of the current work.

The chapters that follow seek to explain not only the background to the formation of the Egyptian state, but also the means by which its early rulers controlled the people, the land and its resources. Central authority, however, is only one side of the coin. At all periods, Egypt’s governing

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