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Ancient Egypt

PyramidsThere are days when the sand blows ceaselessly, blanketing the remains of a powerful dynasty that ruled Egypt 5,000 years ago. When the wind dies down and the sands are still, a long shadow casts a wedge of darkness across the Sahara, creeping ever longer as the north African sun sinks beyond the horizon. This is where our history of Egypt begins, in the shadow of the Great Pyramid of Giza, where stone meets sky as a testament to one of the greatest civilizations on earth. Here, on the plateau of Giza, 2,300,000 blocks of stone, some weighing as much as 9 tons, were used to build an eternal tomb for a divine king.

Hieroglyphs from Kai's TombFive thousand years ago, the fourth dynasty of Egypt's Old Kingdom was a highly advanced civilization where the kings, known as pharaohs, were believed to be gods. They lived amidst palaces and temples built to honor them and their deified ancestors. "Pharaoh" originally meant "great house," but later came to mean king. What we know of this early society changes and is re-intepreted year by year as new archaeological finds discovered beneath the desert sands revise our understanding of ancient Egypt. This web site will show you science in action—bringing you face to face with the evidence archaeologists use to understand the meaning of Giza's pyramids, and to the process of evaluating the finds they will uncover beneath the sands of the plateau.

Pyramids with man on camel in foregroundBefore looking closely at pharaonic society and the beginning of the Pyramid Age, one first has to step into Egypt's landscape and take a look around. Ancient Egyptians called their land "Kemet," which meant "black," after the black fertile silt-layered soil that was left behind each year during the annual innundation, when the Nile flooded the fields. The most prevalent color of the desert, however, is a decidedly reddish-yellow ochre. The Egyptians called the desert "deshret," meaning "red," and this endless carpet of sand covers an estimated 95 % of Egypt, interrupted only by the narrow band of green carved by the waters of the Nile. Here, the extreme dry sands of the desert meet the fertile silt-laden soils along the Nile—a river that provides a source of life for the entire nation and a good part of the African continent.


Photos: Aaron Strong

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