The contribution of Egypt to the world civilization is noteworthy.
The method of writing, literature, art, architecture, religion, science of the Egyptians had compelled the people of the world to raise their eyebrows.
Art of Writing:
To express the thinking of their mind, the Egyptians invented art of writing. Although from the very beginning they were not acquainted with the alphabets, still then they were able to express their idea through different pictures. So, their writing was popularly known as ‘Hieroglyphy’ or ‘sacred writing’ because those were written by the priests.
At first, the Egyptians used pictures and then they used around 2000 pictographic signs. In due course of time their number was reduced and limited to 700 only. At last they invented 24 alphabets. They engraved those alphabets on stone. The ‘Rosetta Stone’ preserved in the British Museum in London is its classic example. Later on the Egyptians used pen and paper
Paper, pen, ink and inkpot:
On the banks of Nile, a plant named ‘Papyrus’ was plentily available. The leaves of Papyrus tree were joined through gum and the long roll was prepared. By polish such rolls were glazed. In a Papyrus roll of twenty to forty feet length and five to ten inches breadth the Egyptian wrote their idea. The modem name ‘Paper’, perhaps, has been derived from the term ‘Papyrus’.
They took juice of plants and prepared ‘ink’ by mixing gum and water with it. In several cases they also prepared ink by missing gum with black particles found from kitchen house or lamps.
They sharpened the edge of the steam of a plant and prepared ‘reed pen’. By dipping the pen inside the ‘ink pot’ they wrote on Papyrus. At last, pieces of Papyrus were rolled and preserved inside the earthen pots. Writing was indeed a noble invention of the Egyptians.
The ancient Egyptians had created immortal literature. They composed literature concerning astrology, metallurgy, weaving and cooking. Besides, they also reflected legends, adventures, thrilling experiences, religious thought etc. in their literature. Among their prose writings, ‘The tale of two brothers’, ‘The tale of Sinuhi’, ‘The legend of the doomed prince’ and ‘The story of the ship-wrecked Sailor’ were very famous. Their religious literature contained books like ‘The Pyramid Text’, ‘The Coffin Text’, ‘The Book of the dead’, ‘A dialogue between the disgusted Man and his soul’, ‘The Maxims of Ptahotep’ and ‘Hymn to Aton’ (written by Akhnaton).
The ancient Egyptians were very good astronomers of their time. Looking at the cloudless clear blue sky, they could predict about the solar and lunar eclipse, flood in the river Nile, time of sowing seeds etc. They could also know about the movement of Planets and Stars. They had prepared a ‘Calendar’.
They divided a year into 360 days and 12 months, each month consisting of 30 days. Each day was divided into 24 hours or two parts and each part consisting of 12 hours. At the end of every year, they added 5 days more only to be spent in feast and merrymaking. Julius Caesor had adopted this Calendar Pope Gregory XIII adopted this calendar with a little modification. The Egyptian Calendar is the first recorded event of human history.
Mathematics and Geometry:
The ancient Egyptians exhibited their talent in the field of ‘Mathematics’ and ‘Geometry’. They were very efficient in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. They had acquired knowledge in triangle, quadrangle, square, rectangle etc. for measuring the land.
They utilised their mathematical and geometrical knowledge in building the Pyramids. The oldest treatise on Mathematics ‘Ahmes Papyrus’ has been found from Egypt which speaks the high mathematical and geometrical knowledge of the ancient Egyptians.
The Egyptians acquired deep knowledge in medical science. From their old library two books concerning medical science have been discovered. Edwin Smith has translated these books. From that translation it is known that the Egyptians knew about different diseases and also knew how to cure them.
They had idea regarding surgery. They could also preserve dead bodies by applying chemicals. The physicians of Egypt also knew the use of castor oil. It will not be wrong if the Egyptians are termed as the ‘Father of Medical science’.
Art and architecture: Pyramid:
The Egyptians have immortalised their name in the annals of history due to their art and architecture. Pyramid is the classic example of it. The tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh is known as Pyramid. The people of Egypt believed that after death, the soul returns back to the body. So they preserved the dead body of the Pharaoh by applying chemicals in it. This preserved body of the Pharaoh was known a ‘Mummy’. It was covered with cloth and kept inside a coffin.
That coffin was again kept inside a stone box named as Sarcophagus which contained small holes. The Egyptians believed that the soul can again enter into that body through these holes. That box was placed inside a room in the middle of the Pyramid. In the walls of that room the life history of the Pharaoh was written.
The wife of the Pharaoh, his servants and slaves were killed and kept inside the room with food, water, cloth and jewels. It was believed that the soul could recognise these things and again return back to the dead body of the Pharaoh. By covering this room, the tomb of Pharaoh or Pyramid was built by stone, bricks and limestone. It has been rightly told regarding the Pyramid that “All the world fears time, but time fears the Pyramids”.
Among the Pyramids of Egypt, the Pyramid built by Pharaoh Josher at Sakara is the oldest. The famous and largest Pyramid of Khufu was built at Gizeh. This is regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This 481 feet Pyramid is built over 13 acres of land. 2,300,000 pieces of stones were used in it.
The weight of each piece of stone is 2.5 tons. Nearly twenty years were spent for building this Pyramid. In fact, Pyramid immortalises the Egyptians in the annals of world history.
Temples were another classic example of the Egyptian architecture. The Pharaohs built temples to please gods and goddesses. The Karnak temple at Thebes is world famous. This is the largest temple of Egypt. Its length is around two kilometres. This temple rests on 12 pillars, each having 79 feet height.
The temple walls are filled up with the war scene and achievements of the Pharaohs and its top, with hieroglyphic writings. This temple was meant for the worship of Amon-Ra or Sun-god. The temples at Luxor and Abu Simbel were also very nice.
The ancient Egyptians were skilled sculptors. Among their Sculptures, Sphinx was very famous. This gigantic stone statue is a remarkable sculpture having the body of a lion with human head. The Great Sphinx stands at the doorstep of the biggest Pyramid at Gizeh. It represents the head of Pharaoh Khafare of Amenhotep III. Its grave facial appearance and a ray of laughter make it unintelligible before the viewers. Besides the Sphincs, the Egyptians built huge images. The great statues of
Amenhotep III at Luxor, Ramesis III, his queen and family deity Amon- Ra at Abu Simbel are regarded as great statues of the world. Innumerable statues, animals, birds, ivory, wood and terracotta testify to the fact that the ancient Egyptians were skilled sculptors.
Religion played a vital role in the life of the Egyptians. From the beginning they believed in Polytheism They worshipped around 2200 gods and goddesses. They attached divinity in creatures and worshipped them. Their crocodile god was famous as ‘Sibek’. The cat god was called ‘Pashat’ and jackle god was named as ‘Anubis’.
The Egyptians regarded ‘Ra’ as the God of the universe. His son ‘Osiris’ was famous as the ‘Lord of Egypt’ and also as Justice of the departed soul. His wife ‘Isis’ was the goddess of fertile soil. ‘Horas’, the son of Osiris was the god of poor and destitute. There was an influential community of priests in Egypt to worship these gods and goddesses.
Pharaoh Akhnaton or Amenhotep IV brought a revolutionary change in the field of religion. He introduced ‘Monotheism’ in Egypt. He proclaimed that there was only one God and he is ‘Aton’ or ‘Sun-god’. The priests of Egypt had described ‘Ra’ or ‘Amon-Ra’ as a dreadful god. However, Akhnoton declared ‘Aton’ as omniscient, kind, father-like and an incarnation of mercy.
He further told that Aton had made the world beautiful and created mankind. He prohibited the worship of ‘Amon- Ra’ in Karnak and Luxor and introduced the offers like fruits in vegetables of animal sacrifice. That is why the priests considered him as their enemy. His wife Nefertiti helped him in the glorification of monotheism.
After Akhnaton his son-in-law Tutankhamen also popularised monotheism in Egypt. After him, polytheism was again introduced in Egypt. The ancient-Egyptians also believed in life after death. That is why they built Pyramid. Osiris was sending a man to heaven or hell after judgement. The Egyptians also believed in deeds. The result of good deeds led a human being to heaven and bad deeds, to hell.
The ancient Egyptians had also attained celebrity in the field of Philosophy. Ptahotep was the greatest philosopher of that time. He was the provincial ruler of Memphis. In his famous book entitled ‘Instructions to Ptahotep’ he had given many advices for regulating the life. Much before Confucious, Socrates and Buddha Ptahotep had discussed the philosophy of life.
The people of ancient Egypt were aware about the postal system. The study of Papyrus leads historians to believe that the people of that land were sending message. In an ancient Papyrus it has been written— “Write me through the bearer of the letter”. This conclusively proves that the Egyptians were well aware about the postal service. It will not be wrong if the ancient Egyptians are described as “The father of modern postal service”.
The Egyptians were the father of ‘Historiography’. The historians accompanied the Pharaoes to the battle field and recorded their achievements. The ‘Rosetta stone’ is its classic example. By deciphering it the French palaeographer Champollion had discerned many facts regarding the Egyptian civilisation. The history of different royal dynasties is known due to this historiography. Thus, the ancient Egyptians were trend setters of history writing.
Agriculture and Irrigation:
In the field of agriculture the Egyptians also excelled. They were skilled agriculturists. They had invented plough and hoe. By a device called ‘Shadur they could carry the water of Nile to the canals which helped in irrigation. The chief crops grown by them were wheat, barley flax. They also produced fruits like orange, date-palm, melon etc.
The Egyptians first used boat in case of trade and commerce. Egypt became a centre of trade in the entire Mediterranean region. In due course of time, they established trade relation with Nubiya, Sudan Janjibar, Persia, Crate and Phonesia. They exported ivory, gold, the feather of Ostrich and slaves.
They imported cattle, fish and wine from Asia; Precious red stones from Persia and copper from Senai. By utilising navy for the first time, the Egyptians have enriched the human civilisation.
The Egyptians were also expert in craftsmanship. They knew the art of melting together copper with tin to make bronze. They made brick, cement and plaster of Paris. They also manufactured glazed pottery and coloured glass. They were also apt in the carving of wood. From Papyrus plants they made ropes, mats and sandals. The Egyptian workmen developed the art of enamelling and varnishing. Thus, their skilled craftsmanship was widely recognised in the world.
System of Administration:
The Pharaoes of Egypt were administrations of superb calibre. They were very powerful. They commanded respect from their subjects. In many cases divinity was attached to the Pharaoes. They discharged efficient administration due to the help of ministers, provincial administrators and royal officers. This efficient administration was recognised all over the world.
Infact, the contribution of Egyptians to human civilisation was immense. Egypt, the ‘land of Pyramid’ allured the attention of millions due to its splendid art and architecture. In the field of writing, religion, science, administration trade and commerce etc. the ancient Egyptians had left their indelible marks on the sea shore of time.