Portal:Ancient Egypt

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THE ANCIENT EGYPT PORTAL

Showcased content about Ancient Egypt

Golden funeral mask of king Tutankhamun, a symbol for many of ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of eastern North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. The civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh, and it developed over the next two millennia. Ancient Egypt reached its pinnacle during the New Kingdom, after which it entered a period of slow decline. Egypt was conquered by a succession of foreign powers in this late period, and the rule of the pharaohs officially ended in 31 BC when the early Roman Empire conquered Egypt and made it a province.

Egypt has left a lasting legacy for all to see. Its art and architecture has been widely copied, and its antiquities have been carried off to the far corners of the world. Egypt's monumental ruins have inspired the imaginations of travelers and writers for centuries. A newfound respect for antiquities and excavations in the early modern period led to the scientific investigation of Egyptian civilization and a greater appreciation of its cultural legacy for the earth.

Selected article

The position of Sirius.

Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, it is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. Known in Ancient Egypt as Sopdet, it is recorded in the earliest astronomical records. During the era of the Middle Kingdom, Egyptians based their calendar on the heliacal rising of Sirius, namely the day it becomes visible just before sunrise after moving far enough away from the glare of the Sun. This occurred just before the annual flooding of the Nile and the summer solstice, after a 70-day absence from the skies.

The hieroglyph for Sothis features a star and a triangle. Sothis was identified with the great goddess Isis, who formed a part of a trinity with her husband Osiris and their son Horus, while the 70-day period symbolised the passing of Isis and Osiris through the duat (Egyptian underworld). Ptolemy of Alexandria mapped the stars in Book VII and VIII of his Almagest, in which he used Sirius as the location for the globe's central meridian. He curiously depicted it as one of six red-coloured stars

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Did you know...

Pyramid of Sahure

  • ... that the mortuary temple of the pyramid of Sahure (pictured) was decorated with over 10,000 sq. metres (107,640 sq. ft) of fine relief carvings?
  • ... that Iry-Hor is the earliest ruler of Egypt known by name?
  • ... that Qakare Ibi was the last pharaoh to have a pyramid build for himself in Saqqara?

Selected picture

Rosetta Stone.JPG
Credit: Hans Hillewaert

The Rosetta Stone is a fragment of a granite stele containing a decree written in Hieroglyphs, Demotic, and Greek. Discovered in 1799, the stone contributed greatly to the process of hieroglyph decipherment.

Selected biography

The Philosopher (c. 250–200 BC) from the Antikythera wreck illustrates the style used by Hecataeus in his bronze of Philitas.

Philitas of Cos (c. 340–c. 285 BC) was a scholar and poet during the early Hellenistic period of ancient Egypt. A Greek associated with Alexandria, he flourished in the second half of the 4th century BC and was appointed tutor to the heir to the throne of Ptolemaic Egypt. He was thin and frail; Athenaeus later caricatured him as an academic so consumed by his studies that he wasted away and died.

Philitas was the first major writer who was both a scholar and a poet. His reputation continued for centuries, based on both his pioneering study of words and his verse in elegiac meter. His vocabulary Disorderly Words described the meanings of rare literary words, including those used by Homer. His poetry, notably his elegiac poem Demeter, was highly respected by later ancient poets. However, almost all his work has since been lost. The 1st century AD rhetorician Quintilian ranked Philitas second only to Callimachus among the elegiac poets. Philitas' influence has been found or suspected in a wide range of ancient writing; Longus' 2nd century AD novel Daphnis and Chloe contains a character likely named after him. Hermesianax wrote of "Philitas, singing of nimble Bittis", and Ovid twice calls her "Battis". It is commonly thought that Bittis or Battis was Philitas' mistress, and that Hermesianax referred to love poetry; another possibility is that her name connoted "chatterbox", and that she was a humorous personification of Philitas' passion for words. Almost all that he wrote seems to have disappeared within two centuries, though, so it is unlikely that any writer later than the 2nd century BC read any but a few of his lines.

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Ancient News

January 2011: Archaeologists discovered a tomb - KV64 - in the Valley of the Kings. The coffin found in the tomb contained an intact mummy of Nehmes Bastet, a temple singer during Egypt's 22nd Dynasty.(1)


November 2010: The Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt says archaeologists have unearthed 12 more sphinx statues along the ancient avenue connecting Luxor and Karnak temples.(2)


April 2010: A new 19th Dynasty tomb in Tell el-Maskhuta is discovered. The tomb belongs to a noble named Ken-Amun


March 2010: A new translation of the Philae Victory Stele reveals the name of Augustus in cartouches.


March 2010: More statues of Amenhotep III are found at Kom el-Hettan.


March 2010: The ruins of the pyramid of Queen Behenu are discovered.

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