World History Homework One Answers - Student 5
This week answer the following questions and either post your answers online or hand them in at the next class:
1. Which do you think was the most important invention, idea or law discussed in the lecture? Include in your answer the "when, where, what, why and how."
This is a matter of personal opinion, but for me it was Egyptian medicine. Even as far back as the Old Kingdom, Egypt was famous in the ancient world for having the best doctors. Several of the surviving Amarna Letters, which are ancient New Kingdom-era diplomatic letters between Pharaohs and foreign kings, contain requests from foreign kings for the Pharaoh to send a good doctor for their palace. Egyptian religion claimed that there was a goddess of both disease and healing (Sekhmet), and the physician Imhotep was later deified. Several medical texts have survived (the Kahun, Erbst, and Hearst papyruses) which prescribe some rather strange medicines (such as curing baldness by smearing the head in crocodile dung!). Good bodies are the gift of God, and good medicine is the greatest gift which Man has bequeathed us.
- Interesting answer. Medicine has ancient roots in India also.
2. Pick one of the major ancient empires mentioned in the lecture, and describe basic information about it. Include in your answer a reference to how it compared with another ancient empire mentioned in the lecture.
Egypt and Nubia have long been close neighbours. In the Proto- and Pre-Dynastic Eras (c.6000-3100 BC), a number of small agrarian fiefdoms emerged along the Nile. Eventually solidifying into the Two Kingdoms of Egypt - the Upper, or Valley; and the Lower, or Delta - were unified by King Menes-Narmer with a capital at Men-Nefer; the Old Kingdom. Nubia, though, remained semi-independent and a trading partner of Egypt. The centralisation of state power and resources, coupled with Egyptian acquisition of Nubian gold, enabled the early Pharaohs to expend labour and materials on monumental funerary construction. Historians disagree as to the causes of the Old Kingdom's decline, but archaeological evidence appears to point towards a series of low floods which significantly reduced the food supply and therefore the legitimacy of central authority. During the First Intermediate Period (c.2181-2055 BC) Egypt split back into multiple local societies, until reunified by the Mentuhoteps of Waset. The subsequent Middle Kingdom saw the flourishing of Egyptian art and culture, with increasing commercial and diplomatic interaction, and military clashes, with the Nubians. The Middle Kingdom entered a period of rapid decline apparently synchronous with migration into the Nile Delta from the Levant (the "Hyksos Migration" theory). During the Second Intermediate Period (c.seventeenth century BC) Egypt again fractured while Nubia - which had by this point been significantly Egyptianised - again retained semi-independence and improved relations with an increasingly dependent kingdom around Egypt's largest city, Waset. Following the reunification of Egypt by the Ahmoses, the New Kingdom (c.1550-1100) saw relations between Egypt and Nubia become significantly more equal. Egypt maintained military control over Nubia, while Egyptian culture permeated the Nubian elite, yet Egyptianised Nubians were able to gain significant political and economic power in the Two Kingdoms. The decline of the New Kingdom, caused by internal political squabbling, saw Egypt and Nubia fracture in the Third Intermediate Period (c.1070-660 BC) until a Nubian military campaign led by Piye reunified Nubia and Egypt under the Twenty-Fifth (Nubian) Dynasty consisting of the Nubian Pharaohs Piye, Shabaka, Shebitku, and Taharqa. Following Taharqa's defeat by the Assyrians, Egypt and Nubia again split, forming two distinct civilisations which continue to this day.
- Nubia resisted conversion to Islam for another 700 years after the conquering of Egypt.
3. There are several tables in the lecture containing various estimated dates. Pick one of those estimated dates and explain either why it surprises you, why you think it may be wrong, or why you know it is correct.
4004 BC. The table claims that Adam and Eve were created in 4004 BC, but the main text claims that "there is no reliable evidence of Man existing before 3500 BC", and that "there is no reason to think that man existed for thousands of years without ever expressing himself in written form". If Man was created in 4004 BC and immediately began writing, why is there no evidence of writing until 3500 BC? One of the Mysteries of History, perhaps.
- One would not expect to find today the very first writing. The oldest writings were presumably lost.
4. Either write an essay of at least 150 words in length on any aspect of the lecture, or add or fill in 3 important terms from the lecture for the Study Guide at the link above (mention in your homework which three terms you picked).
(See Q.5 below)
5. Write a longer essay (500 words rather than 150 words) in your answer to question 4, or add or fill in 6 important terms from the lecture for the Study Guide at the link above.
Throughout history, Ancient Egyptian religion was overwhelmingly polytheistic (the worship of multiple gods). But they had several contradictory Creation stories.
1) Ra. In the Old Kingdom, the Egyptian Creator-God, Holy Ra, was the dominant god. Egyptian mythology claimed that Ra had created himself out of the Primordial Water, and thus created the first Order over Chaos. But Ra, lonely at being the only intellect in existence, cried, and humans emerged from the tears. Ra then created the other gods to keep him company and help him govern the humans, which he did until a human rebellion forced him to appoint a half-man, half-god (the Pharaoh) to rule on his behalf. The cult of Ra spread throughout Egypt and Nubia throughout the Old and Middle Kingdoms, and merged with other gods, taking on their aspects (Ra-Khepri, Ra-Herakhty, etc.).
2) Osiris. This version of the Ra myth contradicts the above version. In this myth, Ra creates the universe but does not create humans, instead making other lesser gods to serve him. Favourite among these was Osiris, and when humans were eventually created - by accident - Ra gave Osiris control over them. But Osiris' brother, Seth, tricked Osiris and killed him (similar to the story of Cain and Abel! There is even a Seth in Genesis - maybe the Egyptians meant the actual story of Cain and Abel but got one of the names wrong). Osiris' wife Isis put his body back together and their son Horus fought Seth, and won.
3) Ptah. Similar to the Biblical information, this myth claims that Ptah was a craftsman-god who made all of the universe with his carpenter's tools, then breathed life into animals and Man. This contradicts the Ra myth - Egyptians had a lot of contradictions!
4) Amun. Amun was originally a minor local god from Waset, but as Waset grew in tremendous political power in the Middle and New Kingdoms, Amun became a more important god who was claimed to have created the universe through unknowable magic. Under the reign of the three Amenhoteps, the priesthood of Amun, and their temple at Karnak, became so powerful that the new Pharaoh, Akhenaten, feared them. He elevated a very minor god, the Aten, and declared it was the sole god (monotheism). He even moved the capital to a custom-built city, and shocked Egyptians by saying that Aten cared for all humans, not just the Egyptians. Historians disagree why exactly Akhenaten did this - he may have been doing it as a political move against the Amun priesthood, he may have genuinely believed it, or liberal historians might have misinterpreted the data. Akhenaten's neglect of the military and foreign policy caused the Egyptian empire to badly decline, and his son Tutankhamun, who followed Akhenaten, was a weak boy who died young. After Tutankhamun's death, the Chief of the Royal Armies, General Horemheb, led a conservative counter-revolution which returned Egypt to its traditions, threw the invaders out, and proclaimed himself King. Egypt did not experience monotheism again until the late Roman Empire legalised Christianity.
- You write a lot about Egypt!
6. Which matters most to the success of an ancient empire: its technology, its laws, its language, or its geography? Explain, with specific examples.
All, and none.
Technology in the Copper and Bronze Ages was largely the same across the civilised world. Although ironworking was practiced by some societies (such as the Hatti, or Hittites), the iron produced was brittle and largely used for ceremonial, not practical, purposes. In cases where a particular technology was not used - such as wheels not being used in Egypt - this was not due to a lack of knowledge but a lack of practical application. The Egyptians were aware of the concept of the wheel (they used potters' wheels, for instance, and tomb models of carts have been found), it was simply that wheels were highly impractical at the time as they were fragile and liable to sink into the sand. Therefore, the majority of transport was on boats, with land transport consisting of pack-animals and sledges hauled by labourers. Given, therefore, the technological similarity of ancient civilisations, we cannot use that as an answer.
Law is a concept which emerged long before any of the civilisations discussed in the Lecture. Hunter-gatherer societies still exist, and they have laws against murder, incest, and other similar things which were outlawed in ancient societies and which we still prohibit today. There is strong evidence for law emerging long before civilisation, as Almighty God gave laws to Adam and Eve (which they broke). As ancient societies did not generally follow Biblical law, their laws cannot be considered good or important.
Language is inconsequential to the success or failure of any society, ancient or modern. All forms of writing use arbitrary symbols which have no meaning on their own - rather, they have meaning because of collective agreement. The ancient cuneiform and hieroglyph languages look incomprehensible to us, but the modern Latin alphabet used by English-speakers is equally incomprehensible to a native Chinese. Speech is, for obvious reasons, much more difficult to assess, as there are no living speakers of ancient languages. Experts think they can approximate the pronunciation, but cannot be sure despite what some adherents claim.
Geography - or more specifically, geographical determinism - is a debated issue in history. For example, some geographers and historians point to the Nile River as a unique place for a society to emerge and flourish, due to its fertility from annual flooding (before the 1950s), and natural borders in the form of deserts, sea, and mountains to the south. But if we consider that similarly impressive societies emerged along the Tigris and Euphrates - as the Lecture says - and if we also consider that Egypt was invaded and fell into political disunity several times in its history, we might question just how important Egypt's geography was.
- I disagree about attempts to downplay differences in language. Some are plainly more powerful or efficient than others.
Extra Credit (regular or Honors) 7. What is your favorite mystery about the ancient world, and what do you think explains it? Some suggested possibilities include:
The invention of the wheel: who, when and how? How did the Egyptians build the pyramids? Why did ancient empires collapse?
Construction of the Egyptian pyramids is indeed a mystery, but we can piece togther an educated guess. The first pyramids, such as the Stepped Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser, were much smaller than the later Giza pyramids which are so famous today. Remnants of the ramps used to drag mudbricks to built it have been discovered. By the time the Giza pyramids were started, the Egyptians had centuries of experience constructing such monuments. When we consider that Egypt had no rival societies, a large population, and ample resources, it was fairly easy for the Old Kingdom Pharaohs to amass armies of workers (paying their state taxes in the form of labour for their God-King). Using simple technology, simple mathematics, a long time, and a lot of muscle from an army of devoted workers who (wrongly) thought they were serving a God, the construction of the pyramids does not seem quite such a mystery!
- The precision of the pyramids remains a mystery, I think.
RexBanner 12:53, 5 September 2011 (EDT)
- Your homework answers are extensive. You're off to a great start! Grade: 60/60.--Andy Schlafly 00:51, 13 September 2011 (EDT)