24 Apr 2016

Ancient History magazine 4, 24 April 2016

Ancient History magazine 4, 24 April 2016

Egypt before the pyramids

The museum piece: Dirk Drijver, "A message from the third century AD - Postumus Victorious"

The importance of coins and the messages they proclaim must not be underestimated. In a time when there was no mass communication, Roman emperors used the images on their money to relay political messages to their people. Usurpers and rebels did the same.

Theme: Sidney E. Dean, "The emergence of Egypt"

Few ancient realms are as unique and – dare we say it – mysterious as Egypt. Dynastic Egypt, which emerged circa 3000 BC, was the result of a three thousand year process beginning with the first sedentary agricultural communities along the Nile.

Theme: Jona Lendering, "Writing royal names with hieroglyphs - Of serekhs and cartouches"

Cartouches, serekhs, Horus names… like all scholars, Egyptologists have a vocabulary of their own, which is not always accessible to outsiders. A very brief explanation is worthwhile.

Beautifully decorated with animal figures, this is an example of Middle Naqadan pottery, now in the Neues Museum in Berlin.Theme: Marc G. DeSantis, "The Naqadan culture 3900-3000 BC - The first pan-Egyptian culture"

The first archaeological culture that can be called pan-Egyptian is the Naqada culture, which can be dated to the fourth millennium BC. Naqadan objects can be found in many places in the Nile Valley and document the unification of the region.

Theme: Martin Uildriks, "Watercraft in Egypt's state formation - Sinking the boats"

Many scholars assume that boats played an important role in the unification of Egypt. It looks, indeed, as if boats are shown on pottery and a very famous wall painting from Hierakonpolis. However, when we take a closer look, things turn out to be more complicated.

Theme: Sigrid van Roode, "The birth of Hieroglyphs - Learning to write"

The hieroglyphic writing system of the ancient Egyptians is famous: rows and columns of neatly arranged miniature depictions of humans, animals, nature, and objects are found on many an object and adorn temples and tombs. This aesthetically pleasing script comprises an intricate and complex writing system. When, how and why did the Egyptians first start to write?

Reaching a height of ten meters, the funerary enclosure of Khasekhemwy is the oldest standing mud-brick structure in Egypt.Theme: Rebecca Batley, "The reign of King Khasekhemwy - Uniting the two kingdoms"

Khasekhemwy was the last king of Egypt’s Second Dynasty. Much about him is uncertain, but what we do know suggests that he inherited a divided kingdom beset by a conflict between the followers of Horus and Seth, and that by the time he died, Egypt had entered a period of peace and stability. Was this forgotten king Egypt’s unifier?

Theme: Jetty Boots-Kaat, "Monumental mortuary architecture - From pits to pyramids"

Monumental funerary structures, eventually culminating in the building of Djoser’s famous Step Pyramid in Saqqara, can be traced as far back in time as ca. 3400 BC. In the first part of this article, we will discuss the royal tombs of the Protodynastic period; after that, we will try to solve several problems; and in the end, we will discuss the Step Pyramid.

Theme: Janko Duinker, "Writing the pyramid texts - How a king became an Akh"

Although they were written at a comparatively late date in the Old Kingdom, the Pyramid Texts are evidence for Prehistoric rituals. They document the sakh, a transformation of a person that took place after his death.

Mirco Paganessi’s illustration shows a thunderstorm at sea, with three manifestations of St. Elmo’s fire visible. The odd number was considered a very bad omen and the merchants are doing everything they can to survive, including throwing overboard some excess cargo.Special: Maura Andreoni, "What the ancients saw in St. Elmo's fire - Lights on the sea"

St. Elmo’s fire is a weather phenomenon that is sometimes seen at sea during a thunderstorm, when there is high voltage in the air between the clouds and the ground. It appears in particular circumstances and is like a tall street lamp, glowing with blue flames but not actually burning. Through the centuries, this phenomenon has caused fear, curiosity, and wonder. The ancients tried to explain it with the cultural instruments and knowledge they had at their disposal.

Special: Michael J. Taylor, "Many myths, few realities - The druids"

Traditional priesthoods flourished in the Roman Empire, and the Romans largely respected the religious diversity of their subjects. From Jewish rabbis to the eunuch priests of the Syrian goddess Atargatis, old forms persisted, often lightly Romanized but still distinctive, representing forms that pre-dated Roman conquest. Yet one priesthood notably disappeared in the aftermath of Roman conquest: the Druids, who had been a major force in Gaul and Britain during the Late Pre-Roman Iron Age.

Special: Rob van Gent, "Using astronomy for dating - Eclipses in antiquity"

Around the time you receive this issue of Ancient History Magazine, it will be close to the 2600th anniversary of a famous battle between the Lydians and the Medes on the banks of the Halys River in what is now Central Turkey. We know the date because the fight happened on the same day as a rare astronomical event. Astronomy, it turns out, can be a great help for historians who want to date events in the distant past.

Philosophy: Kees Alders, "Epicurus' moderate hedonism - Nothing to fear"

The conquests of Alexander the Great profoundly changed the Greek world. The old dichotomy between the independent Greek city-states and the eastern world empires ceased to be relevant. People were citizens of a common world. The world view changed, and hence philosophy, as we see in our series on Hellenistic philosophy. In this issue: the moderate Hedonism of the Epicureans.

How do they know?: Jona Lendering, "How do they know how to - Explain the past"

History is more than just establishing and describing what once happened. Historians try to explain events and processes too. In other words: they try to connect facts to other facts. But how?

Ancient History Magazine

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