Ancient Egypt: Old, Middle, and New Kingdom


I. Thesis: Ancient Egyptians were the basis for many western traditions.
influences are noticable in art, architecture, and religion.

II. The Old Kingdom
A. Zoser, the first pharaoh.
1. built the famed Step Pyramid
2. brought unity to Egypt
B. Religion
1. creation
2. gods
C. Art
D. Downfall of the Old Kingdom

III. The Middle Kingdom
A. Pyramids
B. Middle Kingdom religion
1. Myth of Osiris
2. Similarties between the myth of Osiris and Christian beliefs
C. Middle Kingdom art
D. Downfall of the Middle Kingdom

IV. The New Kingdom
A. Valley of the Kings
B. Shift in religion
1. Aton
2. Akhenaton
C. New art form, naturalistic
D. Downfall of the New Kingdom

V. Conclusion

The ancient Egyptians are considered among many to be the civilization
upon which much of the western world\'s views and attitudes are based.
Everything from religion, to architecture, to art has been handed down,
generation by generation, to us in the present day. Although many of the
ancient Egyptians\' traditions have been modified or altered, the majority of
their core principles remains constant. Yet, despite the ancient Egyptians\'
conservative nature, there were some changes within the infrastructure of their
society. Throughout the ages known as the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, and New
Kingdom, there has been alterations to their religion, art, and architecture.
Internal forces, as well as outside influences, have molded ancient Egyptian
civilization. This paper will attempt to determine these forces which changed
the Egyptians. Modifications of Egyptian life were subtle, but noticeable and
significant nonetheless. Art, architecture, and religion will be the focus of
this paper. Let us begin at the beginning, with the Old Kingdom.
The Old Kingdom began in the year 2700 B.C. and ended 2200 B.C. The
pharaohs, or kings, of this time include the third through the sixth dynasty,
beginning with Djoser and ending with Pepi II. Djoser, who ruled from 2700 B.C.
to 2650 B.C., changed his name to the more commonly known Zoser. It was Zoser
who made the famed Step Pyramid, the first pyramid to be constructed.
Pyramids were erected for the pharaoh in the belief that it would serve
as a stairway to the heavens, and allow the divine pharaoh to reach the Milky
Way, or the Nile river in the sky. The pharaoh\'s afterlife was extremely
dependent on a proper burial, as were the afterlives of those who served him;
therefore, it was imperative that the pyramids be erected. These pyramids could
not have been built through coercion or slavery, for such an architectural feat
could only have been accomplished by a labor force of 70,000, and there is no
possible way for a small group of rulers to force the people to labor day in and
day out without some kind of reward in the afterlife.
Previously, no such architectural feat had ever been dreamed of, let
alone actually thought out and complete. The properties of stone, massiveness,
strength, and durability, had not even be contemplated by masons and architects,
yet under the guidance of Imhotep, the royal architect of the pharaoh Zoser,
this magnificent structure was erected (David 14). It is of little wonder why
the Greeks, when they listed the seven wonders of the world, placed the great
Step Pyramid at the top.
By the fourth dynasty, the pharaohs were buried in true pyramids, that
is, all sides were flat planes meeting at some certain point, and the angle of
each corner was 52 degrees. The three built at Gizeh, for Cheops, Chephren, and
Mycenrinus, were the peak of achievement of this field. The pyramids were of
better architecture, more advanced design, and longer durability; however, by
the fifth dynasty, the pyramids were significantly smaller and the construction
was of a lower quality, the result of which can be seen today; the pyramids of
the fifth dynasty are little more than mounds of rubble (David 14). The reason
for the decline in the pyramids has to do with the shifting of power due to new
religious attitudes.
The religion of the ancient Egyptians was rather complex. Creation was
believed to have been made out of darkness and chaos. With the physical
creation of earth, mankind, and gods came the abstract concepts of law, religion,
ethics, and kingship. Those were to last for eternity, which solidifies the
notion that ancient Egyptians were very conservative. They believed there was
no change; the universe worked according to a certain pattern governed by
principles laid down at the beginning of time. Ancient Egyptians took the
seasons to mean life was a cylindrical process, and that there was life after
death (David