Friday, February 27, 2015

Egypt's Golden Empire: PBS

Here's a cool set of videos from PBS called "Egypt's Golden Empire." It goes into detail about some of the really interesting pharaohs we talked about in class. It's worth checking out--Especially the segments on Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Akhenaten, King Tutankhamun, and Ramses the Great.

Hatshepsut and Thutmose III

During the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom, two of the most important pharaohs were related, but hated one another. The first was Hatshepsut, one of the most powerful female rulers in history. The second was Thutmose III, her stepson who hated Hatshepsut for "stealing" his throne. If a student wanted to know more about either pharaoh, here are a few useful resources:

Information on Hatshepsut 

The Mummy of Queen Hatshepsut Found
Science Blog update about the identification of an unknown mummy as that of Hatshepsut

Video Tour of Hatshepsut Sculptures at the MET
A great exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art

National Geographic's Hatshepsut links
Lots of articles, video clips, and good information about the female pharaoh

Dr. Zahi Hawass's description of Hatshepsut
Scroll down to the section that says "Who Was Hatshepsut?"

Information on Thutmose III 

A basic description of who Thutmose III was
From Ancient Egypt Online, a website for kids

British Museum blurb about Thutmose III
A quick overview of the pharaoh, with links to artifacts in the museum

Ancient History in depth from the BBC
A great article from the BBC talking about the royal feud between Thutmose III and Hatshepsut

The Process of Mummification

We all know that the Egyptians are most well-known for mummifying their important dead. While it was a little different depending on the time period, with human bodies the process in essentially the same:
  • Wash the body of the dead pharaoh
  • Make an incision of the side of the body
  • Remove the four major internal organs (liver, lungs, stomach, and intestines)
  • The four organs are salted, dried, and placed in canopic jars separately
  • A large hook is shoved up the nose and the brain is mushed up
  • The brain is then drained out the nose
  • The heart is left in the body for Anubis to weigh
  • Natron (salt and baking soda) is stuffed into the body, and around it
  • The body is left for 40 days to completely dry out
  • The salt is changed several times
  • After it is dried, the body is washed of all the natron
  • Resin (tree sap) is poured on the body to seal it
  • Beginning with the fingers and toes, the body is wrapped in linen strips
  • Magic amulets and good luck charms are placed in the wrappings
  • The body is draped in a shroud
  • The body is then placed in a wooden coffin, decorated with symbols
  • The coffin is placed into one or several others, equally ornate
  • Lastly, the coffins are brought across the Nile to the tomb
  • In the tomb, the coffins are lowered into a stone sarcophagus


Hopefully all of those Spanish sardines will have a happy afterlife!

Now, watch a couple of BrainPop video clips about Ancient Egypt.
Feel free to take the quizzes at the end!!





Needham Unplugged 2015

Each year the Youth Services department of Town Hall supports the Needham Unplugged program in the month of March. Here's how their website describes the program:

Needham Unplugged

Unplugged Icon
It is so easy to get caught up into electronics --- TV, computers, Internet, Gameboy, and Nintendo are fun, entertaining, and a nice way to relax. The problem becomes when you find yourself spending 2, 4, 6 or even 8 hours a day plugged in…and little time is devoted to interacting with family and friends or simply engaging in a quiet activity such as reading or walking.

Needham Unplugged is an awareness campaign to remind Needham families and residents to “unplug their electronics” and “plug into” each other. It is a reminder that there is more to life than what is on the other side of a plug. Watch for announcements about activities that do NOT require electricity and that emphasize person-to-person interaction and health. The highlight of the program is no-homework, no-sports, and no-activities night for Needham Public School Students. In addition, there will be no town-related meetings and virtually no community and religious meetings held on that night.

In Cluster 3, we're encouraging students to participate in the program by doing at least one of the activities on the Needham Unplugged calendar. On Thursday, March 12th, there is a homework-free and electronics-free night sponsored by the town. The goal is to reconnect with family members and try doing something that doesn't require a cell phone, computer, TV, video game, or other device. Students may only participate in the "no homework" night if they first complete at least one item from the Unplugged calendar (the activity doesn't have to be on the actual day it's listed). Have fun!!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Egyptian Art: 4 Important Scenes

You will draw four scenes that are central to Egyptian religious beliefs. Each of the scenes would appear in tomb paintings, papyrus scrolls, wall carvings, and mummy coffins. You may fold your paper into four squares. Be sure to label each scene, and put your name on the back of the paper.

Scene 1: The Journey
When a person died in ancient Egypt, their religious belief held that the soul of the person would cross the Nile River in a wooden barge. The Egyptians watched as the sun was "born" in the East and would "die" in the West. The Journey would be a voyage from the land of the living on the eastern side of the Nile, to the land of the dead on the western shore.

Often a god or goddess would be steering the barge with the dead person depicted as a passenger. The god Thoth, the scribe of the gods, appears as a large ibis bird in the picture below.

In this version of "The Journey," the god Thoth is on board!

To recall this journey, the mummified corpse of the dead pharaoh would be loaded onto a real barge for the final journey to be placed in the tomb, which in the time of the Old Kingdom would have been a pyramid. The illustration below shows a boat towing the barge holding a pharaoh's coffin along with mourning family members. 

In this version, the boats resemble a royal barge. A barge is a flat-bottomed boat

Scene 2: Anubis and the Judgment
After being placed in the tomb, the dead pharaoh would wait. Soon the god of the dead, Anubis, would appear (by magic!). He is depicted as a human with a jackal's head. Anubis would reach into the dead person's chest and remove the heart. Luckily, the mummification process left the dead body without its liver, lungs, stomach, and intestines but the priests did not touch the heart to make sure Anubis could find it.

Anubis placed the heart on his scales. On the other side, he placed the feather of truth. If a person did good deeds while alive, his heart would be light--lighter than the feather of truth. Then, Anubis would put the heart back in the dead pharaoh's chest, allowing him to have a happy afterlife.

If, however, the person has led a wicked life his heart would be heavy with sin--heavier than the feather of truth. Anubis would see this and promptly feed the heart to his crocodile monster. After his heart's destruction, the dead pharaoh would be forced to wander the world as a ghost, never able to experience a happy afterlife.

Here Anubis weighs the heart of the dead pharaoh against Ma'at, or the "Feather  of Truth."

Scene 3: The Book of the Dead
In Christianity, believers hold the Bible as its sacred book. In Judaism it's the Torah, and in Islam it's the Qur'an. The ancient Egyptians had the Book of the Dead to tell them about the gods and goddess, the afterlife, and the process of mummification. Scenes from the Book of the Dead were often painted onto tomb walls or written on highly decorated papyrus scrolls.

This video describes the Egyptian "Book of the Dead." It was a type of Bible for ancient Egyptian religious beliefs.

Scene 4: The Ba, the Ka, and the Ankh
According to ancient Egyptian religious belief, each human consisted of a soul and a life force. The person's unique being, their personality, was called the "ba" and was often depicted as a bird's body with the head of the deceased person. The life force, the energy that made a person alive, was a separate being called the "ka." Both ba and ka could fly through walls, and could enter and exit the body at any time it wanted and rested in the mummified body each night.

Here, the ba of a dead pharaoh floats over its ka. In its claws, the ba hold a "shen," the symbol of eternity.

The ankh was a symbol to mean "life" and was drawn everywhere in Egyptian art. An ankh appears below.

An ankh was usually carried by deities, symbolizing their power over humans' lives.

Egyptian Art

There are certain elements that make the art of ancient Egypt unique. The Egyptians held as their number one goal to reflect order. Since the environment of Egypt is unpredictable, and the life of an ancient Egyptian was very dangerous, they wanted their culture to show the ability to control nature.

When you look at a piece of Egyptian artwork, analyze the following aspects:

1. Style (Body positions, colors, clothes, jewelry, etc.)
2. Theme (What is the picture showing)
3. Symbols (Including hieroglyphics)
4. Characters (Gods, pharaohs, regular people, enemies)
5. Purpose (Why was this art made?)
6. Message (What is the image trying to make you think?)

1. In this relief carving, the pharaoh Ramses II (aka Ramses the Great) smites his enemies.

2. The Narmer Palette is a decorative makeup case that is more for artistic purposes than for makeup.

2. This sketch shows more clearly the images of the Narmer Palette, one of the most important art pieces in all of Egyptian history.

3. This image shows an Egyptian farmer plowing his field.

4. One of the most famous images of the afterlife.

5. An important statue from the Museum of Fine Arts shows King Menkaure (builder of the third Great Pyramid at Giza) and his queen.

6. Tomb painting showing a dead pharaoh in the company of two important gods.

7. This image shows the god Thoth steering a boat passenger across the Nile. Notice the circles symbolizing the sun disc.

8. King Tutankhamun's death mask made of gold and precious stones.