Egypt Unit Essential Questions

Here are the essential questions from the Egypt Unit and their answers.

1. How did the location, geography, and climate of ancient Egypt affect the development of civilization there?

The location of ancient Egypt was in northeastern Africa along the Nile River, between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, just north of Nubia. This allowed The Egyptians great trading opportunities with lands all around the Mediterranean region, throughout the Fertile Crescent and Mesopotamia, and with civilizations further south in Africa.

The geography of Egypt consists of a huge desert with only the Nile River as its source of fresh water running through the middle. Therefore, the Egyptians all lived along the river itself, and Egypt developed as an isolated civilization without much interaction with foreigners. Later, the Egyptians use the river and seas near them as routes for trading their grain with neighbors.

The climate of ancient Egypt was extremely hot and dry, with almost no rainfall. The Egyptians depended on the Nile River for their lives, and even worshiped it as a god. Also, the Egyptians relied on the annual flooding of the Nile to grow their crops.

2. What was the impact of the Egyptian religious belief system on daily life, particularly burial practices?

The Egyptians believed in an afterlife, a life after death. This caused them to mummify their dead to preserve the "ba"as a place for the dead pharaoh's spirit to remain. Also, the Egyptians spent years building huge and elaborate tombs like the Great Pyramids of Giza or the Valley of the Kings to give the dead pharaoh a place to live after his death. Tombs were also filled with items from daily life, such as clothes, food, chariots, pets, shawabtis, and other prized possessions.

3. How were Egypt's economic, social, and political levels structured?

Egypt's economy was based on farming and trade. The bulk of working Egyptians were farmers who grew grain all along the Nile River. Because the Egyptians had a surplus of grain, they were able to trade this important product to all of the surrounding nations for goods the Egyptians needed. The Egyptians traded the Nubians forgold, ivory, animal skins, and ostrich feathers and eggs. From the Mesopotamians and other Middle Easterners, the Egyptians got metal weapons and tools though trade.

The Egyptians had a very highly structured social system, mainly based on the occupation a person had. The pharaoh was at the top of the social pyramid, followed by the royal family, then priests and nobles, then scribes and government workers, artisans (jewelers, pottery-makers, sculptors, etc.), then the largest group, farmers, and lastly came the slaves.

The political system of Egypt was very simple: the pharaoh had absolute power and ruled as a god-king. The system was a dynastic monarchy, meaning rule by a king whose son takes over from his father.

4. What advances did the Egyptians make in technology, engineering, and literacy?

The Egyptians developed new technology in terms of building, mathematics, the calendar, and medicine. The greatest accomplishments of the Egyptian engineers were the Great Pyramids of Giza and the huge temples built during the New Kingdom. Egyptians learned how to cut, shape, move, and assemble huge stones to build great monuments. The Egyptians used simple machines like ramps, sleds, levers, and chisels to create huge tombs for their leaders. The Egyptians made advances in astronomy, medical practices, and measurement and geometric fields.

In the area of literacy, the Egyptians developed a system of writing using pictures for sounds. They also invented paper, using papyrus reeds to write on. One famous work included the Book of the Dead, which described mummification and the afterlife in the ancient Egyptians' version of a Bible.

5. Who were key Egyptian pharaohs and what were their major accomplishments?

Some key Egyptian pharaohs included:
Hatshepsut - The first female pharaoh who built and restored temples, and sent trading expeditions to faraway lands. She cared about improving the lives of her people.
 Thutmose III - Took over after Hatshepsut and hated her so much he tried to remove every mention of her name. Thutmose was warlike and conquered new territories.
Akenaten - The pharaoh who shocked all of Egypt by changing the religion to monotheism, demanding that people worship the sunSHINE rather than Amon Ra, the sun god. He also changed Egyptian art to be more lifelike and less rigid.
King Tut (Tutankhamun) - Son of Akenaten who restored the old religion after his father died. King Tut died young, but his tomb was never robbed, making him one of the most famous pharaohs known to people today. 
Ramses II (the Great) - Lived longer than any other pharaoh and ruled until he was in his 90s. Ramses had more than 100 children and conquered more territory than any other Egyptian leader. He also built great monuments to himself all over Egypt.