Ancient Egypt Vocabulary

Our Ancient Egypt Vocabulary Words

1. Delta
A delta is a triangle-shaped area of rich soil where a river dumps into a larger body of water.

A graphic map of the Nile River delta--the Mediterranean is to the north.

2. Cataract
A cataract is a steep rapids in a river, or a very large waterfall.

The cataracts are usually caused by rocks or a narrow spot in the river.

People often had to be creative in getting their boats past the cataracts.

Cataracts represented a hazard for boats of all kinds.

Even crossing the width of the river was a challenge at a cataract.

3. Mummy
A mummy is a dead body embalmed according to the Egyptians’ religion.

The mummy of Ramses the Great (pharaoh during the time of Moses) is remarkably well preserved.

Mummies were often placed in highly decorated coffins.

4. Hieroglyphics
Hieroglyphics are the Egyptian writing system in which pictures are used for sounds.

Hieroglyphics like these were usually brightly painted with many colors.

5. Pyramid
A pyramid is a structure built in ancient Egypt as a tomb with four triangular sides and a square base.

The Great Pyramids of Giza are the largest and most well known pyramids.

The pyramids were guarded by the Great Sphinx- a mythical creature with a lion's body and a man's head.

6. Pharaoh
The pharaoh was the king of ancient Egypt who believed to be a divine human with magical powers.

The death mask of King Tutankhamun is one of the most famous images of an Egyptian pharaoh.

The massive statues of Ramses at Abu Simbel show that most pharaohs had very high self esteem.

7. Dynasty
A dynasty is a series of rulers from the same family.

The complicated family tree of Ptolemy I and the famous Queen Cleopatra VII shows that certain names get a lot of use throughout each generation of the family.

This head from the MFA Boston is a ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty and has a wicked chin beard. 

8. Afterlife
The afterlife is a life after death that was believed by the Egyptians to be better than this life.

Before going to the afterlife, the god Anubis had to weigh the dead person's heart to be sure they were a good person.

If they were good, Anubis might give them a high-five.

9. Papyrus
The papyrus plant is a long, thin reed that grows along rivers. Papyrus is also the paper-like writing material made from these reeds.

This papyrus sheet comes from one of the oldest math textbooks in history.

Papyrus are tall plants that grow along the river, and their stems were used for making paper

10. Embalm
To embalm means to prevent the decay of a dead body by treating it with preservatives.

Mummification was a complicated process that took up to 70 days to properly embalm the body

Priests would work to prepare the pharaoh's body for the afterlife.

11. Obelisk
An obelisk is a tall, four-sided stone pillar that comes to a point like a pyramid.

An obelisk stood as a symbol of the pharaoh's greatness, like this one at the temple of Karnak.

Obelisks were a single piece of stone, cut and moved into place. If one cracked during the process, it was abandoned and a new one started.

12. Upper Egypt
Upper Egypt refers to the SOUTHERN area around the narrow Nile which extends 500 miles to the south.

Because the Nile River flows NORTHWARD, the up-river area is in the south. The word "upper" means that it is closer to the source of the Nile River, Lake Victoria.

Upper Egypt extended from the first cataract all the way north to the beginning of the Nile delta.

13. Lower Egypt
Lower Egypt refers to the NORTHERN part of Egypt, around the delta.

At the beginning of its history, Egypt consisted of two separate kingdoms--Upper and Lower Egypt. Once united, the pharaoh started wearing the double crown to symbolize his power over both.

Lower Egypt is a triangular-shaped are of land consisting of the Nile delta, where the river splits up and flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

14. Nubia
Nubia was the geographic region in the Nile Valley between the first and fifth cataracts. It is where the present day country of Sudan is located, south of Egypt.

Ancient Nubia was a separate kingdom south of Egypt and bordered by the cataracts.

Here a line of Nubians are depicted in an Egyptian wall painting. Sometimes the Egyptians and Nubians were at peace and traded, other times one or the other kingdom conquered and dominated.
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