Teaching materials for Key Stage 2 designed to raise equality issues within the National Curriculum framework.
From around 3,200 BCE the great civilisation of ancient Egypt developed in the Nile Valley. Its rulers were kings, or occasionally queens, known as pharaohs. In the first 500 years huge pyramids – the world’s first skyscrapers, statues of lions with human faces, called sphinxes, and tall needle-shaped obelisks were built in their memory. If you visit Egypt today you can still see these amazing sights.
Out of Africa
How Egypt (known as Kemet to its people) began is still a mystery. We need to look at evidence to give us clues.
The first clue is geographical. The River Nile is 4,000 miles long from one of its sources in Central Africa to the Nile Delta. Its other source, in the highlands of Ethiopia, sends a flood of soil-rich water into the Nile Valley every year. Today deserts cover land on both sides, but 5,000 years ago this land was green. Archeological evidence shows that many people once lived in what is now the Sahara Desert. Paintings and bone fish hooks found in caves there tell us about their way of life. As it became drier people moved into the fertile Nile Valley. (Further information).
An eyewitness account
Herodotus, a Greek historian, went down the Nile around 450 BCE to Elephantine Island, on Egypt’s border with Nubia. He heard about the Egyptian pharaohs, the first of whom, Narmer, changed the course of the Nile. Herodotus saw that it didn’t rain as much in Egypt as it did in Greece, yet crops grew in the fertile soil. He called Egypt “the gift of the Nile”.
Nubia. The Land Upriver
Herodotus heard about the Ethiopian (or black) people who lived further upriver in Nubia. He saw that many Egyptians looked like them and he was told this included some of the pharaohs themselves.
Far less is known about Nubia. Much is under water after the building of the Aswan Dam around 1960 to form a vast lake. Archeologists worked hurriedly. They found a pot at Qustul in Nubia. It had a picture of a pharaoh wearing the white crown, later a symbol of Upper Egypt, but it was dated about 3,200 BCE – before the first Egyptian pharaoh.
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