Origin and Religion
" I do not believe that the Egyptians came into being at the same period as the Delta; on the contrary, they have existed ever since Mankind appeared on earth, and as the Delta increased with the passage of time, many of them moved into the new territory and many remained where they originally were," Herodotus, Book II, 16.
The climate of North Africa was not as harsh as many scholars thought before, it is also proven that Egypt’s climate appears to have been little different from today’s climate. The first major turning point occurred around 17000 BC, when there was an increase in rainfall that turned Sahara temporarily into savanna grassland. This made many early settlers move away from the Nile to hunt. Domestication of animals and crop cultivation have been regarded as being developed later on in Egypt than in Asia, but many archaeological diggings in the present tend to contradict that theory. By 5500 BC though, Egypt was emerging as an agricultural country, although in earlier times the settlers were still fishermen and hunters. By almost 5000 BC, settlements were growing all along the Nile Valley, with fields of grain being cultivated successfully. Around 3800 BC, trading with neighboring countries leaped forward. Many foreign imported objects of common use were found in graves dating that period. After the unification of the two Egypts (Upper and Lower Egypt) in 3000 BC by King Menes, agriculture, craftsmanship and arts started to develop very fast. Art, especially, became more refined.
At the same time with the dawn of the Egyptian civilization, the most important thing that has remained over time was born: the construction of forever lasting tombs (first called mastabas), according to the Egyptian religion that the soul has to have a body in which to return. Many of the religious ceremonials of the ancient Egyptians were based on a fundamental myth, the myth of Osiris and his sister Isis. The myth tells about a king Osiris who rescued his people from cannibalism by teaching them how to work the land. Seth, Osiris’ jealous brother, beguiles Osiris into a trick coffin and then kills him. Osiris’ body is thrown afterwards into the Nile. It is said that the river-god carries the corpse as far as Byblos, a Lebanonian port, where Isis, his wife-sister, finds his coffin near the king’s palace. She brings it back to Egypt, only to have Seth discover it and cut the dead king into fourteen pieces. But relentlessly, Isis traces each portion and buried it, marking each grave with a shrine. Osiris, revived by magic, begets upon her body a son, whom she brings up to avenge his father. This son, Horus, eventually wrests Egypt from the animal god Seth and puts it under Re (son-god). In the Egyptian religion Osiris is a pale green face god who rules the afterworld and controls its mechanisms of judgment and salvation. The glorification of the sun-god Re became a widespread rite and remained the main god worshipping ritual throughout the entire ancient Egypt history. Only one exception was made, when Amenhotep, a 18th Dynasty king, turned his back on all old traditions and accepted the existence of only one god for all mankind, the Aten.
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