1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Egypt/2 Ancient Egypt


II. Ancient Egypt

A. Exploration and Research.—Owing to its early development of a high civilization with written records, its wealth, and its preservative climate, Egypt is the country which most amply repays archaeological research. It is especially those long ages during which Egypt was an independent centre of culture and government, before its absorption in the Persian empire in the 6th century B.C., that make the most powerful appeal to the imagination and can often justify this appeal by the splendour of the monuments representing them. Later, however, the history of Hellenism, the provincial history of the Roman empire, the rise of Christianity and the triumph of Islam successively receive brilliant illustration in Egypt.

As early as the 17th century travellers began to bring home specimens of ancient Egyptian handiwork: a valuable stele from Sakkara of the beginning of the Old Kingdom was presented to the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford in 1683. In the following century the Englishman R. Pococke (1704-1765), the Dane F. L. Norden (1708-1742), both travelling in 1737, and others later, planned, described or figured Egyptian ruins in a primitive way and identified many of the sites with cities named in classical authors. Napoleon’s great military expedition in 1798 was accompanied by a scientific commission including artists and archaeologists, the results of whose labours fill several of the magnificent volumes of the Description de l’Égypte. The antiquities collected by the expedition, including the famous Rosetta stone, were ceded to the British government at the capitulation of Alexandria, in 1801. Thereafter Mehemet Ali threw Egypt freely open to Europeans, and a busy traffic in antiquities began, chiefly through the agency of the consuls of different powers. From the year 1820 onwards the growth of the European collections was rapid, and Champollion’s decipherments (see below, § “Language and Writing”) of the hieroglyphic inscriptions, dating from 1821, added fresh impetus to the fashion of collecting, in spite of doubts as to their trustworthiness. In 1827 a combined expedition led by Champollion and Rosellini was despatched by the governments of France and Tuscany, and accomplished a great deal of valuable work in copying scenes and inscriptions. But the greatest of such expeditions was that of Lepsius, under the auspices of the Prussian government, in 1842-1845. Its labours embraced not only Egypt and Nubia (as far as Khartum) but also the Egyptian monuments in Sinai and Syria; its immense harvest of material is of the highest value, the new device of taking paper impressions or “squeezes” giving Lepsius a great advantage over his predecessors, similar to that which was later conferred by the photographic camera.

A new period was opened in Egyptian exploration in 1858 when Mariette was appointed director of archaeological works in Egypt, his duties being to safeguard the monuments and prevent their exploitation by dealers. As early as 1835 Mehemet Ali had given orders for a museum to be formed; little however, was accomplished before the whole of the resulting collection was given away to the Archduke Maximilian of Austria in 1855. Mariette, who was appointed by the viceroy Said Pasha at the instance of the French government, succeeded in making his office effective and permanent, in spite of political intrigues and the whims of an Oriental ruler; he also secured a building on the island of Bulak (Bulaq) for a viceregal museum in which the results of his explorations could be permanently housed. Supported by the French interest, the established character of this work as a department of the Egyptian government (which also claims the ancient sites) has been fully recognized since the British occupation. The “Service of Antiquities” now boasts a large annual budget and employs a number of European and native officials—a director, curators of the museum, European inspectors and native sub-inspectors of provinces (at Luxor for Upper Egypt and Nubia, at Assiut for Middle Egypt and the Fayum, at Mansura for Lower Egypt, besides a European official in charge of the government excavations at Memphis). The museum, no longer the property of an individual, was removed in 1889 from the small building at Bulak to a disused palace at Giza, and since 1902 has been established at Kasr-en-Nil, Cairo, in a special building, of ample size and safe from fire and flood. In the year 1881 the directorship of the museum was temporarily undertaken by Prof. Maspero, who resumed it in 1899. The admirably conducted Archaeological Survey of the portion of Nubia threatened by the raising of the Assuan dam is in the charge of another department—the Survey department, directed for many years up to 1909 by Captain H. G. Lyons. Non-official agencies (supported by voluntary contributions) for exploration in Egypt comprise the Egypt Exploration Fund, started in London in 1881, with its two branches, viz. the Archaeological Survey (1890) for copying and publishing the monuments above ground, and the Graeco-Roman Branch (1897), well known through the brilliant work in Greek papyri of B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt; and the separate Research Account founded by Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie in London (University College) in 1896, and since 1905 called the British School of Archaeology in Egypt (see especially Memphis). The Mission archéologique française au Caire, established as a school by the French government in 1881, was re-organized in 1901 on a lavish scale under the title Institut français d’archéologie orientale du Caire, and domiciled with printing-press and library in a fine building near the museum. As the result of an excellent bargain, it was afterwards removed to the Munira palace in the south-east part of the city. An archaeologist is attached to the German general consulate to look after the interests of German museums, and is director of the German Institute of Archaeology. The Orient-Gesellschaft (German Orient-Society) has worked in Egypt since 1901 with brilliant results. Excavations and explorations are also conducted annually by the agents of universities and museums in England, America and Germany, and by private explorers, concessions being granted generally on the terms that the Egyptian government shall retain half of the antiquities discovered, while the other half remains for the finders.

The era of scientific excavation began with Flinders Petrie’s work at Tanis in 1883. Previous explorers kept scientific aims in view, but the idea of scientific archaeology was not realized by them. The procedure in scientific excavation is directed to collecting and interpreting all the information that can be obtained from the excavation as to the history and nature of the site explored, be it town, temple, house, cemetery or individual grave, wasting no evidence that results from it touching the endless problems which scientific archaeology affords—whether in regard to arts and crafts, manners and customs, language, history or beliefs. This is a totally different thing from mere hunting for inscriptions, statues or other portable objects which will present a greater or less value in themselves even when torn from their context. Such may, of course, form the greater part of the harvest and working material of a scientific excavator; their presence is most welcome to him, but their complete absence need be no bar to his attainment of important historical results. The absence of scientific excavation in Egypt was deplored by the Scottish archaeologist Alexander Henry Rhind (1833-1863), as early as 1862. Since Flinders Petrie began, the general level of research has gradually risen, and, while much is shamefully bad and destructive, there is a certain proportion that fully realizes the requirements of scientific archaeology.

Antiquities, Sites, &c.—The remains for archaeological investigation in Egypt may be roughly classified as material and literary: to the latter belong the texts on papyri and the inscriptions, to the former the sites of ancient towns with the temples, fortifications and houses; remains of roads, canals, quarries and other matters falling within the domain of ancient topography; the larger monuments, as obelisks, statues, stelae, &c.; and finally the small antiquities—utensils, clothes, weapons, amulets, &c. Where moisture can reach the antiquities their preservation is no better in Egypt than it would have been in other countries; for this reason all the papyri in the Delta have perished unless they happen to have been charred by fire. A terrible pest is a kind of termite which is locally abundant and has probably visited most parts of Egypt at one time or another, destroying all dead vegetable or animal material in the soil that was not specially protected.

In Lower Egypt the cities built of crude brick were very numerous, especially after the 7th century B.C., but owing to the value of stone very few of their monuments have escaped destruction: even the mounds of rubbish which marked their sites furnish a valuable manure for the fields and in consequence are rapidly disappearing. Granite and other hard stones, having but a limited use (for millstones and the like), have the best chance of survival. At Bubastis, Tanis, Behbeit (Iseum) and Heliopolis considerable stone remains have been discovered. In the north of the Delta wherever salt marshes have prevented cultivation in modern times, the mounds, such as those of Pelusium, still stand to their full height, and the more important are covered with ruins of brick structures of Byzantine and Arab date.

Middle and Upper Egypt were less busy and prosperous in the later ages than Lower Egypt. There was consequently somewhat less consumption of the old stone-work. Moreover, in many places equally good material could be obtained without much difficulty from the cliffs on both sides of the Nile. Yet even the buried portions of limestone buildings have seldom been permitted to survive on the cultivated land; the Nubian sandstone of Upper Egypt was of comparatively little value, and, generally speaking, buildings in that material have fallen into decay rather than been destroyed by quarrying.

Starting from Cairo and going southward we have first the great pyramid-field, with the necropolis of Memphis as its centre; stretching from Abū Roāsh on the north to Lisht on the south, it is followed by the pyramid group of Dahshūr, the more isolated pyramids of Medūm and Illahūn, and that of Hawāra in the Fayūm. On the east bank are the limestone quarries of Turra and Masāra opposite Memphis. South of the Fayūm on the western border of the desert are the tombs of Deshāsha, Meir and Assiūt, and on the east bank those of Beni Hasan, the rock-cut temple of Speos Artemidos, the tombs of El Bersha and Sheikh Said, the tombs and stelae of El Amarna with the alabaster quarries of Hanub in the desert behind them, and the tombs of Deir el Gebrāwi. Beyond Assiūt are the tombs of Dronka and Rīfa, the temples of Abydos and Dendera, and the tombs, &c., at Akhmīm and Kasr es Saiyād. Farther south are the stupendous ruins of Thebes on both sides of the river, the temple of Esna, the ruins and tombs of El Kāb, the temple of Edfū, the quarries of Silsila and the temple of Ombos, followed by the inscribed rocks of the First Cataract, the tombs and quarries of Assuan and the temples of Philae.

EB1911 Egypt - map.jpg
Emery Walker sc.

In Nubia, owing to the poverty of the country and its scanty population, the proportion of monuments surviving is infinitely greater than in Egypt. Here are the temples of Debōd, the temple and quarries of Kertassi, the temples of Kalabsha, Bēt el Wali, Dendūr, Gerf Husēn, Dakka, Maharaka, Es-Sebū’a, ‘Amāda and Derr, the grottos of Elles ya, the tombs of Anība, the temple of Ibrīm, the great rock-temples of Abū-Simbel, the temples at Jebel Adda and Wadi Halfa, the forts and temples of Semna, the temples of Amāra (Meroitic) and Sōleb. Beyond are the Ethiopian temples and pyramids of Jebel Barkal and the other pyramids of Napata at Tangassi, &c., the still later pyramids of Meroe at Begerawīa, and the temples of Mesauwarāt and Nāga reaching to within 50 m. of Khartūm.

Outside the Nile valley on the west are temples in the Great and Little Oases and the Oasis of Ammon: on the east quarries and stelae on the Hammamāt road to the Red Sea, and mines and other remains at Wadi Maghāra and Serābīt el Khādim in the Sinai peninsula. In Syria there are tablets of conquest on the rocks at the mouth of the Nahr el Kelb.

Of the collections of Egyptian antiquities in public museums, those of the British Museum, Leiden, Berlin, the Louvre, Turin were already very important in the first half of the 19th century, also in a less degree those of Florence, Bologna and the Vatican. Most of these have since been greatly increased and many others have been created. By far the largest collection in the world is that at Cairo. In America the museums and universities of Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York have collections of greater or less interest. Besides these the museums of Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester and Oxford are noteworthy in Great Britain for their Egyptian antiquities, as are those of St Petersburg, Vienna, Marseilles, Munich, Copenhagen, Palermo and Athens; there are also collections in most of the British colonies. Private collections are numerous.

Literary Records.—In estimating the sources of information regarding pre-Christian Egypt, the native sources, first opened to us by Champollion, are infinitely the most important. With very few exceptions they are contemporary with the events which they record. Of the composition of history and the description of their own manners and customs by the Egyptians for posterity, few traces have reached our day. Consequently the information derived from their monuments, in spite of their great abundance, is of a fortuitous character. For one early papyrus that survives, many millions must have perished. If the journals of accounts, the letters and business documents, had come down to us en masse, they would no doubt have yielded to research the history and life of Egypt day by day; but those that now represent a thousand years of the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom together would not half fill an ordinary muniment chest. A larger proportion of the records on stone have survived, but that an event should be inscribed on stone depends on a variety of circumstances and not necessarily on its importance. There may seem to be a great abundance of Egyptian monuments, but they have to cover an enormous space of time, and even in the periods which are best represented, gravestones recording the names of private persons with a prayer or two are scarcely material for history. A scrap of annals has been found extending from the earliest times to the Vth Dynasty, as well as a very fragmentary list of kings reaching nearly to the end of the Middle Kingdom, to help out the scattered data of the other monuments. As to manners and customs, although we possess no systematic descriptions of them from a native source, the native artists and scribes have presented us with exceptionally rich materials in the painted and sculptured scenes of the tombs from the Old and Middle Kingdoms and the New Empire. For the Deltaic dynasties these sources fail absolutely, the scenes being then either purely religious or conventional imitations of the earlier ones.

Fortunately the native records are largely supplemented by others: valuable information comes from cuneiform literature, belonging to two widely separated periods. The first group is contemporary with the XVIIIth and XIXth Dynasties and consists in the first place of the Tell el Amarna tablets with others related to them, containing the reports of governors of the Syrian possessions of Egypt, and the correspondence of the kings of Babylon, Assur, Mitanni and Khatti (the Hittites) with the Pharaohs. The sequel to this is furnished by Winckler’s discovery of documents relating to Rameses II. of the XIXth Dynasty in the Hittite capital at Boghaz Keui (see also Hittites and Pteria). The other group comprises the annals and inscriptions of the Assyrian kings Esarhaddon and Assur-bani-pal, recording their invasions of Egypt under the XXVth Dynasty. There are also a few references to Egypt of later date down to the reign of Darius. In Hebrew literature the Pentateuch, the historical books and the prophets alike contain scanty but precious information regarding Egypt. Aramaic papyri written principally by Jews of the Persian period (5th century B.C.) have been found at Syene and Memphis.

Of all the external sources the literary accounts written in Greek are the most valuable. They comprise fragments of the native historian Manetho, the descriptions of Egypt in Herodotus and Diodorus, the geographical accounts of Strabo and Ptolemy, the treatise of Plutarch on Isis and Osiris and other monographs or scattered notices of less importance. Our knowledge of the history of Alexander’s conquest, of the Ptolemies and of the Roman occupation is almost entirely derived from Greek sources, and in fact almost the same might be said of the history of Egypt as far back as the beginning of the XXVIth Dynasty. The non-literary Greek remains in papyri and inscriptions which are being found in great abundance throw a flood of light on life in Egypt and the administration of the country from the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus to the Arab conquest. On the other hand, papyri and inscriptions in Latin are of the greatest rarity, and the literary remains in that language are of small importance for Egypt.

Arabic literature appears to be entirely barren of authentic information regarding the earlier condition of the country. Two centuries of unchallenged Christianity had broken almost completely the traditions of paganism, even if the Moslems had been willing to consider them, either in their fanciful accounts of the origins of cities, &c., or elsewhere.

B. The Country in Ancient Times.—The native name of Egypt was Kēmi (KM·T), clearly meaning “the black land,” Egypt being so called from the blackness of its alluvial soil (cf. Plut. De Is. et Os. cap. 33): in poetical inscriptions Kēmi is often opposed to Toshri, “the red land,” referring to the sandy deserts around, which however, would probably be included in the term Kēmi in its widest sense. Egypt is called in Hebrew Mizraim, מִצְריִם, possibly a dual form describing the country in reference to its two great natural and historical divisions of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt: but Mizraim (poetically sometimes Māzōr) often means Lower Egypt, Upper Egypt being named Pathros, “the south land.” In Assyrian the name was Muṣri, Miṣri: in Arabic it is Miṣr, مَصر, pronounced Maṣr in the vulgar dialect of Egypt. These names are certainly of Semitic origin and perhaps derive from the Assyrian with the meaning “frontier-land” (see Mizraim). Winckler’s theory of a separate Muṣri immediately south of Palestine is now generally rejected (see, for instance, Ed. Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstämme, 455). The Greek Αἴγυπτος (Aegyptus) occurs as early as Homer; in the Odyssey it is the name of the Nile (masc.) as well as of the country (fem.): later it was confined to the country. Its origin is very obscure (see Pietschmann in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie, s.v. “Aigyptos”). Brugsch’s derivation from Hakeptah, a name of the northern capital, Memphis, though attractive, is unconfirmed.

Egypt normally included the whole of the Nile valley from the First Cataract to the sea; pure Egyptians, however, formed the population of Lower Nubia above the Cataract in prehistoric times; at some periods also the land was divided into separate kingdoms, while at others Egypt stretched southward into Nubia, and it generally claimed the neighbouring Libyan deserts and oases on the west and the Arabian deserts on the east to the shore of the Red Sea, with Sinai and the Mediterranean coast as far as Rhinocorura (El Arīsh). The physical features in ancient times were essentially the same as at the present day. The bed of the Nile was lower: it appears to have risen by its own deposits at a rate of about 4 in. in a century. In the north of the Delta, however, there was a sinking of the land, in consequence of which the accumulations on some of the ancient sites there extend below the present sea-level. On the other hand at the south end of the Suez canal the land may have risen bodily, since the head of the Gulf of Suez has been cut off by a bank of rock from the Bitter lakes, which were probably joined to it in former days. The banks of the Nile and the islands in it are subject to gradual but constant alteration—indeed, several ancient sites have been much eroded or destroyed—and the main volume of the stream may in course of time be diverted into what has previously been a secondary channel. According to the classical writers, the mouths or branches of the Nile in the Delta were five in number (seven including two that were artificial): now there are only two. In Upper Egypt the main stream tended as now to flow along the eastern edge of the valley, while to the west was a parallel stream corresponding to the Bahr Yusuf. From the latter a canal or branch led to the Lake of Moeris, which, until the 3rd century B.C., filled the deep depression of the Fayum, but is now represented only by the strongly brackish waters of the Birket el Kerūn, left in the deepest part. The area of alluvial land has probably not changed greatly in historic times. The principal changes that have occurred are due to the grip which civilization has taken upon the land in the course of thousands of years, often weakening but now firmer than ever. In early days no doubt the soil was cultivated in patches, but gradually a great system of canals was organized under the control of the central government, both for irrigation and for transport. The wild flora of the alluvial valley was probably always restricted and eventually was reduced almost to the “weeds of cultivation,” when every acre of soil, at one period of the year under water, and at another roasted under the burning heat of a semi-tropical sun, was carefully tilled. The acacia abounded on the borders of the valley, but the groves were gradually cut down for the use of the carpenter and the charcoal-burner. The desert was full of wild life, the balance of nature being preserved by the carnivorous animals preying on the herbivorous; trees watered by soakage from the Nile protected the undergrowth and encouraged occasional rainfall. But this balance was upset by the early introduction of the goat and later of the camel, which destroyed the sapling trees, while the grown ones fell to the axe of the woodcutter. Thus in all probability the Egyptian deserts have become far poorer in animals and trees than they were in primitive times. Much of Lower Egypt was left in a wilder state than Upper Egypt. The marshy lands in the north were the resort of fishermen and fowlers, and the papyrus, the cultivation of which was a regular industry, protected an abundance of wild life. The abandonment of papyrus culture in the 8th century A.D., the neglect of the canals, and the inroads of the sea, have converted much of that country into barren salt marsh, which only years of draining and washing can restore to fertility.

The rich alluvial deposits of the Nile which respond so readily to the efforts of the cultivator ensured the wealth of the country. Moulded into brick, without burning, this black clay also supplied the common wants of the builder, and even the palaces of the greatest kings were constructed of crude brick. For more lasting and ambitious work in temples and tombs the materials could be obtained from the rocks and deserts of the Nile valley. The chief of these was limestone of varying degrees of fineness, composing the cliffs which lined the valley from the apex of the Delta to the neighbourhood of El Kāb; the best quality was obtained on the east side opposite Memphis from the quarries of Turra and Masāra. From El Kāb southward its place was taken by Libyan sandstone, soft and easily worked, but unsuitable for fine sculpture. These two were the ordinary building stones. In the limestone was found the flint or chert used for weapons and instruments in early times. For alabaster the principal quarry was that of Hanub in the desert 10 m. behind El Amarna, but it was obtained elsewhere in the limestone region, including a spot near Alexandria. A hard and fine-grained quartzite sandstone was quarried at Jebel Ahmar behind Heliopolis, and basalt was found thence along the eastern edge of the Delta to near the Wadi Tumilāt. Red granite was obtained from the First Cataract, breccia and diorite were quarried from very early times in the Wadi Hammamāt, on the road from Coptos to the Red Sea, and porphyry was brought, chiefly in Roman times but also in the prehistoric age, from the same region at Jebel Dokhān.

Egypt was poor in metals. Gold was obtained chiefly from Nubia: iron was found in small quantities in the country and at one time was worked in the neighbourhood of Assuān. Some copper was obtained in Sinai. Of stones that were accounted precious Sinai produced turquoise and the Egyptian deserts garnet, carnelian and jasper.

The native supply of wood for industrial purposes was exceedingly bad: there was no native wood long enough and straight enough to be used in joiners’ work or sculpture without fitting and patching: palm trees were abundant, and if the trees could be spared, their split stems could be used for roofing. For boatbuilding papyrus stems and acacia wood were employed, and for the best work cedar-wood was imported from Lebanon.

Egypt was isolated by the deserts and the sea. The Nile valley afforded a passage by ship or on foot into Nubia, where, however, little wealth was to be sought, though gold and rarities from the Sudan, such as ivory and ebony, came that way and an armed raid could yield a good spoil in slaves and cattle. The poverty-stricken and barbarous Nubians were strong and courageous, and gladly served in Egypt as mercenary soldiers and police. Through the oases also ran paths to the Sudan by which the raw merchandise of the southern countries could be brought to Egypt. Eastward, roads led through the Arabian mountains to the Red Sea, whence ships made voyages to the incense-bearing land of Puoni (Punt) on the Somali coast of Africa, rich also in gold and ivory. The mines of Sinai could be reached either by sea or by land along the route of the Exodus. The roads to Syria skirted the east border of the Delta and then followed the coast from near Pelusium through El Arīsh and Gaza. A secondary road branched off through the Wadi Tumilāt, whence the ways ran northwards to Syria and southwards to Sinai. On the Libyan side the oasis of Sīwa could be reached from the Lake of Moeris or from Terrana (Terenuthis), or by the coast route which also led to the Cyrenaica. The Egyptians had some traffic on the Mediterranean from very remote times, especially with Byblus in Phoenicia, the port for cedar-wood.

Of the populations surrounding Egypt the negroes (Nehsi) in the south (Cush) were the lowest in the scale of civilization: the people of Puoni and of Libya (the Tehen, &c.) were pale in colour and superior to the negroes, but still show no sign of a high culture. The Syrians and the Keftiu, the latter now identified with the Cretans and other representatives of the Aegean civilization, are the only peoples who by their elaborate clothing and artistic products reveal themselves upon the ancient Egyptian monuments as the equals in culture of the Egyptian nation.

The Egyptians seem to have applied no distinctive name to themselves in early times: they called themselves proudly rōmi (RMTW), i.e. simply “men,” “people,” while the despised races around them, collectively Ḫ’SWT, “desert-peoples,” were distinguished by special appellations. The races of mankind, including the Egyptians, were often called the Nine Archers. Ultimately the Egyptians, when their insularity disappeared under the successive dominations of Ethiopia, Assyria and Persia, described themselves as rem-n-Kēmi, “men of Egypt.” Whence the population of Egypt as we trace it in prehistoric and historic times came, is not certain. The early civilization of Egypt shows remarkable coincidences with that of Babylonia, the language is of a Semitic type, the religion may well be a compound of a lower African and a higher Asiatic order of ideas. According to the evidence of the mummies, the Egyptians were of slender build, with dark hair and of Caucasian type. Dr Elliott Smith, who has examined thousands of skeletons and mummies of all periods, finds that the prehistoric population of Upper Egypt, a branch of the North African-Mediterranean-Arabian race, changed with the advent of the dynasties to a stronger type, better developed than before in skull and muscle. This was apparently due to admixture with the Lower Egyptians, who themselves had been affected by Syrian immigration. Thereafter little further change is observable, although the rich lands of Egypt must have attracted foreigners from all parts. The Egyptian artists of the New Empire assigned distinctive types of feature as well as of dress to the different races with which they came into contact, Hittites, Syrians, Libyans, Bedouins, negroes, &c.

The people of Egypt were not naturally fierce or cruel. Intellectually, too, they were somewhat sluggish, careless and unbusinesslike. In the mass they were a body of patient labourers, tilling a rich soil, and hating all foreign lands and ways. The wealth of their country gave scope for ability within the population and also attracted it from outside: it enabled the kings to organize great monumental enterprises as well as to arm irresistible raids upon the inferior tribes around. Urged on by necessity and opportunity, the Egyptians possessed sufficient enterprise and originating power to keep ahead of their neighbours in most departments of civilization, until the more warlike empires of Assyria and Persia overwhelmed them and the keener intellects of the Greeks outshone them in almost every department. The debt of civilization to Egypt as a pioneer must be considerable, above all perhaps in religious thought. The moral ideals of its nameless teachers were high from an early date: their conception of an after-life was exceedingly vivid: the piety of the Egyptians in the later days was a matter of wonder and scoffing to their contemporaries; it is generally agreed that certain features in the development of Christianity are to be traced to Egypt as their birthplace and nidus.

For researches into the ethnography of Egypt and the neighbouring countries, see W. Max Müller, Asien und Europa nach den altäg. Inschriften (Leipzig, 1893), Egyptological Researches (Washington, 1906); for measurements of Egyptian skulls, Miss Fawcett in Biometrika (1902); A. Thomson and D. Randall-MacIver, The Ancient Races of the Thebaid (Oxford, 1905) (cf. criticisms in Man, 1905; and for comparisons with modern measurements, C. S. Myers, Journ. Anthropological Institute, 1905, 80). W. Flinders Petrie has collected and discussed a series of facial types shown in prehistoric and early Egyptian sculpture, Journal Anthropological Institute, 1901, 248. For Elliott Smith’s results see The Cairo Scientific Journal, No. 30, vol. iii., March 1909.

Divisions.—In ancient times Egypt was divided into two regions, representing the kingdoms that existed before Menes. Lower Egypt, comprising the Delta and its borders, formed the “North Land,” To-meh, and reached up the valley to include Memphis and its province or “nome,” while the remainder of the Egyptian Nile valley was

“the South,” Shema (ŠMꜥW 

The south, if only as the abode of the sun, always had the precedence over the north in Egypt, and the west over the east. Later the two regions were known respectively as P-to-rēs (Pathros), “the south land,” and P-to-meh, “the north land.” In practical administration this historic distinction was sometimes observed, at others ignored, but in religious tradition it had a firm hold. In Roman times a different system marked off a third region, namely Middle Egypt, from the point of the Delta southward. Theoretically, as its name Heptanomis implies, this division contained seven nomes, actually from the Hermopolite on the south to the Memphite on the north (excluding the Arsinoite according to the papyri). Some tendency to this existed earlier. Egypt to the south of the Heptanomis was the Thebais, called P-tesh-en-Ne, “the province of Thebes,” as early as the XXVIth Dynasty. The Thebais was much under the influence of the Ethiopian kingdom, and was separated politically in the troubled times of the XXIIIrd Dynasty, though the old division into Upper and Lower Egypt was resumed in the XXVIth Dynasty.

If Upper and Lower Egypt represented ancient kingdoms, the nomes have been thought to carry on the traditions of tribal settlements. They are found in inscriptions as early as the end of the IIIrd Dynasty, and the very name of Thoth, and that of another very ancient god, are derived from those of two contiguous nomes in Lower Egypt. The names are written by special emblems placed on standards, such as

an ibis 
a jackal 
a hare 
a feathered crown 
a sistrum 
a blade 

suggesting tribal badges. Some nomes having a common badge but distinguished as “nearer” or “further,” i.e. “northern” or “southern,” have simply been split, as they are contiguous: in one case, however, corresponding “eastern” and “western” Harpoon nomes are widely separated on opposite sides of the Delta. In a few cases, such as “the West,” “the Beginning of the East,” it is obvious that the names are derived solely from their geographical situation. It is quite possible that the divisions are geographical in the main, but it seems likely that there were also religious, tribal and other historical reasons for them. How their boundaries were determined is not certain: in Upper Egypt in many cases a single nome embraced both sides of the river. The number and nomenclature of the nomes were never absolutely fixed. In temples of Ptolemaic and Roman age the full series is figured presenting their tribute to the god, and this series approximately agrees with the scattered data of early monuments. The normal number of the nomes in the sacred lists appears to be 42, of which 22 belonged to Upper Egypt and 20 to Lower Egypt. In reality again these nome-divisions were treated with considerable freedom, being split or reunited and their boundaries readjusted. Each nome had its metropolis, normally the seat of a governor or nomarch and the centre of its religious observances. During the New Empire, except at the beginning, the nomes seem to have been almost entirely ignored: under the Deltaic dynasties (except of course in the traditions of the sacred writing) they were named after the metropolis, as “the province (tosh) of Busiris,” “the province of Sais,” &c.: hence the Greek names Βουσιρίτης νομός, &c. The Arsinoite nome was added by the Ptolemies after the draining of the Lake of Moeris (q.v.), and in the later Ptolemaic and the Roman times many changes and additions to the list must have been made. In Christian texts the “provinces” appear to have been very numerous.

See H. Brugsch, Geographische Inschriften altägyptischer Denkmäler (3 vols., Leipzig, 1857-1860), and for the nomes on monuments of the Old Kingdom, N. de G. Davies, Mastaba of Ptahhetep and Akhethetep (London, 1901), p. 24 et sqq.

King and Government.—The government of Egypt was monarchical. The king (for titles see Pharaoh) was the head of the hierarchy: he was himself divine and is often styled “the good god,” and was the proper mediator between gods and men. He was also the dispenser of office, confirmer of hereditary titles and estates and the fountain of justice. Oaths were generally sworn by the “life” of the king. The king wore special headdresses and costumes, including the crowns of

 and Lower Egypt 
 (often united 

and the cobra upon his forehead. Females were admitted to the succession, but very few instances occur before the Cleopatras. The most notable Pharaonic queen in her own right was Hatshepsut in the XVIIIth Dynasty, but her reign was ignored by the later rulers even of her own family. A certain Nitōcris of about the VIIIth Dynasty and Scēmiophris of the XIIth Dynasty are in the lists, but are quite obscure. Yet inheritance through the female line was fully recognized, and marriage with the heiress princess was sought by usurpers to legitimate the claims of their offspring. Often, especially in the XIIth Dynasty, the king associated his heir on the throne with him to ensure the succession.

From time to time feudal conditions prevailed: the great landowners and local princes had establishments of their own on the model of the royal court, and were with difficulty kept in order by the monarch. In rare cases during the Middle Kingdom (inscriptions in the tomb of Ameni at Beni Hasan, graffiti in the quarries of Hanub) documents were dated in the years of reign of these feudatory nobles. Under the Empire all power was again centralized in the hands of the Pharaoh. The apportionment of duties amongst the swarm of officials varied from age to age, as did their titles. Members of the royal family generally held high office. Under the Empire Egypt was administered by a vast bureaucracy, at the head of which, responsible to the king, was the vizier, or sometimes two viziers, one for Upper Egypt, the other for Lower Egypt (in which case the former, stationed at Thebes, had the precedence). The duties of the vizier and the procedure in his court are detailed in a long inscription which is repeated in three tombs of the XVIIIth Dynasty at Thebes (Breasted, Records, ii. § 663 et seqq.). The strictest impartiality was enjoined upon him, and he was advised to hold aloof from the people in order to preserve his authority. The office of vizier was by no means a sinecure. All the business of the country was overlooked by him—treasury, taxation, army, law-courts, expeditions of every kind. Egypt was the vast estate of Pharaoh, and the vizier was the steward of it.

Army.—The youth of Egypt was liable to be called upon for service in the field under the local chiefs. Their training consisted of gymnastic and warlike exercises which developed strength and discipline that would be as useful in executing public works and in dragging large monuments as in strictly military service. They were armed in separate companies with bows and arrows, spears, daggers and shields, and the officers carried battle-axes and maces. The army, commanded in chief by Una under the VIth Dynasty for raids in Sinai or Palestine, comprised levies from every part of Egypt and from Nubia, each under its own leader. Under the New Empire, when Egypt was almost a military state, the army was a more specialized institution, the art of war in siege and strategy had developed, divisions were formed with special standards, there were regiments armed with battle-axes and scimitars, and chariots formed an essential part of the host. Egyptian cavalry are not represented upon the monuments, and we hear little of such at any time. Herodotus divides the army into two classes, the Calasiries and the Hermotybies; these names, although he was not aware of it, mean respectively horse- and foot-soldiers, but it is possible that the former name was only traditional and had characterized those who fought from chariots, a mode of warfare that was obsolete in Herodotus’s own day: as a matter of fact both classes are said to have served on the warships of Xerxes’ fleet.

Arms and Armour.—From the contents of graves and other remains, and the sculptured and painted scenes, an approximate idea can be obtained of the weapons of the Egyptians at all periods from the prehistoric age onwards. Only a few points are here noted. Stone mace-heads are found in the earliest cemeteries, together with flint implements that may be the heads of lances, &c., and thin leaf-shaped daggers of bronze. Stone arrow-heads are common on the surface of the desert. Thin bronze arrow-heads appear at an early date; under the Empire they are stouter and furnished with a tang, and later still, towards the Greek period, they are socketed (often three-sided), or, if of iron, still tanged. The wooden club, a somewhat primitive weapon, seems to have been considered characteristic of foreigners from very early times, and, in scenes dating from the Middle Kingdom, belong principally to the levies from the surrounding barbarians. The dagger grew longer and stouter, but the sword made its appearance late, probably first in the hands of the Sherdana (Sardinian?), mercenaries of the time of Rameses II. A peculiar scimitar, khopsh C+B-Egypt-Pictoglyph81.PNG, is characteristic of the Empire. Slings are first heard of in Egyptian warfare in the 8th century B.C. The chariot was doubtless introduced with the horse in the Hyksos period; several examples have been discovered in the tombs of the New Kingdom. Shields were covered with ox-hide and furnished with round sighting-holes above the middle. Cuirasses of bronze scales were worn by the kings and other leaders. The linen corslets of the Egyptian soldiery at a later time were famous, and were adopted by the Persian army. According to the paintings of the Middle Kingdom in the tombs of Beni Hasan, the battlements of brick fortresses were attacked and wrenched away with long and massive spears. No siege engines are depicted, even in the time of the Empire, and the absence of original representations after the XXth Dynasty renders it difficult to judge the advances made in the art of war during the first half of the last millennium B.C. The inscription of Pankhi, however, proves that in the 8th century approaches and towers were raised against the walls of besieged cities.

Priesthood.—The priesthood was in a great degree hereditary, though perhaps not essentially so. In each temple the priests were divided into four orders (until Ptolemy Euergetes added a fifth), each of which served in turn for a lunar month under the chief priest or prophet. They received shares of the annual revenues of the temple in kind, consisting of linen, oil, flesh, bread, vegetables, wine, beer, &c. The “divine servants” or “prophets” had residences assigned them in the temple area. In late times the priests were always shaven, and paid the greatest attention to cleanliness and ceremonial purity already implied in their ancient name. Fish and beans then were abhorred by them. Among the priests were the most learned men of Egypt, but probably many were illiterate. For the Hellenistic period see W. Otto, Priester und Tempel im hellenistichen Ägypten (Leipzig, 1905 foll.).

For ancient Egyptian life and civilization in all departments, the principal work is Ad. Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt, translated by H. M. Tirard (London, 1894), (the original Ägypten und ägyptisches Leben im Altertum, 2 vols., was published in 1885 at Tübingen); G. Maspero, Life in Ancient Egypt and Assyria, translated by A. P. Morton (London, 1892), (Lectures historiques, Paris, 1890); also J. G. Wilkinson, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, new ed. by S. Birch (3 vols., London, 1878). The annual Archaeological Reports of the Egypt Exploration Fund contain summaries of the work done each year in the several departments of research.

Of the innumerable publications of Egyptian monuments, scenes and inscriptions, C. R. Lepsius, Denkmäler aus Ägypten und Äthiopien (Berlin, 1849–1859), and Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of the Egypt Exploration Fund, may be specified. For antiquities in museums there is the sumptuous Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du musée de Caire; for excavations the Memoirs of the Egypt Exploration Fund, of the Research Account, of the British School of Archaeology, of the Liverpool School of Archaeology, of the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, of the Hearst Egyptian Expedition, of the Theodore M. Davis excavations (Tombs of the Kings).

Trade and Money.—There is little evidence to show how buying and selling were carried on in ancient Egypt. A unique scene in a tomb of the IVth Dynasty, however, shows men and women exchanging commodities against each other—fish, fish-hooks, fans, necklaces, &c. Probably this was a market in the open air such as is held weekly at the present time in every considerable village. Rings of metal, gold, silver and bronze played some part in exchange, and from the Hyksos period onwards formed the usual standards by which articles of all kinds might be valued. In the XVIIIth Dynasty the value of meat, &c., was reckoned in gold; somewhat later copper seems the commonest standard, and under the Deltaic dynasties silver. But barter must have prevailed much longer. The precious metals were kept in the temples under the tutelage of the deities. During the XXVth and XXVIth Dynasties silver of the treasury of Harshafe (at Heracleopolis Magna) was commonly prescribed in contracts, and in the reign of Darius we hear of silver of the treasury of Ptah (at Memphis). Aryandes, satrap of Egypt, is said by Herodotus to have been punished by Darius for coining money of equal fineness with that of the king in Persia: thus coinage had then begun in Egypt. But the early coins that have been found there are mainly Greek, and especially Athenian, and it was not until the introduction of a regular currency in the three metals under the Ptolemies that much use was made of coined money.

Corn was the staple produce of Egypt and may have been exported regularly, and especially when there was famine in other countries. In the Tell el-Amarna letters the friendly kings ask Pharaoh for “much gold.” Papyrus rolls and fine linen were good merchandise in Phoenicia in the 10th century B.C. From the earliest times Egypt was dependent on foreign countries to supply its wants in some degree. Vessels were fashioned in foreign stone as early as the Ist Dynasty. All silver must have been imported, and all copper except a little that the Pharaohs obtained from the mines of Sinai. Cedar wood was brought from the forests of Lebanon, ivory, leopard skins and gold from the south, all kinds of spices and ingredients of incense from Somaliland and Arabia, fine linen and beautifully worked vessels from Syria and the islands. Such supplies might be obtained by forcible raiding or as tribute of conquered countries, or perhaps as the free offerings of simple savages awed by the arrival of ships and civilized well-armed crews, or again by royal missions in which rich gifts on both sides were exchanged, or lastly by private trading. For deciding how large a share was due to trade, there is almost no evidence. But there are records of expeditions sent out by the king to obtain the rarities of different countries, and the hero of the Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor was upon this quest. Egyptian objects of the age of the XVIIIth Dynasty are found in the Greek islands and on the mainland among remains of the Mycenaean epoch, and on the other hand the products of the workshops of Crete and other centres of that culture are found in Egypt and are figured as “tribute of the Keftiu” in the tomb-paintings, though we have no information of any war with or conquest of that people. It must be a case of trade rather than tribute here and in like instances. According to the papyrus of Unamun at the end of the weak XXth Dynasty payment for cedar was insisted on by the king of Byblus from the Egyptian commissioner, and proofs were shown to him of payment having been made even in the more glorious times of Egypt. Trade both internal and external must have been largely in the hands of foreigners. It is impossible to say at what period Phoenician traffic by sea with Egypt began, but it existed as early as the IIIrd Dynasty. In the time of Herodotus much wine was imported from Syria and Greece. Amasis II. (c. 570 B.C.) established Naucratis as the centre of Greek trade in Egypt. Financial transactions by Jews settled at the southern extremity of Egypt, at Assuan, are found as early as the reign of Artaxerxes.

Hunting, Fishing, &c.—In the desert hunting was carried on by hunters with bows and arrows, dogs and nets to check the game. Here in ancient times were found the oryx, addax, ibex, gazelle, bubale, ostrich, hyena and porcupine, more rarely the wild ox and wild sheep (O. tragelaphus). All of these were considered fit for the table. The lion, leopard and jackal were not eaten. Pigeons and other birds were caught in traps, and quails were netted in the fields and on the sea-shore. In the papyrus marshes the hippopotamus was slain with harpoons, the wild boar, too, was probably hunted, and the sportsman brought down wild-fowl with the boomerang, or speared or angled for fish. Enormous quantities of wild-fowl of many sorts were taken in clap-nets, to be preserved in jars with salt. Fish were taken sometimes in hand-nets, but the professional fishermen with their draw-nets caught them in shoals. The fishing industry was of great importance: the annual catch in the Lake of Moeris and its canal formed an important part of the Egyptian revenue. The fish of the Nile, which were of many kinds (including mullets, &c., which came up from the sea), were split and dried in the sun: others were salted and so preserved. A supply of sea fish would be obtained off the coast of the Delta and at the mouth of the Lake Serbonis.

Farming, Horticulture, &c.—The wealth of Egypt lay in its agriculture. The regular inundations, the ease of irrigating the rich alluvial flats, and the great heat of the sun in a cloudless sky, while limiting the natural flora, gave immense opportunities to the industrious farmer. The normal rise of the Nile was sixteen cubits at the island of Roda, and two cubits more or less caused a failure of the harvest. In the paintings we see gardens irrigated by handbuckets and shadufs; the latter (buckets hung on a lever-pole) were probably the usual means of raising water for the fields in ancient times, and still are common in Egypt and Nubia, although water-wheels have been known since the Ptolemaic age, if not earlier. Probably a certain amount of cultivation was possible all the year round, and there was perhaps a succession of harvests; but there was a pause after the main harvests were gathered in by the end of April, and from then till June was the period in which taxes were collected and loans were repaid. Under the Ptolemaic régime the records show a great variety of crops, wheat and barley being probably the largest (see B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt, Tebtunis Papyri, i. 560; J. P. Mahaffy and J. G. Smyly, Petrie Papyri, iii. p. 205). Earlier the bōti, in Greek ὀλύρα (spelt? or durra?) was the main crop, and earlier again inferior varieties of wheat and barley took the lead, with bōti apparently in the second place. The bread was mainly made of bōti, the beer of barley. There were green crops such as clover, and lentils, peas, beans, radishes, onions, lettuces (as a vegetable and for oil), castor oil and flax were grown. The principal fruit trees were the date palm, useful also for its wood and fibre, the pomegranate, fig and fig-sycamore. The vine was much cultivated in early times, and the vintage is a subject frequently depicted. Later the wine of the Mareotic region near Alexandria was celebrated even amongst Roman epicures. Papyrus, which grew wild in the marshes, was also cultivated, at least in the later ages: its stems were used for boat-building, and according to the classical authors for rope-making, as well as for the famous writing material. About the 8th century A.D. paper drove the latter out of use, and the papyrus plant quickly became extinct. The Indian lotus described by Herodotus is found in deposits of the Roman age. Native lotuses, blue and white, were much used for decoration in garlands, &c., also the chrysanthemum and the corn-flower.

See chapters on plant remains by Newberry in W. M. F. Petrie, Hawara, Biahmu, and Arsinoe (London, 1889); Kahun, Gurob and Hawara (1890); V. Loret, La Flore pharaonique (2nd ed., Paris, 1892), and the authorities there cited.

Domestic Animals and Birds.—The farmer kept up a large stock of animals: in the houses there were pets and in the temples sacred creatures of many kinds. Goats browsed on the trees and herbage at the edge of the desert. Sheep of a peculiar breed with horizontal twisted horns and hairy coat are figured on the earliest monuments: a more valuable variety, woolly with curved horns, made its appearance in the Middle Kingdom and pushed out the older form: sheep were driven into the ploughed fields to break the clods and trample in the seed. The oxen were long-horned, short-horned and polled. They drew the plough, trampled the corn sheaves round the circular threshing floor, and were sometimes employed to drag heavy weights. The pig is rarely figured and was less and less tolerated as the Egyptians grew in ceremonial purity. A variety of wild animals caught in the chase were kept alive and fed for slaughter. Geese and ducks of different sorts were bred in countless numbers by the farmers, also pigeons and quails, and in the early ages cranes. The domestic fowl was unknown in Egypt before the Deltaic dynasties, but Diodorus in the first century B.C. describes how its eggs were hatched artificially, as they are at the present day. Bee-keeping, too, must have been a considerable industry, though dates furnished a supply of sweetening material.

The farm lands were generally held at a rent from an overlord, who might according to times and circumstances be the king, a feudal prince, or a temple-corporation. The stock also might be similarly held, or might belong to the farmers. The ordinary beast of burden, even in the desert, was the ass. The horse seems to have been introduced with the chariot during the Hyksos period. It is thought that the camel is shown in rude figures of the earliest age, but it is scarcely traceable again before the XXVIth Dynasty. In the Ptolemaic period it was used for desert transport and gradually became common. Strange to say, it is only very rarely that men are depicted riding on animals, and never before the New Kingdom.

The dog was of many varieties as early as the XIIth Dynasty, when the greyhound and turnspit and other well-marked forms are seen. The cat was sometimes trained by the sportsman to catch birds. Monkeys were commonly kept as pets. The sacred beasts in the various temples, tame as far as possible, were of almost every conceivable variety, from the vulture to the swallow or the goose, from the lion to the shrew-mouse, from the hippopotamus to the sheep and the monkey, from the crocodile to the tortoise and the cobra, from the carp to the eel; the scorpion and the scarab beetle were perhaps the strangest in this strange company of deities.

For agriculture see J. J. Tylor and F. Ll. Griffith, The Tomb of Paheri at El Kab, in the XIth Memoir of the Egypt Exploration Fund. Together with hunting and fishing it is illustrated in many of the Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of the same society. See also Lortet and M. C. Gaillard, La Faune momifiée de l’ancienne Égypte (Lyons, 1905).

Law.—No code of Egyptian laws has come down to us. Diodorus names a series of Egyptian kings who were law-givers, ending with Amasis (Ahmosi II.) and Darius. Frequent reference is made in inscriptions to customs and laws which were traditional, and perhaps had been codified in the sacred books. From time to time regulations on special points were issued by royal decree: a fragment of such a decree, directed by Horemheb of the XVIIIth Dynasty against oppression of the peasantry by officials and prescribing penalties, is preserved on a stela in the temple of Karnak, and enactments of Ptolemy Philadelphus and Euergetes II. are known from papyri. In the Ptolemaic age matters arising out of native contracts were decided according to native law by λαοκριταί, while travelling courts of χρηματισταί representing the king settled litigation on Greek contracts and most other disputes. Affairs were decided in accordance with the code of the country, τῆς χώρας νόμοι, the Greek code, πολιτικοὶ νόμοι, modelled, it would seem, on Athenian law or royal decrees, προστάγματα. “Native” law was still quoted in Roman times, but the significance of the expression remains to be ascertained. In ancient Egypt petitions were sent to the king or the great feudal landowners in whose territory the petitioner or his adversary dwelt or the injury was committed: courts were composed of royal or feudal officials, or in the New Kingdom of officials or responsible citizens. The right of appeal to the king probably existed at all times. The statement of the case and the evidence were frequently ordered to be put in writing. The evidence was supported by oath: in criminal cases, such as the harem conspiracy against Rameses III., torture of the accused was resorted to to extract evidence, the bastinado being applied on the hands and the feet. Penalties in the New Kingdom were death (by starvation or self-inflicted), fines, beating with a certain number of blows so as to open a specified number of wounds on as many different parts of the body (e.g. five wounds, i.e. on hands, feet and back?), also cutting off the nose with banishment to Nubia or the Syrian frontier. In the times of the Old Kingdom decapitation was in use, and a decree exists of the Middle Kingdom degrading a nomarch of Coptos and his family for ever from his office and from the priesthood on account of services to a rival pretender.

As to legal instruments: contracts agreed to in public or before witnesses and written on papyrus are found as early as the Middle Kingdom and perhaps belong to all historic times, but are very scarce until the XXVth Dynasty. Two wills exist on papyrus of the XIIth Dynasty, but they are isolated, and such are not again found among native documents, though they occur in Greek in the Ptolemaic age. The virtual will of a high priest of Ammon under the XXIInd Dynasty is put in the form of a decree of the god himself.

From the time of the XXVth Dynasty there is a great increase in written documents of a legal character, sales, loans, &c., apparently due to a change in law and custom; but after the reign of Darius I. there is again almost a complete cessation until the reign of Alexander, probably only because of the disturbed condition of the country. Under Ptolemy Philadelphus Greek documents begin to be numerous: under Euergetes II. (Physcon) demotic contracts are particularly abundant, but they cease entirely after the first century of Roman rule.

Marriage contracts are not found earlier than the XXVIth Dynasty. Women had full powers of inheritance (though not of dealing with their property), and succession through the mother was of importance. In the royal line there are almost certain instances of the marriage of a brother with an heiress-sister in Pharaonic times: this was perhaps helped by the analogy of Osiris and Isis: in the Ptolemaic dynasty it was an established custom, and one of the stories of Khamois, written in the Ptolemaic age, assumes its frequency at a very remote date. It would be no surprise to find examples of the practice in other ranks also at an early period, as it certainly was prevalent in the Hellenistic age, but as yet it is very difficult to prove its occurrence. The native contracts with the wife gave to her child all the husband’s property, and divorce or separation was provided for, entailing forfeiture of the dowry. The “native law” of Roman times allowed a man to take his daughter away from her husband if the last quarrelled with him.

Slavery is traceable from an early date. Private ownership of slaves, captured in war and given by the king to their captor or otherwise, is certainly seen at the beginning of the XVIIIth Dynasty. Sales of slaves occur in the XXVth Dynasty, and contracts of servitude are found in the XXVIth Dynasty and in the reign of Darius, appearing as if the consent of the slave was then required. Presumably at this late period there were eunuchs in Egypt, though adequate evidence of their existence there is not yet forthcoming. They must have originated among a more cruel people. That circumcision (though perhaps not till puberty) was regularly practised is proved by the mummies (agreeing with the testimony of Herodotus and the indications of the early tomb sculptures) until an edict of Hadrian forbade it: after that, only priests were circumcised.

See A. H. Gardiner, The Inscription of Mes (from Sethe’s Untersuchungen zur Geschichte und Altertumskunde Ägyptens, iv.); J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records, Egypt, passim, esp. i. § 190, 535 et seqq., 773, ii. 54, 671, iii. 45, 367, iv. 416, 499, 795; F. Ll. Griffith, Catalogue of the John Rylands Demotic Papyri; B. P. Grenfell and J. P. Mahaffy, Revenue Laws of Philadelphus (Oxford, 1896); B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt, Tebtunis Papyri, part i. (London, 1902); Bouché-Leclercq, Histoire des Lagides, tome iv. (Paris, 1907).

Science.—The Egyptians sought little after knowledge for its own sake: they might indulge in religious speculation, but their science was no more than the knowledge of practical methods. Undoubtedly the Egyptians acquired great skill in the application of simple means to the fulfilment of the most difficult tasks. But the books that have come down to us prove how greatly their written theoretical knowledge fell short of their practical accomplishment. The explanation of the fact may partly be that the mechanical and other discoveries of the most ingenious minds among them, when not in constant requisition by later generations, were misunderstood or forgotten, and even in other cases were preserved only as rules of thumb by the craftsmen and experts, who would jealously hide them as secrets of trade. Men of genius were not wanting in the long history of Egypt; two doctors, Imhōtp (Imuthes), the architect of Zoser, in the IIIrd Dynasty, and Amenōphis (Amenhotp), son of Hap, the wise scribe under Amenōphis III. in the XVIIIth, eventually received the honours of deification; and Hardadf under Cheops of the IVth Dynasty was little behind these two in the estimation of posterity. Such men, who, capable in every field, designed the Great Pyramids and bestowed the highest monumental fame on their masters, must surely have had an insight into scientific principles that would hardly be credited to the Egyptians from the written documents alone.

Mathematics.—The Egyptian notation for whole numbers was decimal, each power of 10 up to 100,000 being represented by a different figure, on much the same principle as the Roman numerals. Fractions except 2/3 were all primary, i.e. with the numerator unity: in order to express such an idea as 9/13 the Egyptians were obliged to reduce it to a series of primary fractions through double fractions 2/13 + 2/13 + 2/13 + 2/13 + 1/13 = 4(1/8 + 1/52 + 1/104) + 1/13 = 1/2 + 2/13 + 1/26 = 1/2 + 1/8 + 1/26 + 1/52 + 1/104; this operation was performed in the head, only the result being written down, and to facilitate it tables were drawn up of the division of 2 by odd numbers. With integers, besides adding and subtracting, it was easy to double and to multiply by 10: multiplying and dividing by 5 and finding the 11/2 value were also among the fundamental instruments of calculation, and all multiplication proceeded by repetitions of these processes with addition, e.g. 9 × 7 = (9 × 2 × 2) + (9 × 2) + 9. Division was accomplished by multiplying the divisor until the dividend was reached; the answer being the number of times the divisor was so multiplied. Weights and measures proceeded generally on either a decimal or a doubling system or a combination of the two. Apart from a few calculations and accounts, practically all the materials for our knowledge of Egyptian mathematics before the Hellenistic period date from the Middle Kingdom.

The principal text is the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus in the British Museum, written under a Hyksos king c. 1600 B.C.; unfortunately it is full of gross errors. Its contents fall roughly into the following scheme, but the main headings are not shown in the original:—

I. Arithmetic.—A. Tables and rule to facilitate the employment of fractions.

(a) Table of the divisions of 2 by odd numbers from 3 to 99 (e.g. 2 ÷ 11 = 1/6 + 1/66), see above.
(b) Conversions of compound fractions (e.g. 2/3 × 1/3 = 1/6 + 1/18), with rule for finding 2/3 of a fraction.

B. The “bread” calculation—a division by 10 of the units 1 to 9.

C. “Completing” calculations.

(a) Adding multiples of a fraction to produce a more convenient fraction (perhaps connected with the use of palms and cubits in decoration in a proportion based on the number 8).
(b) Finding the difference between a given fraction and a given whole number.

D. Ahe[1] or “mass”-problems (of the form x + x/n = a, to find the ahe x).

E. Tooun-problems (tooun, “rising,” seems to be the difference between the shares of two sets of persons dividing an amount between them on a lower and a higher scale).

II. Geometry.—A. Measurement of volume (amounts of grain in cylindrical and rectangular spaces of different dimensions and vice versa).

B. Measurement of area (areas of square, circular, triangular, &c., fields).

C. Proportions of pyramids and other monuments with sloping sides.

III. Miscellaneous problems (and tables) such as are met with in bread-making, beer-making, food of live-stock, &c. &c.

The method of estimating the area of irregular fields and the cubic contents of granaries, &c., is very faulty. It would be interesting to find material of later date, such as Pythagoras is reported to have studied.

See A. Eisenlohr, Ein mathematisches Handbuch der alten Ägypter (Leipzig, 1877); F. Ll. Griffith, “The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus” in Proceedings of the Soc. of Biblical Archaeology, Nov. 1891, March, May and June 1894.

Astronomy.—The brilliant skies of day and night in Egypt favoured the development of astronomy. A papyrus of the Roman period in the British Museum attributes the invention of horoscopes to the Egyptians, but no early instance is known. Professor Petrie has indeed suggested, chiefly on chronological grounds, that a table of stars on the ceiling of the Ramesseum temple and another in the tomb of Rameses VI. (repeated in that of Rameses IX. without alteration) were horoscopes of Rameses II. and VI.; but Mahler’s interpretation of the tables on which this would rest appears to be false. Astronomy played a considerable part in religious matters for fixing the dates of festivals and determining the hours of the night. The titles of several temple books are preserved recording the movements and phases of the sun, moon and stars. The rising of Sothis (Sirius) at the beginning of the inundation was a particularly important point to fix in the yearly calendar (see below, § “Chronology”). The primitive clock[2] of the temple time-keeper (horoscopus), consisting of a ὡρολόγιον καἱ φοίνικα (Clemens Alex. Strom., vi. 4. 35), has been identified with two inscribed objects in the Berlin Museum; these are a palm branch with a sight-slit in the broader end, and a short handle from which a plummet line was hung. The former was held close to the eye, the latter in the other hand, perhaps at arm’s length. From the above-mentioned tables of culmination in the tombs of Rameses VI. and IX. it seems that for fixing the hours of the night a man seated on the ground faced the horoscopus in such a position that the line of observation of the Pole-star passed over the middle of his head. On the different days of the year each hour was determined by a fixed star culminating or nearly culminating in it, and the position of these stars at the time is given in the tables as “in the centre,” “on the left eye,” “on the right shoulder,” &c. According to the texts, in founding or rebuilding temples the north axis was determined by the same apparatus, and we may conclude that it was the usual one for astronomical observations. It is conceivable that in ingenious and careful hands it might give results of a high degree of accuracy.

See L. Borchardt, “Ein altägyptisches astronomisches Instrument” in Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache, xxxvii. (1899), p. 10; Ed. Meyer, Ägyptische Chronologie, p. 36. Besides the sun and moon, five planets, thirty-six dekans, and constellations to which animal and other forms are given, appear in the early astronomical texts and paintings. The zodiacal signs were not introduced till the Ptolemaic period. See H. Brugsch, Die Ägyptologie (Leipzig, 1891), pp. 315 et seqq., for a full account of all these.

Medicine.—Except, that splints are sometimes found on the limbs of bodies of all periods, at present nothing is known, from texts or otherwise, of the existence of Egyptian surgery or dentistry. For historical pathology the examination of mummies and skeletons is yielding good results. There is little sign of the existence of gout or of syphilitic diseases until late times (see Mummy). A number of papyri have been discovered containing medical prescriptions. The earliest are of the XIIth Dynasty from Kahūn, one being veterinary, the other gynaecological. The finest non-religious papyrus known, the Ebers Papyrus, is a vast collection of receipts. One section, giving us some of “the mysteries of the physician,” shows how lamentably crude were his notions of the constitution of the body. It teaches little more than that the pulse is felt in every part of the body, that there are vessels leading from the heart to the eyes, ears, nose and all the other members, and that “the breath entering the nose goes to the heart and the lungs.” The prescriptions are for a great variety of ailments and afflictions—diseases of the eye and the stomach, sores and broken bones, to make the hair grow, to keep away snakes, fleas, &c. Purgatives and diuretics are particularly numerous, and the medicines take the form of pillules, draughts, liniments, fumigations, &c. The prescriptions are often fanciful and may thus bear some absurd relation to the disease to be cured, but generally they would be to some extent effective. Their action was assisted by spells, for general use in the preparation or application, or for special diseases. In most cases several ingredients are prescribed together: when the amounts are indicated it is by measure not by weight, and evidently no very potent drugs were employed, for the smallest measure specified is equal to about half of a cubic inch. Little has yet been accomplished in identifying the diseases and the substances named in the medical papyri.

See G. A. Reisner, The Hearst Medical Papyrus (Leipzig, 1905), (XVIIIth Dynasty), and for a great magical text of the Roman period (3rd century A.D.) with some prescriptions, F. Ll. Griffith and H. Thompson, The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden (London, 1904).

Literature.—The vast mass of writing which has come down to us from the ancient Egyptians comprises documents of almost every conceivable kind, business documents and correspondence, legal documents, memorial inscriptions, historical, scientific, didactic, magical and religious literature; also tales and lyrics and other compositions in poetical language. Most of these classes are dealt with in this article under special headings. In addition there should be mentioned the abundant explanatory inscriptions attached to wall-scenes as a secondary element in those compositions. As early as the Middle Kingdom, papyri are found containing classified lists of words, titles, names of cities, &c., and of nomes with their capitals, festivals, deities and sacred things, calendars, &c.

To a great extent the standard works in all classes date from an early age, not later than the Middle Kingdom, and subsequent works of religion and learning like the later additions were largely written in the same style. Several books of proverbs or “instructions” were put in circulation during the Middle Kingdom. Kagemni and Ptahhotp of the Old Kingdom were nominally or really the instructors in manners: King Amenemhē I. laid down the principles of conduct in government for his son Senwosri I., preaching on the text of beneficence rewarded by treachery; Kheti points out in detail to his schoolboy son Pepi the advantages enjoyed by scribes and the miseries of all other careers. Some of these books are known only in copies of the New Kingdom. The instructions of Ani to his son Khenshotp are of later date. In demotic the most notable of such works is a papyrus of the first century A.D. at Leiden.

A number of Egyptian tales are known, dating from the Middle Kingdom and later. Some are so sober and realistic as to make it doubtful whether they are not true biographies and narratives of actual events. Such are the story of Sinūhi, a fugitive to Syria in the reign of Sesostris [Senwosri] I., and perhaps the narrative of Unamun of his expedition in quest of cedar wood for the bark of the Theban Ammon in the XXIst Dynasty. Others are highly imaginative or with miraculous incidents, like the story of the Predestined Prince and the story of the Two Brothers, which begins with a pleasing picture of the industrious farmer, and, in demotic of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, two stories of the learned Sethon Khamois, son of Rameses II. and high priest of Ptah, with his rather tragical experiences at the hands of magicians. The stories of the Middle Kingdom were in choice diction, large portions of them being rhetorical or poetical compositions attributed to the principal characters. The story of Sinūhi is of this description and was much read during the New Kingdom. Another, of the Eloquent Peasant whose ass had been stolen, was only a framework to the rhetoric of endless petitions. The tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor in the Red Sea was a piece of simpler writing, not unpicturesque, of the marvellous type of a Sindbad story. If all these are deficient in literary merit, they are deeply interesting as revelations of primitive mind and manners. Of New Kingdom tales, the story of the Two Brothers is frankly in the simplest speech of everyday life, while others are more stilted. The demotic stories of Khamois are simple, but the “Rape of Inarōs’ Cuirass” (at Vienna) is told in a stiff and high-flown style.

In general it may be said of Egyptian literary compositions that apart from their interest as anthropological documents they possess no merit which would entitle them to survive. They are more or less touched by artificiality, but so far as we are able to appreciate them at present they very seldom attain to any degree of literary beauty. Most of the compositions in the literary language, whether old or archaistic, are in a stilted style and often with parallelisms of phrase like those of Hebrew poetry. Simple prose narrative is here quite exceptional. Some few hymns contain stanzas of ten lines, each line with a break in the middle. There is no sign of rhyming in Egyptian poetry, and the rhythm is not yet recognizable owing to our ignorance of the ancient vocalization. In old Egyptian tales the narrative portions are frequently in prose; New Egyptian and demotic contain as a rule little else. Hymns exist in both of these later forms of the language, and a few love songs in Late Egyptian.

See W. M. F. Petrie, Egyptian Tales (2 vols., London, 1895); G. Maspero, Les Contes populaires de l’Égypte ancienne (3rd edition, Paris, 1906); W. Max Müller, Die Liebespoesie der alten Ägypter (Leipzig, 1899). (F. Ll. G.)

C. Religion.—1. Introductory.—Copious as are the sources of information from which our knowledge of the Egyptian religion is drawn, there is nevertheless no aspect of the ancient civilization of Egypt that we really so little understand. While the youth of Egyptological research is in part responsible for this, the reason lies still more in the nature of the religion itself and the character of the testimony bearing upon it. For a true appreciation of the chaotic polytheism that reveals itself even in the earliest texts it would be necessary to be able to trace its development, stage by stage, out of a number of naive primitive cults; but the period of growth lies behind recorded history, and we are here reduced to hypotheses and a posteriori reconstructions. The same criticism applies, no doubt, to other religions, like those of Greece and Rome. In Egypt, however, the difficulty is much aggravated by the poor quality of the evidence. The religious books are textually very corrupt, one-sided in their subject-matter, and distributed over a period of more than two thousand years. The greatest defect of all is their relative silence with regard to the myths. For the story of Isis and Osiris we have indeed the late treatise ascribed to Plutarch, and a few fragments of other myths may be culled from earlier native sources. But in general the tales that passed current about the gods are referred to only in mysterious and recondite allusions; as Herodotus for his own times explicitly testifies, a reticence in such matters seems to have been encouraged by the priests. Thus with regard to Egyptian theology we are very imperfectly informed, and the account that is here given of it must be looked upon as merely provisional. The actual practices of the cult, both funerary and divine, are better known, and we are tolerably familiar with the doctrines as to the future state of the dead. There is good material, too, for the study of Egyptian magic, though this branch has been somewhat neglected hitherto.

2. Main Sources.—(a) The Pyramid texts, a vast collection of incantations inscribed on the inner walls of five royal tombs of the Vth and VIth Dynasties at Sakkāra, discovered and first published by Maspero. Much of these texts is of extreme antiquity; one incantation at least has been proved to belong to an age anterior to the unification of the Northern and Southern kingdoms. Later copies also exist, but possess little independent critical value. The subject-matter is funerary, i.e. it deals with the fate of the dead king in the next life. Some chapters describe the manner in which he passes from earth to heaven and becomes a star in the firmament, others deal with the food and drink necessary for his continued existence after death, and others again with the royal prerogatives which he hopes still to enjoy; many are directed against the bites of snakes and stings of scorpions. It is possible that these incantations were recited as part of the funerary ritual, but there is no doubt that their mere presence in the tombs was supposed to be magically effective for the welfare of the dead. Originally these texts had an application to the king alone, but before the beginning of the XIIth Dynasty private individuals had begun to employ them on their own behalf. They seem to be relatively free from textual corruption, but the vocabulary still occasions much difficulty to the translator.

(b) The Book of the Dead is the somewhat inappropriate name applied to a large similar collection of texts of various dates, certain chapters of which show a tendency to become welded together into a book of fixed content and uniform order. A number of chapters contained in the later recensions are already found on the sarcophagi of the Middle Kingdom, together with a host of funereal texts not usually reckoned as belonging to the Book of the Dead; these have been published by Lepsius and Lacau. The above-mentioned nucleus, combined with other chapters of more recent origin, is found in the papyri of the XVIIIth-XXth Dynasties, and forms the so-called Theban recension, which has been edited by Naville in an important work. Here already more or less rigid groups of chapters may be noted, but individual manuscripts differ greatly in what they include and exclude. In the Saite period a sort of standard edition was drawn up, consisting of 165 chapters in a fixed order and with a common title “the book of going forth in the day”; this recension was published by Lepsius in 1842 from a Turin papyrus. Like the Pyramid texts, the Book of the Dead served a funerary purpose, but its contents are far more heterogeneous; besides chapters enabling the dead man to assume what shape he will, or to issue triumphant from the last judgment, there are lists of gates to be passed and demons to be encountered in the nether world, formulae such as are inscribed on sepulchral figures and amulets, and even hymns to the sun-god. These texts are for the most part excessively corrupt, and despite the translations of Pierret, Renouf and Budge, much labour must yet be expended upon them before they can rank as a first-rate source.

(c) The texts of the Tombs of the Kings at Thebes (XVIIIth-XXth Dyn.) consist of a series of theological books compiled at an uncertain date; they have been edited by Naville and Lefébure. The chief of these, extant in a longer and a shorter version, is called The book of that which is in the Nether World (familiarly known as the Am Duat) and deals with the journey of the sun during the twelve hours of the night. The Book of Gates treats of the same topic from a more theological standpoint. The Litanies of the Sun contain the acclamations with which the sun-god Re was greeted, when at eventide his bark reached the entrance of the nether world. Another treatise relates the destruction of mankind, and the circumstances that led to the creation of the heavens in the form of a cow.

(d) Among the later religious books one or two deserve a special mention, such as The Overthrowing of Apophis, the serpent enemy of the sun-god; The Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys over their murdered brother Osiris; The Book of Breathings, a favourite book among the later Theban priests. Several of these books were used in the ritual of feast days, but all have received a secondary funerary employment, and are therefore found buried with the dead in their tombs.

(e) The Ritual texts have survived only in copies not earlier than the New Kingdom. The temple ritual employed in the daily cult is illustrated by the scenes depicted on the inner walls of the great temples: the formulae recited during the performance of the ceremonies are recorded at length in the temple of Seti I. (XIXth Dyn.) at Abydos, as well as in some later papyri in Berlin. The whole material has been collected and studied by Moret. The funerary ritual is known from texts in the Theban tombs (XVIIIth-XXth Dyn.) and papyri and sarcophagi of later date; older versions are contained in the Pyramid texts and The Book of the Dead. Schiaparelli has done much towards gathering together this scattered material. The ritual observed during the process of embalmment is preserved in late papyri in Paris and Cairo published by Maspero.

(f) The magical documents have been comparatively little studied, in spite of their great interest. They deal for the most part with the hearing of diseases, the bites of snakes and scorpions, &c., but incidentally cast many sidelights on the mythology and superstitious beliefs. The best-known of these books is the Papyrus Harris published by F. J. Chabas, but other papyri of as great or greater importance are to be found in the Leiden, Turin and other collections. A curious book published by A. Erman contains spells to be used by mothers for the protection of their children. A papyrus in London contains a calendar of lucky and unlucky days. A late class of stelae, of which the best specimen has been published by Golenischeff, consists of spells of various kinds originally intended for the use of the living, but later employed for funerary purposes.

(g) Under the heading Miscellaneous we must mention a number of sources of great value: the grave-stones, or stelae, especially those from Abydos, which throw much light on funerary beliefs; the great Papyrus Harris, the longest of all papyri, which enumerates the gifts of Rameses III. (XXth Dyn.) to the various temples of Egypt; the hymns to the gods preserved in Cairo and Leiden papyri; and the inscriptions of the Ptolemaic temples (Dendera, Edfu, &c.), which teem with good religious material. Nor can any attempt here be made to summarize the remaining native Egyptian sources, literary and archaeological, that deserve notice.

(h) Among the classical writers, Plutarch in his treatise Concerning Isis and Osiris is the most important. Diodorus also is useful. Herodotus, owing to his religious awe and dread of divulging sacred mysteries, is only a second-rate source.

3. The Gods.—The end of the pre-dynastic period, in which we dimly descry a number of independent tribes in constant warfare with one another, was marked by the rise of a united Egyptian state with a single Pharaonic ruler at its head. The era of peace thus inaugurated brought with it a rapid progress in all branches of civilization; and there soon emerged not only a national art and a condition of material prosperity shared by the entire land in common, but also a state religion, which gathered up the ancient tribal cults and floating cosmical conceptions, and combining them as best it could, imposed them on the people as a whole. By the time that the Pyramid texts were put into writing, doubtless long before the Vth Dynasty, this religion had assumed a stereotyped appearance that clung to it for ever afterwards. But the multitude of the deities and the variety of the myths that it strove to incorporate prevented the development of a uniform theological system, and the heterogeneous origin of the religion remained irretrievably stamped upon its face. Written records were few at the time when the pantheon was built up, so that the process of construction cannot be followed historically from stage to stage; but it is possible by arguing backwards from the later facts to discern the main tendencies at work, and the principal elementary cults that served as the materials.

The gods of the pre-dynastic period may be divided into two chief groups, the tribal or local divinities and the cosmic or explanatory deities. At the beginning each tribe had its own particular god, who in essence was nothing Classification of pre-dynastic gods. but the articulate expression of the inner cohesion and of the outward independence of the tribe itself, but who outwardly manifested himself in the form of some animal or took up his abode in some fetish of wood or stone. In times of peace this visible emblem of the god’s presence was housed in a rude shrine, but in war-time it was taken thence and carried into the battlefield on a standard. We find such divine standards


often depicted on the earliest monuments, and among the symbols placed upon them may be detected the images of many deities destined to play an important part in the later national pantheon, such as

the falcon Horus 
, the wolf Wepwawet (Ophois) 
the goddess Neith  EB1911 Egypt - Neith hieroglyph.jpg , symbolized by a shield transfixed with arrows, and the god Min 

the nature of whose fetish is obscure. In course of time the tribes became localized in particular districts, under the influence of a growing central authority, and their gods then passed from tribal into local deities. Hence it came about that the provincial districts or nomes, as they were called, often derived their names from the gods of tribes that settled in them, these names being hieroglyphically written with the sign for “district” surmounted by standards of the type above described, e.g.

, “the nome of the dog Anubis,”

the 17th or Cynopolite nome of Upper Egypt. In this way a large number of deities came to enjoy special reverence in restricted territories, e.g.

the ram 
 Khnum in Elephantine,
the jerboa or okapi (?) 
 Seth in Ombos,
the ibis 
 Thoth in Hermopolis Magna,

and of the gods named above, Horus in Hieraconpolis, Wepwawet in Assiut, Neith in Sais, and Min in Coptos. As towns and villages gradually sprang up, they too adopted as their patron some one or other of the original tribal gods, so that these came to have different seats of worship all over Egypt. For this reason it is often hard to tell where the primitive cult-centre of a particular deity is to be sought; thus Horus seems equally at home both at Buto in the Delta and at Hieraconpolis in Upper Egypt, and the earliest worship of Seth appears to have been claimed no less by Tanis in the north than by Ombos in the south. The effect of the localization of gods in many different places was to give them a double aspect; so, for instance, Khnum the god of Elephantine could in one minute be regarded as identical with Khnum the god of Esna, while in the next minute and without any conscious sense of contradiction the two might be looked upon as entirely separate beings. In order that there might be no ambiguity as to what divinity was meant, it became usual, in speaking of any local deity, to specify the place of which he was “lord.” The tendency to create new forms of a god by instituting his worship in new local centres persisted throughout the whole course of Egyptian history, unhindered by the opposite tendency which made national out of local gods. Some of the cosmic gods, like the sun-god Re of Heliopolis and of Hermonthis, early acquired a local in addition to their cosmic aspect.

In the innermost principle of their existence, as patrons and protectors of restricted communities, the primitive tribal gods did not differ from one another. But externally they were distinguishable by the various shapes that their worshippers ascribed to them; and there can be little doubt that even in the beginning each had his own special attributes and particular mythical traits. These, however, may have borne little resemblance to the later conceptions of the same gods with which we are made familiar by the Pyramid texts. Thus we have no means of ascertaining what the earliest people of Sais thought about their goddess Neith, though her fetish would seem to point to her warlike nature. Nor are we much wiser in respect of those primitive tribal gods that are represented on the oldest monuments in animal form. For though we may be sure that the shape of an animal was that in which these gods were literally visible to their worshippers, yet it is impossible to tell whether some one living animal was chosen to be the earthly tenement of the deity, or whether he revealed himself in every individual of a species, or whether merely the cult-image was roughly hewn into the shape of an animal. Not too much weight must be attached to later evidence on this point; for the New Kingdom and still more the Graeco-Roman period witnessed a strange recrudescence of supposed primitive cults, to which they gave a form that may or may not have been historically exact. In some places whole classes of animals came to be deemed sacred. Thus at Bubastis, where the cat-headed Bast (Ubasti) was worshipped, vast cemeteries of mummified cats have been found; and elsewhere similar funerary cults were accorded to crocodiles, lizards, ibises and many other animals. In Elephantine Khnum was supposed to become incarnate in a ram, at whose death the divinity left him and took up his abode in another. So too the bull of Apis (a black animal with white spots) was during its lifetime regarded as a reincarnation of Ptah, the local god of Memphis, and similarly the Mnevis and Bacis bulls were accounted to be “the living souls” of Etom of Heliopolis and of Re of Hermonthis respectively; these latter cults are certainly secondary, for Ptah himself was never, either early or late, depicted otherwise than in human form, as a mummy or as a dwarf; and Etom and Re are but different names of the sun-god. The form of a snake, attributed to many local goddesses, especially in later times (e.g. Meresger of the Theban necropolis), was borrowed from the very ancient deity Outo (Buto); the semblance of a snake became so characteristic of female divinities that even the word “goddess” was written with the hieroglyph of a snake. Other animal shapes particularly affected by goddesses were those of a lioness (Sakhmi, Pakhe) or a cow (Hathor, Isis). The primitive animal gods are not to be confused with the animal forms ascribed to many cosmic deities; thus when the sun-god Re was pictured as a scarabaeus, or dung-beetle, rolling its ball of dung behind it, this was certainly mere poetical imagery. Or else a cosmic god might assume an animal shape through assimilation with some tribal god, as when Re was identified with Horus and therefore depicted as a falcon.

With the advance of civilization and the transformation of the tribal gods into national divinities, the beliefs held about them must have become less crude. At a very early date the anthropomorphizing tendency caused the animal deities to be represented with human bodies, though as a rule they retained their animal heads; so in the case of Seth as early as the IInd Dynasty. The other gods carry their primitive fetishes in their hands (like Neith, who is depicted holding arrows) or on their heads (so Nefertem [Iphthimis] with his lotus-flower). At the same time the gods began to acquire human personalities. In a few instances this may have come about by the emphasizing of a really primitive trait; as when the wolf Ophois, in consonance with the predatory nature of that animal, developed into a god of war. In other cases the transitional steps are shrouded in mystery; we do not know, for example, why the ibis Thoth subsequently became the patron of the fine arts, the inventor of writing, and the scribe of the gods. But the main factor in this evolutionary process was undoubtedly the formation of myths, which brought gods of independent origin into relation with one another, and thus imbued them with human passions and virtues. Here dim historic recollections often determined the features of the story, and in one famous legend that knits together a group of gods all seemingly local in origin we can still faintly trace how the tale arose, was added to, and finally crystallized in a coherent form.

Osiris was a wise and beneficent king, who reclaimed the Egyptians from savagery, gave them laws and taught them handicrafts. The prosperous reign of Osiris was brought to a premature close by the machinations of his wicked brother Seth, who with seventy-two fellow-conspirators invited him to a banquet, induced him to enter a cunningly-wrought coffin made exactly to his measure, then shut down the lid and cast the chest into the Nile. Isis, the faithful wife of Osiris, set forth in search of her dead husband’s body, and after long and adventure-fraught wanderings, succeeded in recovering it and bringing it back to Egypt. Then while she was absent visiting her son Horus in the city of Buto, Seth once more gained possession of the corpse, cut it into fourteen pieces, and scattered them all over Egypt. But Isis collected the fragments, and wherever one was found, buried it with due honour; or, according to a different account, she joined the limbs together by virtue of her magical powers, and the slain Osiris, thus resurrected, henceforth reigned as king of the dead in the nether world. When Horus grew up he set out to avenge his father’s murder, and after terrible struggles finally conquered and dispossessed his wicked uncle; or, as another version relates, the combatants were separated by Thoth, and Egypt divided between them, the northern part falling to Horus and the southern to Seth. Such is the story as told by Plutarch, with certain additions and modifications from older native sources. There existed, however, a very ancient tradition according to which Horus and Seth were hostile brothers, not nephew and uncle; and many considerations may be urged in support of the thesis which regards their struggles as reminiscences of wars between two prominent tribes or confederations of tribes, one of which worshipped the falcon Horus while the other had the okapi (?) Seth as its patron and champion. The Horus-tribes were the victors, and it was from them that the dynastic line sprang; hence the Pharaoh always bore the name of Horus, and represented in his own hallowed person the ancient tribal deity. Of Osiris we can only state that he was originally the local god of Busiris, whatever further characteristics he primitively possessed being quite obscure. Isis was perhaps the local goddess of Buto, a town not far distant from Busiris; this geographical proximity would suffice to explain her connexion with Osiris in the tale. A legend now arose, we know not how or why, which made Seth the brother and murderer of Osiris; and this led to a fusion of the Horus-Seth and the Seth-Isis-Osiris motifs. The relationships had now to be readjusted, and the most popular view recognized Horus as the son and avenger of Osiris. The more ancient account survived, however, in the myth that Osiris, Horus, Seth, Isis and Nephthys (a goddess who plays but a minor part in the Osiris cycle) were all children of the earth-god Keb and the sky-goddess Nut, born on the five consecutive days added on at the end of the year (the so-called epagomenal days). Later generations reconciled these contradictions by assuming the existence of two Horuses, one, the brother of Osiris, Seth and Isis, being named Haroeris, i.e. Horus the elder, while the other, the child of Isis and Osiris, was called Harpocrates, i.e. Horus the child.

The second main class of divinities that entered into the composition of the Egyptian pantheon was due to that innate and universal speculative bent which seeks, and never fails to find, an explanation of the facts of the external Cosmic deities. world. Behind the great natural phenomena that they perceived all around them, the Egyptians, like other primitive folk, postulated the existence of divine wills not dissimilar in kind to their own, though vastly superior in power. Chief among these cosmic deities was the sun-god Re, whose supremacy seemed predestined under the cloudless sky of Egypt. The oldest conceptions represented Re as sailing across the heavens in a ship called “Manzet,” “the bark of the dawn”; at sunset he stepped aboard another vessel named “Mesenktet,” “the bark of the dusk,” which bore him back from west to east during the night. Later theories symbolized Re in many different ways. For some he was identical with Horus, and then he was falcon-headed and was called Hor-akhti, the Horus of the horizons. Others pictured him to themselves as a tiny infant in the early dawn, as full-grown at noon, and as an infirm old man in the evening. When the sky was imagined as a cow, he was a calf born anew every morning. The moon was a male deity, who likewise fared across the heavens in a boat; hence he was often named Chons, “the sailor.” The ibis-god Thoth was early identified with the moon. The stars and planets were likewise gods. Among them the bright star Sirius was held in special esteem; it was a goddess Sothis (Sopde), often identified by the Egyptians with Isis. The constellations that seemed unceasingly to speed across the sky were named “the never-resting ones,” and the circumpolar stars, which never sink beneath the horizon, were known as “the imperishables.” Concerning earth and sky there were many different opinions. Some thought that the sky was a goddess Nut, whom the god Show held aloof from her husband Keb the earth, on whose back the plants and trees grew. Others believed in a celestial ocean, personified under the name of Nun, over which the heavenly bodies sailed in boats. At a later date the sky was held to be a cow (Hathor) whose four feet stood firm upon the soil; or else a vast face, in which the right eye was the sun and the left eye the moon. Alongside these fanciful conceptions there existed a more sober view, according to which the earth was a long oval plain, and the sky an iron roof supported by the tops of mountains or by four pillars


at the cardinal points. Beneath the ground lay a dark and mysterious region, now conceived as an inverse heaven (Nenet), now as a vast series of caverns whose gates were guarded by demons. This nether world was known as the Duat (Dat, Têi), and through it passed the sun on his journey during the hours of night; here too, as many thought, dwelt the dead and their king Osiris. That great natural feature of Egypt, the Nile, was of course one of the gods; his name was Hapi, and as a sign of his fecundity he had long pendulous breasts like a woman. In contradistinction to the tribal gods, it rarely happened that the cosmic deities enjoyed a cult. But there are a few important exceptions: Re in Heliopolis (here identified with a local god Etom) and in Hermonthis; Hathor at Dendera and elsewhere. Certain of the tribal gods early became identified with cosmic divinities, and the latter thus became the objects of a cult; so, for instance, the Horus of Edfu was a sun-god, and Thoth in Hermopolis Magna was held to be the moon.

An extension of the principle that created the cosmic gods gave rise to a large number of minor deities and demons. Day and night, the year, the seasons, eternity, and many similar conceptions were each represented by a god Minor deities and demons. or goddess of their own, who nevertheless possessed but a shadowy and doubtful existence. Human attributes like Taste, Knowledge, Joy and so forth were likewise personified, no less than abstract ideas such as Fate, Destiny and others; rather more clearly defined than the rest was Maat, the goddess of Truth and Right, who was fabled to be the daughter of Re and may even have had a cult. Certain gods were purely functional, that is to say, they appeared at special times to perform some appointed task, at the completion of which they vanished. Such were Nepri, the god of the corn-harvest; Meskhonit, the goddess who attended every child-bed; Tait, the goddess of weaving. Numberless semi-divine beings had no other purpose than to fill out the myths, as, for instance, the chattering apes that greeted the sun-god Re as he rose above the eastern horizon, and the demons who opened the gates of the nether world at the approach of the setting sun.

We take this opportunity of mentioning sundry other divinities who were later introduced to swell the already overcrowded ranks of the pantheon. Contact with foreign lands brought with it several new deities, Baal, Anat and Foreign deities. Resheph from Syria, and the misshapen dwarf Bes from the south; earlier than these, the Astarte of Byblus, whom the Egyptians identified with Hathor. In Thebes Amenophis I. and his spouse Nefertari were worshipped as patron gods of the necropolis many centuries after their death. Two men of exceptional wisdom received divine honours, and had temples of their own in the Ptolemaic period; these were Imouthes, who had lived under Zoser of the IIIrd Dynasty, and Amenophis son of Hapu, a contemporary of the third king of the same name (XVIIIth Dyn.). The hill of Sheikh Abd-el-gurna at Thebes was looked upon as a particularly holy place, and was revered as a goddess. Almost anything that was regarded with awe, any object used in the divine ritual could at a given moment be envisaged as a deity. Thus the boat of Osiris (Neshemet) and those of the sun-god were goddesses; and various wands and sceptres belonging to certain gods were imagined as harbouring the divine being. Truly it might have been said in ancient Egypt: of the making of gods there is no end!

For such order as can be discerned in the mythological conceptions of the Egyptians the priesthood was largely responsible. At a very early date the theological school of Heliopolis undertook the task of systematizing the gods and the Theological combinations. myths, and it is mainly to them that is due the Egyptian religion as we find it in the Pyramid texts. Their influence is particularly conspicuous in the prominent place accorded to the sun-god Re, and in the creation-legend that made him the father of gods and men. First of all living things was Re; legend told how he arose as a naked babe from a lotus-flower that floated on the primeval ocean Nun. Others held the view that he crept from an egg that lay on a hill in the midst of a lake called Desdes; and a third, more barbarous, tale related his obscene act of self-procreation. Re became the father of the pair of gods Show and Tefnut (Tphenis), who emanated from his spittle. They again gave birth to Keb and Nut, from whom in their turn sprang Osiris and Seth, Isis and Nephthys. These nine gods were together known as the great Ennead or cycle of nine. A second series of nine deities, with Horus as its first member, was invented at the same time or not long afterwards, and was called the Lesser Ennead. In later times the theory of the Ennead became very popular and was adopted by most of the local priesthoods, who substituted their own favourite god for Re, sometimes retaining and sometimes changing the names of the other eight deities. Thus locally many different gods came to be viewed as the creators of the world. Only in two instances, however, did a local god ever obtain wide acceptance in the capacity of demiurge: Ptah of Memphis, who was famed as an artist and master-builder, and Khnum of Elephantine, who was said to have moulded mankind on the potter’s wheel.

Already in the Pyramid texts the importance of Osiris almost rivals that of Re. His worship does not seem to have been due to Heliopolitan influence, and may possibly have been propagated by active missionary effort. It is apparently through the funeral cult that Osiris so early took a firm hold on the imagination of the people; for at a very ancient date he was identified with every dead king, and it needed but a slight extension of this idea to make him into a king of the dead. In later times the moral aspect of his tale was doubtless the main cause of its continued popularity; Osiris was named Onnophris, “the good Being” par excellence, and Seth was contrasted with him as the author and the root of all evil. Still the Egyptians themselves seem to have been somewhat at a loss to account for the great veneration that they paid to Osiris. Successive theories interpreted him as the god of the earth, as the god of the Nile, as a god of vegetation, as a moon-god and as a sun-god; and nearly every one of these theories has been claimed to be the primitive truth by some scholar or another.

Nowhere is the conservatism of the Egyptians more clearly displayed than in the tenacity with which they clung to the old forms of the theology, such as we have essayed to describe. Neither the influx of new deities nor the diligence of the priestly authors and commentators availed to break down the cast-iron traditions with which the compilers of the Pyramid texts were already familiar. It is true that with the displacement of the capital town certain local deities attained a degree of power that, superficially regarded, seems to alter the entire perspective of the religion. Thus Ammon, originally the obscure local god of Thebes, was raised by the Theban monarchs of the XIIth and of the XVIIIth to XXIst Dynasties to a predominant position never equalled by any other divinity; and, by similar means, Suchos of the Fayum, Ubasti of Bubastis, and Neith of Sais, each enjoyed for a short space of time a consideration that no other cause would have secured to them. But precisely the example of Ammon proves the hopelessness of any attempt to change the time-honoured religious creed; his priests identified him with the sun-god Re, whose cult-centre was thus merely transferred a few hundred miles to the South. Nor could even the violent religious revolution of Akhenaton (Amenophis IV.), of which we shall later have occasion to speak, sweep away for ever beliefs that had persisted for so many generations.

But if the facts of the religion, broadly viewed, never underwent a change, the interpretation of those facts did so in no small degree. The religious books were for the most part written in archaic language, which was only imperfectly understood by the priests of later times; and hence great scope was given to them to exercise their ingenuity as commentators. By the time of the XVIIIth Dynasty some early chapters of the Book of the Dead had been provided with a triple commentary. Unfortunately the methods pursued were as little reasonable as those adopted by the medieval Jewish Rabbis; instead of the context being studied as a whole, with a view to the recovery of its literal sense, each single verse was considered separately, and explained as an allusion to some obscure myth or as embodying some mystical meaning. Thus so far from simplifying or really elucidating the religion, these priestly labours tended rather to confuse one legend with another and to efface the personality of individual gods. The ease with which one god could be identified with another is perhaps the most striking characteristic of later Egyptian theology. There are but few of the greater deities who were not at some time or another identified with the solar god Re. His fusion with Horus and Etom has already been noted; further we find an Ammon-Re, a Sobk-Re, a Khnum-Re; and Month, Onouris, Show and Osiris are all described as possessing the attributes of the sun. Ptah was early assimilated to the sepulchral gods Sokaris and Osiris. Pairs of deities whose personalities are often blended or interchanged are Hathor and Nut, Sakhmi and Pakhe, Seth and Apophis. So too in Abydos, his later home, Osiris was identified with Khante-Amentiu (Khentamenti, Khentamenthes), “the chief of those who are in the West,” a name that was given to a vaguely-conceived but widely-venerated divinity ruler of the dead. Many factors helped in the process of assimilation. The unity of the state was largely influential in bringing about the suppression of local differences of belief. The less important priesthoods were glad to enhance the reputation of the deity they served by identifying him with some more important god. And the mystical bent of the Egyptians found satisfaction in the multiplicity of forms that their gods could assume; among the favourite epithets which the hymns apply to divinities are such as “mysterious of shapes,” “multiple of faces.”

The goal towards which these tendencies verged was monotheism; and though this goal was only once, and then quite ephemerally, reached, still the monotheistic idea was at most periods, so to speak, in the air. Sometimes the qualities common to all the gods were abstracted, and the resultant notion Monotheistic tendency. spoken of as “the god.” At other times, and especially in the hymns addressed to some divinity, all other gods were momentarily forgotten, and he was eulogized as “the only one,” “the supreme,” and so forth. Or else several of the chief deities were consciously combined and regarded as different emanations or aspects of a Sole Being; thus a Ramesside hymn begins with the words “Three are all the gods, Ammon, Re and Ptah,” and then it is shown how these three gods, each in his own particular way, gave expression and effect to a single divine purpose.

For a brief period at the end of the XVIIIth Dynasty a real monotheism, as exclusive as that of Judaism or of Islam, was adopted as the state religion of Egypt. The young Pharaoh Amenophis IV. seems to have been fired by genuine fanatical enthusiasm, though political motives, Akhenaton. as well as doctrinal considerations, may have prompted him in the planning of his religious revolution (see also § History). The Theban god Ammon-Re was then supreme, and the ever-growing power of his priesthood may well have inflamed the jealousy of their Heliopolitan rivals. Amenophis began his reign in Thebes as an adherent of the traditional faith, but after a few years he abandoned that town and built a new capital for his god Aton 200 m. farther north, at a place now called El Amarna. The new deity was a personification of the sun’s disk. The name Re was suppressed, as too intimately associated with that of Ammon; and Ammon, together with all the other gods, was put to the ban. Amenophis even changed his own name, of which the name of Ammon formed an element, to Akhenaton, “the brilliancy of the Aton,” and the capital was called Khitaton, “The Horizon of the Aton.” The new dogmas were known as “the Teaching,” and their tenets, as revealed in the poems composed in honour of the Aton, breathe the purest and most exalted monotheistic spirit. The movement had, no doubt, met with serious opposition from the very start, and the reaction soon set in. The immediate successors of Akhenaton strove to follow in his footsteps, but the conservative nature of Egypt quickly asserted itself. Not sixty years after the accession of Akhenaton, his city was abandoned, its rulers branded as heretics, and the old religion restored in Thebes as completely as if the Aton had never existed.

Having thus failed to become rational, Egyptian theology took refuge in learning. The need for a more spiritual and intellectual interpretation of the pantheon still remained, and gave rise to a number of theological sciences. The names of the gods and the places of their worship were catalogued and classified, and manuals were devoted to the topography of mythological regions. Much ingenuity was expended on the development of a history of the gods, the groundwork of which had been laid in much earlier times. Re was not only the creator of the world, but he was also the first king of Egypt. He was followed on the throne by the other eight members of his Ennead, then by the lesser Ennead and by other gods, and finally by the so-called “worshippers of Horus.” The latter were not wholly mythical personages, though they were regarded as demigods (Manetho calls them “the dead,” νέκυες); they have been shown to be none other than the dim rulers of the predynastic age. The Pharaohs of the historic period were thus divine, not only by virtue of their connexion with Horus (see above), but also as descendants of Re; and the king of Egypt was called “the good god” during his lifetime, and “the great god” after his death. The later religious literature is much taken up with the mythical and semi-mythical dynasties of kings, and the priests compiled, with many newly-invented details, the chronicles of the wars they were supposed to have waged.

In a similar manner, the ethical and allegorical methods of interpretation came into much greater prominence towards the end of the New Kingdom. The Osirian legend, as we have already seen, was early accepted as symbolizing the conflict between good and evil. So too the victories of Re over the serpent named Apophis were more or less clearly understood as a simile of the antithetical nature of light and darkness. In one text at least as ancient as the XVIIIth Dynasty (the copy that we have dates Later developments. only from the Ethiopian period) an ingenious attempt is made to represent Ptah as the source of all life: from him, it is said, emanated Horus as “heart” or “mind” and Thoth as “tongue,” and through the conjoint action of these two, the mind conceiving the design and the tongue uttering the creative command, all gods and men and beasts obtained their being. Of this kind of speculation much more must have existed than has reached us. It is doubtless such explanations as these that the Greeks had in view when they praised the wisdom of the ancient Egyptians; and in the classical period similar semi-philosophical interpretations altogether supplanted, among the learned at least, the naive literal beliefs of earlier times. Plutarch in his treatise on Isis and Osiris well exemplifies this standpoint: for him every god and every rite is symbolic of some natural or moral truth.

The final stages of the Egyptian religion are marked by a renewed popularity of all its more barbarous elements. Despairing, as it would seem, of discovering the higher wisdom that the more philosophic of the priests supposed that religion to conceal, the simpler-minded sought to work out their own salvation by restoring the worship of the gods to its most primitive forms. Hence came the fanatical revival of animal-worship which led to feud and bloodshed between neighbouring towns—a feature of Egyptian religion that at once amused and scandalized contemporary Greek and Latin authors (Plut. De Iside, 72; Juv. xv. 33). Nevertheless Egyptian cults, and particularly those of Serapis and Isis, found welcome acceptance on European soil; and the shrines of Egyptian deities were established in all the great cities of the Roman Empire. Serapis was a god imported by the first Ptolemy from Sinope on the Black Sea, who soon lost his own identity by assimilation with Osiris-Apis, the bull revered in Memphis. Far down into the Roman age the worship of Serapis persisted and flourished, and it was only when the Serapeum of Alexandria was razed to the ground by order of Theodosius the Great (A.D. 391) that the death-blow of the old Egyptian religion was struck.

Notes are here added on some divinities who have received inadequate or no attention in the preceding pages. For information as to Ammon, Anubis, Apis, Bes, Bubastis, Buto, Isis and Thoth, reference must be made to the special articles on these gods.

Arsaphes, in Egyptian Harshafe, “he who is upon his lake,” the ram-headed god of Heracleopolis Magna, gained an ephemeral importance during the IXth Dynasty, which arose from his town. Outwardly, he resembles Khnum. Little is known about him, and he is seldom mentioned. The burial-place of his priests in later times was in 1904 discovered at Abusir el Meleq.

Chons, “he who travels by boat,” perhaps originally a mere epithet of the moon-god Ioh or Thoth, is chiefly familiar as the third member of the Theban triad. As such he is represented as a youthful god, wearing a skull-cap surmounted by the moon. His cult was revived and became popular in Ptolemaic times. A curious story about the sending of his statue to Mesopotamia to heal a daughter of the king of Bakhtan is related upon a stele that purports to date from the Ramesside period: it has been proved to be a pious fraud invented by the priests not earlier than the Greek period.

Hathor, whose name means “house of Horus,” was at all times a very important deity. She is depicted as a cow, or with a broad human countenance, the cow’s ears just showing from under a massive wig. Probably at first a goddess of the sky, she is early mentioned in connexion with Re. Later she was often identified with Isis, and her name was used to designate foreign goddesses like those of Puoni and Byblus. Unlike most cosmic deities, she was worshipped in many localities, chief among which was Dendera, where her magnificent temple, of Ptolemaic date, still stands. “The seven Hathors” is a name given to certain fairies, who appeared shortly after the birth of an infant, and predicted his future.

Khnum or Khnoum, a ram-headed god, whose principal place of worship was the island of Elephantine (there associated with Satis and Anukis), but also revered elsewhere, e.g. together with Nebtu in Esna. He enjoyed great repute as a creator, and was supposed to use the potter’s wheel for the purpose. In this capacity he is sometimes accompanied by the frog-headed goddess Heket.

Month, a hawk-headed god of the Thebaid: in Thebes itself his cult was superseded by that of Ammon, but it persisted in Hermonthis. He was often given the solar attributes, and was credited as a great warrior.

Min, the god of Coptos and Panopolis (Akhmim), seems to have been early looked upon as a deity of the harvest and crops. His cult dates from the earliest times. Represented as ithyphallic, with two tall plumes on his head, the right arm upraised and bearing a scourge. In old times he is identified with Horus: later Ammon was confused with him, and depicted in his image.

Nechbet (Nekhbi, Nekhebi), the vulture-goddess of El Kab, called Eileithyia by the Greeks. She gained an ascendancy as patroness of the south at the time when the two kingdoms were striving for the mastery. It is as such, in opposition to Buto the goddess of the north, that she is most often named on the monuments.

Neith, the very ancient and important goddess of Sais, the Greek Athene. On the earliest monuments she is represented by a shield transfixed by arrows. Later she wears the crown of Lower Egypt, and carries in her hands a bow and arrows, a sign of her warlike character. In the XXVIth Dynasty, when a line of Pharaohs sprang from Sais, she regained a prominent position, and was given many cosmogonic attributes, including the title of mother of Re.

Nephthys, the sister of Osiris and wife of Seth, daughter of Keb and Nut, plays a considerable rôle in the Osiris story. She sided with Isis and aided her to bring Osiris back to life. Isis and Nephthys are often mentioned together as protectresses of the dead.

Onouris, Egyptian En-hūri, “sky-bearer,” the god of Thinis. Later identified with Shu (Show), who holds heaven and earth apart.

Ptah, the Hephaestus of the Greeks, a demiurgic and creative god, special patron of hand-workers and artisans. Worshipped in Memphis, he perhaps owed his importance more to the political prominence of that town than to anything else. He was early identified with an ancient but obscure god Tenen, and further with the sepulchral deity Sokaris. He is represented either as a closely enshrouded figure whose protruding hands grasp a composite sceptre, the whole standing on a pedestal within a shrine; or else as a misshapen dwarf.

Sakhmi, a lion-headed goddess of war and strife, whose name signifies the mighty. She was worshipped at Latopolis (Esna), but also at a late date as a member of the Memphite triad, with Ptah as husband and Nefertem (Iphthimis) as son: often, too, confounded with Ubasti.

Seth (Egyptian Sēt, Stḫ or Stš), by the Greeks called Typhon, was depicted as an animal


that has been compared with the jerboa by some, and with the okapi by others, but which the Egyptians themselves occasionally conceived to be nothing but a badly drawn ass. In historic times his cult was celebrated at Tanis and Ombos. He regained a certain prestige as god of the Hyksos rulers, and two Pharaohs of the XIXth Dynasty derived their name Sethos (Seti) from him. But, generally speaking, he was abominated as a power of evil, and his figure was often obliterated on the monuments. He is named in similes as a great warrior, and as such and “son of Nut” he is identified with the Syrian Baal.

4. The Divine Cult.—In the midst of every town rose the temple of the local god, a stately building of stone, strongly contrasting with the mud and plaster houses in which even the wealthiest Egyptians dwelt. It was called the

“house of the god” 

and in it the deity was supposed to reside, attended by his


the priests. There was indeed a certain justification for this contention, even when a contrary theory assigned to the divinity a place in the sky, as in the case of the lunar divinity Thoth; for in the inmost sanctuary stood a statue of the god, which served as his representative for the purposes of the cult. Originally each temple was dedicated to one god only; but it early became usual to associate with him a mate of the opposite sex, besides a third deity who might be represented either as a second wife or as a child. As examples of such triads, as they are called, may be mentioned that of Thebes, consisting of Ammon, Mut and Chons, father, mother and child; and as typical of the other kind, where a god was accompanied by two goddesses, that of Elephantine, consisting of Khnum, Satis and Anukis. The needs of the god were much the same as those of mortals; no more than they could he dispense with food and drink, clothes for his apparel, ointment for his limbs, and music and dancing to rejoice his heart. The only difference was that the divine statue was half-consciously recognized as a lifeless thing that required carefully regulated rites and ceremonies to enable it to enjoy the good things offered to it. Early every morning the officiating priest proceeded to the holy of holies, after the preliminaries of purification had cleansed him from any miasma that might interfere with the efficacy of the rites. Then with the prescribed gestures, and reciting appropriate formulae all the while, he broke the seal upon the door of the shrine, loosed the bolts, and at last stood face to face with the god. There followed a series of prostrations and adorations, culminating in the offering of a small image of Maat, the goddess of Truth. This seems to have been the psychological moment of the entire service: hitherto the statue had been at best a god in posse; now the symbolical act placed him in possession of all his faculties, he was a god in truth, and could participate like any mortal in the food and luxuries that his servants put before him. The daily ceremony closed with ablutions, anointings and a bountiful feast of bread, geese, beer and oxen; having taken his fill of these, the god returned to his shrine until the next morning, when the ritual was renewed. The words that accompanied the manual gestures are, in the rituals that have come down to us, wholly dominated by the myth of Osiris: it is often hard to discern much connexion between the acts and the formulae recited, but the main thought is clearly that the priest represents Horus, the pious son of the dead divinity Osiris. That this conception is very old is proved by the fact that even in the Pyramid texts “the eye of Horus” is a synonym for all offerings: an ancient tale of which only shreds have reached us related how Seth had torn the eye of Horus from him, though not before he himself had suffered a still more serious mutilation; and by some means, we know not how, the restoration of the eye was instrumental in bringing about the vindication of Osiris. As to the manual rites of the daily cult, all that can here be said is that incense, purifications and anointings with various oils played a large part; the sacrifices consisted chiefly of slaughtered oxen and geese; burnt offerings were a very late innovation.

At an early date the rites practised in the various temples were conformed to a common pattern. This holds good not only for the daily ritual, but also for many festivals that were celebrated on the same day throughout the whole length of the land. Such were the calendrical feasts, called “the beginnings of the seasons,” and including, for example, the monthly and half-monthly festivals, that of the New Year and that of the rising of Sirius (Sothis). But there were also local feast days like that of Neith in Sais (Hdt. ii. 62) or that of Ammon in southern Opi (Luxor). These doubtless had a more individual character, and often celebrated some incident supposed to have occurred in the lifetime of the god. Sometimes, as in the case of the feast of Osiris in Abydos, a veritable drama would be enacted, in which the whole history of the god, his sufferings and final triumph were represented in mimic form. At other times the ceremonial was more mysterious and symbolical, as in the feast of the raising of the Ded-column


when a column of the kind was drawn by cords into an upright position. But the most common feature of these holy days was the procession of the god, when he was carried on the shoulders of the priests in his divine boat far beyond the precincts of his temple; sometimes, indeed, even to another town, where he paid a visit to the god of the place. These occasions were public holidays, and passed amid great rejoicings. The climax was reached when at a given moment the curtains of the shrine placed on the boat were withdrawn, and the god was revealed to the eyes of the awe-struck multitude. Music and dancing formed part of the festival rites.

As with the rites and ceremonies, so also the temples were early modelled upon a common type. Lofty enclosure walls, adorned with scenes from the victorious campaigns of the Pharaoh, shut off the sacred buildings from the Temples. surrounding streets. A small gateway between two massive towers or pylons gave admittance to a spacious forecourt open to the sky, into which the people were allowed to enter at least on feast days. Farther on, separated from the forecourt by smaller though still massive pylons, lay a hypostyle hall, so called from its covered colonnades; this hall was used for all kinds of processions. Behind the hypostyle hall, to which a second similar one might or might not be added, came the holy of holies, a dark narrow chamber where the god dwelt; none but the priests were admitted to it. All around lay the storehouses that contained the treasures of the god and the appurtenances of the divine ritual. The temples of the earliest times were of course far more primitive than this: from the pictures that are all that is now left to indicate their nature, they seem to have been little more than huts or sheds in which the image of the god was kept. One temple of a type different from that above described has survived at Abusir, where it has been excavated by German explorers. It was a splendid edifice dedicated to the sun-god Re by a king of the Vth Dynasty, and was probably a close copy of the famous temple of Heliopolis. The most conspicuous feature was a huge obelisk on a broad superstructure


the obelisk always remained closely connected with the solar worship, and probably took the place of the innermost shrine and statue of other temples. The greater part of the sanctuary was left uncovered, as best befitted a dwelling-place of the sun. Outside its walls there was a huge brick model of the solar bark in which the god daily traversed the heavens.

As the power of the Pharaohs increased, the maintenance of the cult became one of the most important affairs of state. The most illustrious monarchs prided themselves no less on the buildings they raised in honour of the gods than on the successful wars they waged: indeed the wars won a religious significance through the gradual elevation of the god of the capital to god of the nation, and a large part of the spoils was considered the rightful perquisite of the latter. Countless were the riches that the kings heaped upon the gods in the hope of being requited with long life and prosperity on the throne of the living. It became the theory that the temples were the gifts of the Pharaoh to his fathers the gods, and therefore in the scenes of the cult that adorn the inner walls it is always he who is depicted as performing the ceremonies. As a matter of fact the priesthoods Power of the priests. were much more independent than was allowed to appear. Successive grants of land placed no small portion of the entire country in their hands, and the administration of the temple estates gave employment to a large number of officials and serfs. In the New Kingdom the might of the Theban god Ammon gradually became a serious menace to the throne: in the reign of Rameses III. he could boast of more than 80,000 dependants, and more than 400,000 cattle. It is not surprising that a few generations later the high priests of Ammon supplanted the Pharaohs altogether and founded a dynasty of their own.

At no period did the priests form a caste that was quite distinctly separated from the laity. In early times the feudal lords were themselves the chief priests of the local temples. Under them stood a number of subordinate priests, both professional and lay. Among the former were the kher-heb, a learned man entrusted with the conduct of the ceremonies, and the “divine fathers,” whose functions are obscure. The lay priests were divided into four classes that undertook the management of the temple in alternate months; their collective name was the “hour-priesthood.” Perhaps it was to them that the often recurring title oueb, “the pure,” should properly be restricted, though strict rules as to personal purity, dress and diet were demanded of all priests. The personnel of the temple was completed by various subordinate officials, doorkeepers, attendants and slaves. In the New Kingdom the leading priests were more frequently mere clerics than theretofore, though for instance the high priest of Ammon was often at the same time the vizier of southern Egypt. In some places the highest priests bore special names, such as the Ouer maa, “the Great Seer,” of Re in Heliopolis, or the Khorp himet, “chief artificer,” of the Memphite Ptah. Women could also hold priestly rank, though apparently in early times only in the service of goddesses; “priestess of Hathor” is a frequent title of well-born ladies in the Old Kingdom. At a later date many wealthy dames held the office of “musicians” (shemat) in the various temples. In the service of the Theban Ammon two priestesses called “the Adorer of the God” and the “Wife of the God” occupied very influential positions, and towards the Saite period it was by no means unusual for the king to secure these offices for his daughters and so to strengthen his own royal title.

5. The Dead and their Cult.—While the worship of the gods tended more and more to become a monopoly of the state and the priests, and provided no adequate outlet for the religious cravings of the people themselves, this deficiency was amply supplied by the care which they bestowed upon their dead: the Egyptians stand alone among the nations of the world in the elaborate precautions which they took to secure their own welfare beyond the tomb. The belief in immortality, or perhaps rather the incapacity to grasp the notion of complete annihilation, is traceable from the very earliest times: the simplest graves of the prehistoric period, when the corpses were committed to the earth in sheepskins and reed mats, seldom lack at least a few poor vases or articles of toilet for use in the hereafter. In proportion as the prosperity of the land increased, and the advance of civilization afforded the technical means, so did these primitive burials give place to a more lavish funereal equipment. Tombs of brick with a single chamber were succeeded by tombs of stone with several chambers, until they really merited the name of “houses of eternity” that the Egyptians gave to them. The conception of the tomb as the residence of the dead is the fundamental notion that underlies all the ritual observances in connexion with the dead, just as the idea of the temple as the dwelling-place of the god is the basis of the divine cult. The parallelism between the attitude of the Egyptians towards the dead and their attitude towards the gods is so striking that it ought never to be lost sight of: nothing can illustrate it better than the manner in which the Osirian doctrines came to permeate both kinds of cult.

The general scheme of Egyptian tombs remained the same throughout the whole of the dynastic period, though there were many variations of detail. By preference they were built in the Western desert, the Amente, near the Tombs. place where the sun was seen to go to rest, and which seemed the natural entrance to the nether world. A deep pit led down to the sepulchral chamber where the dead man was deposited amid the funereal furniture destined for his use; and no device was neglected that might enable him to rest here undisturbed. This aim is particularly conspicuous in the pyramids, the gigantic tombs which the Pharaohs of the Old Kingdom constructed for themselves: the passages that lead to the burial chamber were barred at intervals by vast granite blocks, and the narrow opening that gave access to them was hidden from view beneath the stone casing of the pyramid sides. Quite separate from this part of the tomb lay the rooms employed for the cult of the dead: their walls were often adorned with pictures from the earthly life of the deceased, which it was hoped he might still continue to enjoy after death. The innermost chamber was the chapel proper: on its western side was sculptured an imitation door for the dead man to pass through, when he wished to participate in the offerings brought by pious relatives. It was of course only the few who could afford elaborate tombs of the kind: the poor had to make shift with an unpretentious grave, in which the corpse was placed enveloped only by a few rags or enclosed in a rough wooden coffin.

The utmost care was taken to preserve the body itself from decay. Before the time of the Middle Kingdom it became usual for the rich to have their bodies embalmed. The intestines were removed and placed in four vases (the Embalming and burial. so-called Canopic jars) in which they were supposed to enjoy the protection of the four sons of Horus, the man-headed Mesti, the ape-headed Hapi, the jackal Duamutef and the falcon Kebhsenuf. The corpse was treated with natron and asphalt, and wound in a copious swathing of linen bandage, with a mask of linen and stucco on the face. The “mummy” thus prepared was then laid on its side like a sleeper, the head supported by a head-rest, in a sarcophagus of wood or stone. The operations in connexion with the mummy grow more and more elaborate towards the end of the Pharaonic period: already in the New Kingdom the wealthiest persons had their mummies laid in several coffins, each of which was gaudily painted with mythological scenes and inscriptions. The costliest process of embalmment lasted no less than seventy days. Many superstitious rites had to be observed in the course of the process: a late book has preserved to us the magical formulae that were repeated by the wise kher-heb priest (who in the necropolis performed the functions of taricheutes, “embalmer”), as each bandage was applied.

A large number of utensils, articles of furniture and the like were placed in the burial-chamber for the use of the dead—jars, weapons, mirrors, and even chairs, musical instruments and wigs. In the early times statuettes of servants, representing them as engaged in their various functions (brewers, bakers, &c.), were included for the same purpose; they were supposed to perform their menial functions for their deceased lord in the future life. In the Middle Kingdom these are gradually replaced by small models of the mummy itself, and the belief arose that when their owner was called upon to perform any distasteful work in the nether world, they would answer to his name and do the task for him. The later ushebti-figures, little statuettes of wood, stone or faience, of which several hundreds are often found in a single tomb, are confused survivals of both of the earlier classes of statuettes. Still more important than all such funereal objects are the books that were placed in the grave for the use of the dead: in the pyramids they are written on the walls of the sepulchral chamber and the passages leading to it; in the Middle Kingdom usually inscribed on the inner sides of the sarcophagus; in later times contained in rolls of papyrus. The Pyramid texts and the Book of the Dead are the most important of these, and teach us much about the dangers and needs that attended the dead man beyond the tomb, and about the manner in which it was thought they could be counteracted.

The burial ceremony itself must have been an imposing spectacle. In many cases the mummy had to be conveyed across the Nile, and boats were gaily decked out for this purpose. On the western bank a stately procession conducted the deceased to his last resting-place. At the door of the tomb the final ceremonies were performed; they demanded a considerable number of actors, chief among whom were the sem-priest and the kher-heb priest. It was a veritable drama that was here enacted, and recalled in its incidents the story of Osiris, the divine prototype of all successive generations of the Egyptian dead.

However carefully the preliminary rites of embalmment and burial might have been performed, however sumptuous the tomb wherein the dead man reposed, he was nevertheless almost entirely at the mercy of the living for The soul. his welfare in the other world: he was as dependent on a continued cult on the part of the surviving members of his family as the gods were dependent on the constant attendance of their priests. That portion of a man’s individuality which required, even after death, food and drink, and the satisfaction of sensuous needs, was called by the Egyptians the ka, and represented in hieroglyphs by the uplifted hands


This ka was supposed to be born together with the person to whom it belonged, and on the very rare occasions when it is depicted, wears his exact semblance. The conception of this psychical entity is too vaguely formulated by the Egyptians and too foreign to modern thought to admit of exact translation: of the many renderings that have been proposed, perhaps “double” is the most suitable. At all events the ka has to be distinguished from the soul, the bai

(in hieroglyphs 

which was of more tangible nature, and might be descried hovering around the tomb in the form of a bird or in some other shape; for it was thought that the soul might assume what shape it would, if the funerary rites had been duly attended to. The gods had their ka and bai, and the forms attributed to the latter are surprising; thus we read that the soul of the sky Nun is Re, that of Osiris the Goat of Mendes, the souls of Sobk are crocodiles, and those “of all the gods are snakes”; similarly the soul of Ptah was thought to dwell in the Apis bull, so that each successive Apis was during its lifetime the reincarnation of the god. Other parts of a man’s being to which at given moments and in particular contexts the Egyptians assigned a certain degree of separate existence are

the “name” 
 ran, the “shadow” 
, khaibet, and the “corpse”

It was, however, the ka alone to which the cult of the dead was directly addressed. This cult was a positive duty binding on the children of a dead man, and doubtless as a rule discharged by them with some regularity and conscientiousness; at least, on feast-days offerings would be brought to the tomb, and the ceremonies of purification and opening the mouth of the deceased would be enacted. But there could be little guarantee that later generations would perpetuate the cult. It therefore became usual under the Old Kingdom for the wealthiest persons to make testamentary dispositions by which certain other persons agreed for a consideration to observe the required rites at stated periods: they received the name of “servants of the ka,” and stood in the same relation to the deceased as the priests to the gods. Or again, contracts might be made with a neighbouring temple, the priesthood of which bound itself to reserve for the contracting party some portion of the offerings that had already been used for the divine cult. There is probably a superstitious reason for the preference shown by the dead for offerings of this kind; no wish is commoner than that one may receive “bread and beer that had gone up on to the altar of the local god,” or “with which the god had been sated”; something of the divine sanctity still clung about such offerings and made them particularly desirable. In spite of all the precautions they took and the contracts they made, the Egyptians could never quite rid themselves of the dread that their tombs might decay and their cult be neglected; and they sought therefore to obtain by prayers and threats what they feared they might lose altogether. The occasional visitor to the tomb is reminded by its inscriptions of the many virtues of the dead man while he yet lived, and is charged, if he be come with empty hands, at least to pronounce the funerary formula; it will indeed cost him nothing but “the breath of his mouth”! Against the would-be desecrator the wrath of the gods is invoked: “with him shall the great god reckon there where a reckoning is made.”

The funerary customs that have been described are meaningless except on the supposition that the tomb was the regular dwelling-place of the dead. But just as the Egyptians found no contradiction between the view of the temple as the residence of the god and the conception of him as a cosmic deity, so too they often attributed to the dead a continued existence quite apart from the tomb. According to a widely-spread doctrine of great age the deceased Egyptian was translated to the heavens, where he lived on in the form of a star. This theme is elaborated with great detail in the Pyramid texts, where it is the dead king to whom this destiny is promised. It was perhaps only a restricted aristocracy who could aspire to such high honour:


or “glorified being,” who has his place in the sky seems often to hold an intermediate position between the gods and the rank and file of the dead. But in a few early passages the required qualification appears to be rather moral integrity than exalted station. The life of the dead man in the sky is variously envisaged in different texts: at one moment he is spoken of as accompanying the sun-god in his celestial bark, at another as a mighty king more powerful than Re himself; the crudest fancy of all pictures him as a hunter who catches the stars and gods, and cooks and eats them. According to another conception that persisted in the imagination of the Egyptians longer than any of the ideas just mentioned, the home of the dead in the heavens was a fertile region not very different forom Egypt itself, intersected by canals and abounding in corn and fruit; this place was called the Sokhet Earu or “field of Reeds.”

Even in the oldest texts these beliefs are blended inextricably with the Osirian doctrines. It is not so much as king of the dead that Osiris here appears, but every deceased Egyptian was regarded as himself an Osiris, as having undergone all the indignities inflicted upon the god, but finally triumphant over the powers of death and evil impersonated by Seth. This notion became so popular, that beside it all other views of the dead sink into insignificance; it permeates the funerary cult in all its stages, and from the Middle Kingdom onwards the dead man is regularly called “the Osiris so-and-so,” just as though he were completely identical with the god. One incident of the tale of Osiris acquired a deep ethical meaning in connexion with the dead. It was related how Seth had brought an accusation against Osiris in the great judgment hall of Heliopolis, and how the latter, helped by the skilful speaker Thoth, had emerged from the ordeal acquitted and triumphant. The belief gradually grew up that every dead man would have to face a similar trial before he could be admitted to a life of bliss in the other world. A well-known vignette in the Book of the Dead depicts the scene. In a shrine sits Osiris, the ruler and judge of the dead, accompanied by forty-two assessors; and before him stands the balance on which the heart of the deceased man is to be weighed against Truth; Thoth stands behind and registers the result. The words that accompany this picture are still more remarkable: they form a long negative confession, in which the dead man declares that he has sinned neither against man nor against the gods. Not all the sins named are equally heinous according to modern conceptions; many of them deal with petty offences against religious usages that seem to us but trifling. But it is clear that by the time this chapter was penned it was believed that no man could attain to happiness in the hereafter if he had not been upright, just and charitable in his earthly existence. The date at which these conceptions became general is not quite certain, but it can hardly be later than the Middle Kingdom, when the dead man has the epithet “justified” appended to his name in the inscriptions of his tomb.

It was but a natural wish on the part of the Egyptians that they should desire to place their tombs near the traditional burying-place of Osiris. By the time of the XIIth Dynasty it was thought that this lay in Abydos, the town where the kings of the earliest times had been interred. But it was only in a few cases that such a wish could be literally fulfilled. It therefore became customary for those who possessed the means to dedicate at least a tombstone in the neighbourhood of “the staircase of the great god,” as the sacred spot was called. And those who had found occasion to visit Abydos in their lifetime took pleasure in recalling the part that they had there taken in the ceremonies of Osiris. Such pilgrims doubtless believed that the pious act would stand to their credit when the day of death arrived.

6. Magic.—Among the rites that were celebrated in the temples or before the statues of the dead were many the mystical meaning of which was but imperfectly understood, though their efficacy was never doubted. Symbolical or imitative acts, accompanied by spoken formulae of set form and obscure content, accomplished, by some peculiar virtues of their own, results that were beyond the power of human hands and brain. The priests and certain wise men were the depositaries of this mysterious but highly useful art, that was called hik or “magic”; and one of the chief differences between gods and men was the superior degree in which the former were endowed with magical powers. It was but natural that the Egyptians should wish to employ magic for their own benefit or self-gratification, and since religion put no veto on the practice so long as it was exercised within legal bounds, it was put to a widespread use among them. When magicians made figures of wax representing men whom they desired to injure, this was of course an illegal act like any other, and the law stepped in to prevent it: one papyrus that has been preserved records the judicial proceedings taken in such a case in connexion with the harem conspiracy against Rameses III.

One of the chief purposes for which magic was employed was to avert diseases. Among the Egyptians, as in other lands, illnesses were supposed to be due to evil spirits or the ghosts of dead men who had taken up their abode in the body of the sufferer, and they could only be driven thence by charms and spells. But out of these primitive notions arose a real medical science: when the ailment could be located and its nature roughly determined, a more materialistic view was taken of it; and many herbs and drugs that were originally used for some superstitious reason, when once they had been found to be actually effective, easily lost their magical significance and were looked upon as natural specifics. It is extremely hard to draw any fixed line in Egypt between magic and medicine; but it is curious to note that simple diagnoses and prescriptions were employed for the more curable diseases, while magical formulae and amulets are reserved for those that are harder to cope with, such as the bites of snakes and the stings of scorpions.

The formulae recited for such purposes are not purely cabalistic, though inasmuch as mystery is of the very essence of magic, foreign words and outlandish names occur in them by preference. Often the magician relates some mythical case where a god had been afflicted with a disease similar to that of the patient, but had finally recovered: a number of such tales were told of Horus, who was usually healed by some device of his mother Isis, she being accounted as a great enchantress. The mere recitation of such similar cases with their happy issue was supposed to be magically effective; for almost unlimited power was supposed to be inherent in mere words. Often the demon is directly invoked, and commanded to come forth. At other times the gods are threatened with privations or even destruction if they refuse to aid the magician: the Egyptians seem to have found little impiety in such a use of the divine name, though to us it would seem the utmost degree of profanity when, for instance, a magician declares that if his spell prove ineffective, he “will cast fire into Mendes and burn up Osiris.”

The verbal spells were always accompanied by some manual performance, the tying of magical knots or the preparation of an amulet. In these acts particular significance was attached to certain numbers: a sevenfold knot, for example, was more efficacious than others. Often the formula was written on a strip of rag or a scrap of papyrus and tied round the neck of the person for whom it was intended. Beads and all kinds of amulets could be infused with magical power so as to be potent phylacteries to those who wore them.

In conclusion, it must be emphasized that in Egypt magic stands in no contrast or opposition to religion, at least as long as it was legitimately used. The religious rites and ceremonies are full of it. When a pretence was made of opening, with an iron instrument, the mouth of the divine statue, to the accompaniment of recited formulae, this can hardly be termed anything but magic. Similarly, the potency attributed to ushebti-figures and the copies of the Book of the Dead deposited in the tombs is magical in quality. What has been considered under this heading, however, is the use that the same principles of magic were put to by men in their own practical life and for their own advantage.

Authorities.—An excellent list of books and articles on the various topics connected with Egyptian Religion will be found in H. O. Lange’s article on the subject in P. D. Chantepie de la Saussaye, Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschichte (Tübingen, 1905), vol. i. pp. 172-245. Among general works may be especially recommended A. Erman, Die ägyptische Religion (Berlin, 1905); and chapters 2 and 3 in G. Maspero, Histoire ancienne des peuples de l’Orient, les origines, vol. i. (Paris, 1895).  (A. H. G.) 

D. Egyptian Language and Writing.—Decipherment.—Although attempts were made to read Egyptian hieroglyphs so far back as the 17th century, no promise of success appeared until the discovery of the Rosetta stone in 1799 by the French engineers attached to Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. This tablet was inscribed with three versions, in hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek, of a long decree of the Egyptian priests in honour of Ptolemy V., Epiphanes and his wife Cleopatra. The Greek and demotic versions were still almost perfect, but most of the hieroglyphic text had been broken away with the top of the tablet; portions of about half of the lines remained, but no single line was complete. In 1802 J. D. Akerblad, a Swedish orientalist attached to the embassy in Paris, identified the proper names of persons which occurred in the demotic text, being guided to them by the position of their equivalents in the Greek. These names, all of them foreign, were written in an alphabet of a limited number of characters, and were therefore analysed with comparative ease.

The hieroglyphic text upon the Rosetta stone was too fragmentary to furnish of itself the key to the decipherment. But the study of this with the other scanty monuments and imperfect copies of inscriptions that were available enabled the celebrated physicist Thomas Young (1773–1829) to make a beginning. In an article completed in 1819 and printed (over the initials I. J.) in the supplement to the 4th, 5th and 6th editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (vol. iv., 1824), he published a brief account of Egyptian research, with five plates containing the “rudiments of an Egyptian vocabulary.” It appears that Young could place the hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek texts of the Rosetta stone very correctly parallel; but he could not accurately break up the Egyptian sentences into words, much less could he attribute to the words their proper sounds. Yet he recognized correctly the names of Apis and Re, with many groups for words such as “assembly,” “good,” “name,” and important signs such as those which distinguish feminine words. In a bad copy of another monument he rightly guessed the royal name of Berenice in its cartouche by the side of that of Ptolemy, which was already known from its occurrence on the Rosetta stone. He considered that these names must be written in phonetic characters in the hieroglyphic as in demotic, but he failed to analyse them correctly. It was clear, however, that with more materials and perseverance such efforts after decipherment must eventually succeed.

Meanwhile J. F. Champollion “le Jeune” (see Champollion; and Hartleben, Champollion, sein Leben und sein Werk, Berlin, 1906) had devoted his energies whole-heartedly since 1802, when he was only eleven years old, to preparing himself for the solution of the Egyptian problem, by wide linguistic and historical studies, and above all by familiarizing himself with every scrap of Egyptian writing which he could find. By 1818 he made many equations between the demotic and the hieroglyphic characters, and was able to transcribe the demotic names of Ptolemy and Cleopatra into hieroglyphics. At length, in January 1822, a copy of the hieroglyphic inscription on the Bankes obelisk, which had long been fruitlessly in the hands of Young, reached the French savant. On the base of this obelisk was engraved a Greek inscription in honour of Ptolemy Euergetes II. and Cleopatra; of the two cartouches on the obelisk one was of Ptolemy, the other was easily recognized as that of Cleopatra, spelt nearly as in Champollion’s experimental transcript of the demotic name, only more fully. This discovery, and the recognition of the name Alexander, gave fourteen alphabetic signs, including homophones, with ascertained values. Starting from these, by the beginning of September Champollion had analysed a long series of Ptolemaic and Roman cartouches. His next triumph was on the 14th of September, when he read the names of the ancient Pharaohs Rameses and Tethmosis in some drawings just arrived from Egypt, proving that his alphabetic characters were employed, in conjunction with syllabic signs, for spelling native names; this gave him the assurance that his discovery touched the essential nature of the Egyptian writing and not merely, as had been contended, a special cipher for the foreign words which might be quite inapplicable to the rest of the inscriptions. His progress continued unchecked, and before the end of the year the connexion of ancient Egyptian and Coptic was clearly established. Subsequently visits to the museums of Italy and an expedition to Egypt in 1828–1829 furnished Champollion with ample materials. The Précis du système hiéroglyphique (1st ed. 1823, 2nd ed. 1828) contained the philological results of his decipherments down to a certain point. But his MS. collections were vast, and his illness after the strenuous labours of the expedition and his early death in 1832 left all in confusion. The Grammaire égyptienne and Dictionnaire égyptien, edited from these MSS. by his brother, precious as they were, must be a very imperfect register of the height of his attainments. In his last years he was able to translate long texts in hieroglyphic and in hieratic of the New Kingdom and of the later periods with some accuracy, and his comprehension of demotic was considerable. Champollion outdistanced all his competitors from the first, and had practically nothing to thank them for except material to work on, and too often that had been intentionally withheld from him. In eleven years he broke ground in all directions; if the ordinary span of life had been allowed him, with twenty or thirty more years of labour he might have brought order into the chaos of different ages and styles of language and writing; but, as it was, the task of co-ordination remained to be done by others. For one year, before his illness incapacitated him, Champollion held a professorship in Paris; but of his pupils and fellow-workers, F. P. Salvolini, insincere and self-seeking, died young, and Ippolito Rosellini (1800-1843) showed little original power. From 1832 to 1837 there was a pause in the march of Egyptology, and it seemed as if the young science might be overwhelmed by the storm of doubts and detraction that was poured upon it by the enemies of Champollion. Then, however, Lepsius in Germany and Samuel Birch in England took up the thread where the master had dropped it, and E. de Rougé, H. Brugsch, François Joseph Chabas and a number of lesser lights quickly followed. Brugsch (q.v.) was the author of a hieroglyphic and demotic dictionary which still holds the field, and from time to time carried forward the study of demotic by a giant’s stride. De Rougé (d. 1872) in France was a brilliant translator of hieroglyphic texts and the author of an important grammatical work. Chabas (1817-1882) especially addressed himself to the reading of the hieratic texts of the New Kingdom. By such labours after forty years the results attained by Champollion in decipherment were entirely superseded. Yet, while the values of the signs were for the most part well ascertained, and the meanings of most works fixed with some degree of accuracy, few grammatical rules had as yet been established, the varieties of the language at different periods had not been defined, and the origins of the hieroglyphs and of their values had not been investigated beyond the most obvious points. At this time a rare translator of Egyptian texts in all branches was arising in G. Maspero (q.v.), while E. Revillout addressed himself with success to the task of interpreting the legal documents of demotic which had been almost entirely neglected for thirty years. But the honour of inaugurating an epoch marked by greater precision belongs to Germany. The study of Coptic had begun in Europe early in the 17th century, and reached a high level in the work of the Dane Georg Zoega (1755-1809) at the end of the 18th century. In 1835, too late for Champollion to use it, Amadeo Peyron (1785-1870) of Turin published a Coptic lexicon of great merit which is still standard, though far from satisfying the needs of scholars of the present day. In 1880 Ludwig Stern (Koptische Grammatik) admirably classified the grammatical forms of Coptic. The much more difficult task of recovering the grammar of Egyptian has occupied thirty years of special study by Adolf Erman and his school at Berlin, and has now reached an advanced stage. The greater part of Egyptian texts after the Middle Kingdom having been written in what was even then practically a dead language, as dead as Latin was to the medieval monks in Italy who wrote and spoke it, Erman selected for special investigation those texts which really represented the growth of the language at different periods, and, as he passed from one epoch to another, compared and consolidated his results.

The Neuägyptische Grammatik (1880) dealt with texts written in the vulgar dialect of the New Kingdom (Dyns. XVIII. to XX.). Next followed, in the Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Alterthumskunde, studies on the Old Kingdom inscription of Una, and the Middle Kingdom contracts of Assiut, as well as on an “Old Coptic” text of the 3rd century A.D. At this point a papyrus of stories written in the popular language of the Middle Kingdom provided Erman with a stepping-stone from Old Egyptian to the Late Egyptian of the Neuägyptische Grammatik, and gave the connexions that would bind solidly together the whole structure of Egyptian grammar (see Sprache des Papyrus Westcar, 1889). The very archaic pyramid texts enabled him to sketch the grammar of the earliest known form of Egyptian (Zeitschrift d. Deutsch. Morgenl. Gesellschaft, 1892), and in 1894 he was able to write a little manual of Egyptian for beginners (Ägyptische Grammatik, 2nd ed., 1902), centring on the language of the standard inscriptions of the Middle and New Kingdoms, but accompanying the main sketch with references to earlier and later forms. Of the work of Erman’s pupils we may mention G. Steindorff’s little Koptische Grammatik (1894, ed. 1904), improving greatly on Stern’s standard work in regard to phonology and the relationship of Coptic forms to Egyptian, and K. Sethe’s Das Ägyptische Verbum (1899). The latter is an extensive monograph on the verb in Egyptian and Coptic by a brilliant and laborious philologist. Owing to the very imperfect notation of sound in the writing, the highly important subject of the verbal roots and verbal forms was perhaps the obscurest branch of Egyptian grammar when Sethe first attacked it in 1895. The subject has been reviewed by Erman, Die Flexion des ägyptischen Verbums in the Sitzungsberichte of the Berlin Academy, 1900. The Berlin school, having settled the main lines of the grammar, next turned its attention to lexicography. It has devised a scheme, founded on that for the Latin Thesaurus of the Berlin Academy, which almost mechanically sorts the whole number of occurrences of every word in any text examined. Scholars in England, America and Denmark, as well as in Germany, have taken part in this great enterprise, and though the completion of it may be far off, the collections of classified material already made are very valuable for consultation.[3] At present Egyptologists depend on Heinrich Brugsch’s admirable but somewhat antiquated Wörterbuch and on Levi’s useful but entirely uncritical Vocabolario. Though demotic has not yet received serious attention at Berlin, the influence of that great school has made itself felt amongst demotists, especially in Switzerland, Germany, America and England. The death of Heinrich Brugsch in 1895 was a very severe blow to demotic studies; but it must be admitted that his brilliant gifts lay in other directions than exact grammatical analysis. Apart from their philological interest, as giving the history of a remarkable language during a period of several thousand years, the grammatical studies of the last quarter of the 19th century and afterwards are beginning to bear fruit in regard to the exact interpretation of historical documents on Egyptian monuments and papyri. Not long ago the supposed meaning of these was extracted chiefly by brilliant guessing, and the published translations of even the best scholars could carry no guarantee of more than approximate exactitude, where the sense depended at all on correct recognition of the syntax. Now the translator proceeds in Egyptian with some of the sureness with which he would deal with Latin or Greek. The meaning of many words may be still unknown, and many constructions are still obscure; but at least he can distinguish fairly between a correct text and a corrupt text. Egyptian writing lent itself only too easily to misunderstanding, and the writings of one period were but half intelligible to the learned scribes of another. The mistaken readings of the old inscriptions by the priests at Abydos (Table of Abydos), when attempting to record the names of the kings of the 1st Dynasty on the walls of the temple of Seti I., are now admitted on all sides; and no palaeographer, whether his field be Greek, Latin, Arabic, Persian or any other class of MSS., will be surprised to hear that the Egyptian papyri and inscriptions abound in corruptions and mistakes. The translator of to-day can, if he wishes, mark where certainty ends and mere conjecture begins, and it is to be hoped that advantage will be taken more widely of this new power. The Egyptologist who has long lived in the realm of conjecture is too prone to consider any series of guesses good enough to serve as a translation, and forgets to insert the notes of interrogation which would warn workers in other fields from implicit trust.

Language and Writing.—The history of the Egyptian language is evidenced by documents extending over a very long range of time. They begin with the primitive inscriptions of the Ist Dynasty (not later than 3300 B.C.) and end with the latest Coptic compositions of about the 14th century A.D. The bulk of the hieroglyphic inscriptions are written in a more or less artificial literary language; but in business documents, letters, popular tales, &c., the scribes often adhered closely to the living form of the tongue, and thus reveal its progressive changes.

The stages of the language are now distinguished as follows:—

Old Egyptian.—This is properly the language of the Old Kingdom. In it we have (a) the recently discovered inscriptions of the Ist Dynasty, too brief and concise to throw much light on the language of that time; and the great collections of spells and ritual texts found inscribed in the Pyramids of the Vth and VIth Dynasties, which must even then have been of high antiquity, though they contain later additions made in the same style. (b) A few historical texts and an abundance of short inscriptions representing the language of the IVth, Vth and VIth Dynasties. The ordinary literary language of the later monuments is modelled on Old Egyptian. It is often much affected by contemporary speech, but preserves in the main the characteristics of the language of the Old Kingdom.

Middle and Late Egyptian.—These represent the vulgar speech of the Middle and New Kingdoms respectively. The former is found chiefly in tales, letters, &c., written in hieratic on papyri of the XIIIth Dynasty to the end of the Middle Kingdom; also in some inscriptions of the XVIIIth Dynasty. Late Egyptian is seen in hieratic papyri of the XVIIIth to the XXIst Dynasties. The spelling of Late Egyptian is very extraordinary, full of false etymologies, otiose signs, &c., the old orthography being quite unable to adapt itself neatly to the profoundly modified language; nevertheless, this clumsy spelling is expressive, and the very mistakes are instructive as to the pronunciation.

Demotic.—Demotic Egyptian seems to represent approximately the vulgar speech of the Saite period, and is written in the “demotic” character, which may be traced back to the XXVIth Dynasty, if not to a still earlier time. With progressive changes, this form of the language is found in documents reaching down to the fall of Paganism in the 4th century A.D.[4] Under the later Ptolemies and the Roman rule documents in Greek are more abundant than in demotic, and the language of the ruling classes must have begun to penetrate the masses deeply.

Coptic.—This, in the main, represents the popular language of early Christian Egypt from the 3rd to perhaps the 10th century A.D., when the growth of Coptic as a literary language must have ceased. The Greek alphabet, reinforced by a few signs borrowed from demotic, rendered the spoken tongue so accurately that four distinct, though closely allied, dialects are readily distinguishable in Coptic MSS.; ample remains are found of renderings of the Scriptures into all these dialects. The distinctions between the dialects consist largely in pronunciation, but extend also to the vocabulary, word-formation and syntax. Such interchanges are found as l for r, ϭ (k, ch) for ϫ (dj), final i for final e, a for e, a for o. Early in the 2nd century A.D., pagan Egyptians, or perhaps foreigners settled in Egypt, essayed, as yet unskilfully, to write the native language in Greek letters. This Old Coptic, as it is termed, was still almost entirely free from Greek loan-words, and its strong archaisms are doubtless accounted for by the literary language, even in its most “vulgar” forms, having moved more slowly than the speech of the people. Christian Coptic, though probably at first contemporary with some documents of Old Coptic, contrasts strongly with the latter. The monks whose task it was to perfect the adaptation of the alphabet to the dialects of Egypt and translate the Scriptures out of the Greek, flung away all pagan traditions. It is clear that the basis which they chose for the new literature was the simplest language of daily life in the monasteries, charged as it was with expressions taken from Greek, pre-eminently the language of patristic Christianity. There is evidence that the amount of stress on syllables, and the consequent length of vowels, varied greatly in spoken Coptic, and that the variation gave much trouble to the scribes; the early Christian writers must have taken as a model for each dialect the deliberate speech of grave elders or preachers, and so secured a uniform system of accentuation. The remains of Old Coptic, though very instructive in their marked peculiarities, are as yet too few for definite classification. The main divisions of Christian Coptic as recognized and named at present are: Sahidic (formerly called Theban), spoken in the upper Thebais; Akhmimic, in the neighbourhood of Akhmim, but driven out by Sahidic about the 5th century; Fayumic, in the Fayum (formerly named wrongly “Bashmuric,” from a province of the Delta); Bohairic, the dialect of the “coast district” (formerly named “Memphite”), spoken in the north-western Delta. Coptic, much alloyed with Arabic, was spoken in Upper Egypt as late as the 15th century, but it has long been a dead language.[5] Sahidic and Bohairic are the most important dialects, each of these having left abundant remains; the former spread over the whole of Upper Egypt, and the latter since the 14th century has been the language of the sacred books of Christianity throughout the country, owing to the hierarchical importance of Alexandria and the influence of the ancient monasteries established in the north-western desert.

The above stages of the Egyptian language are not defined with absolute clearness. Progress is seen from dynasty to dynasty or from century to century. New Egyptian shades off almost imperceptibly into demotic, and it may be hoped that gaps which now exist in the development will be filled by further discovery.

Coptic is the only stage of the language in which the spelling gives a clear idea of the pronunciation. It is therefore the mainstay of the scholar in investigating or restoring the word-forms of the ancient language. Greek transcriptions of Egyptian names and words are valuable as evidence for the vocalization of Egyptian. Such are found from the 6th century B.C. in the inscription of Abu Simbel, from the 5th in Herodotus, &c., and abound in Ptolemaic and later documents from the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. onwards. At first sight they may seem inaccurate, but on closer examination the Graecizing is seen to follow definite rules, especially in the Ptolemaic period. A few cuneiform transcriptions, reaching as far back as the XVIIIth Dynasty, give valuable hints as to how Egyptian was pronounced in the 15th century B.C. Coptic itself is of course quite inadequate to enable us to restore Old Egyptian. In it the Old Egyptian verbal forms are mostly replaced by periphrases; though the strong roots are often preserved entire, the weaker consonants and the צ have largely or entirely disappeared, so that the language appears as one of biliteral rather than triliteral roots. Coptic is strongly impregnated with Greek words adopted late; moreover, a certain number of Semitic loan-words flowed into Egyptian at all ages, and especially from the 16th century B.C. onwards, displacing earlier words. It is only by the most careful scrutiny, or the exercise of the most piercing insight, that the imperfectly spelled Egyptian has been made to yield up one grammatical secret after another in the light brought to bear upon it from Coptic. Demotic grammar ought soon to be thoroughly comprehensible in its forms, and the study of Late Egyptian should not stand far behind that of demotic. On the other hand, Middle Egyptian, and still more Old Egyptian, which is separated from Middle Egyptian by a wide gap, will perhaps always be to us little more than consonantal skeletons, the flesh and blood of their vocalization being for the most part irretrievably lost.[6]

In common with the Semitic languages, the Berber languages of North Africa, and the Cushite languages of North-East Africa, Egyptian of all periods possesses grammatical gender, expressing masculine and feminine. Singularly few language groups have this peculiarity; and our own great Indo-European group, which possesses it, is distinguished from those above mentioned by having the neuter gender in addition. The characteristic triliteral roots of all the Semitic languages seemed to separate them widely from others; but certain traits have caused the Egyptian, Berber and Cushite groups to be classed together as three subfamilies of a Hamitic group, remotely related to the Semitic. The biliteral character of Coptic, and the biliteralism which was believed to exist in Egyptian, led philologists to suspect that Egyptian might be a surviving witness to that far-off stage of the Semitic languages when triliteral roots had not yet been formed from presumed original biliterals; Sethe’s investigations, however, prove that the Coptic biliterals are themselves derived from Old Egyptian triliterals, and that the triliteral roots enormously preponderated in Egyptian of the earliest known form; that view is, therefore, no longer tenable. Many remarkable resemblances have been observed in the grammatical structure of the Berber and Cushite groups with Semitic (cf. H. Zimmern, Vergleichende Grammatik d. semitischen Sprachen, Berlin, 1898, especially pronouns and verbs); but the relationship must be very distant, and there are no ancient documents that can take back the history of any one of those languages more than a few centuries. Their connexion with Semitic and Egyptian, therefore, remains at present an obscure though probable hypothesis. On the other hand, Egyptian is certainly related to Semitic. Even before the triliterality of Old Egyptian was recognized, Erman showed that the so-called pseudo-participle had been really in meaning and in form a precise analogue of the Semitic perfect, though its original employment was almost obsolete in the time of the earliest known texts. Triliteralism is considered the most essential and most peculiar feature of Semitic. But there are, besides, many other resemblances in structure between the Semitic languages and Egyptian, so that, although the two vocabularies present few points of clear contact, there is reason to believe that Egyptian was originally a characteristic member of the Semitic family of languages. See Erman, “Das Verhältnis d. ägyptischen zu d. semitischen Sprachen” (Zeitschrift d. deutschen morgenl. Gesellschaft, 1892); Zimmern, Vergl. Gram., 1898; Erman, “Flexion d. ägyptischen Verbums” (Sitzungsberichte d. Berl. Akad., 1900). The Egyptians proper are not, and so far as we can tell never were, Semitic in physical feature. As a possible explanation of the facts, Erman supposes that a horde of conquering Semites, like the Arabs of a later day, imposed their language on the country, but disappeared, being weakened by the climate or absorbed by the native population. The latter acquired the Semitic language imperfectly from their conquerors; they expressed the verbal conjugations by periphrases, mispronounced the consonants, and so changed greatly the appearance of the vocabulary, which also would certainly contain a large proportion of native non-Semitic roots. Strong consonants gave place to weak consonants (as ق has done to ا, in the modern Arabic of Egypt), and then the weak consonants disappearing altogether produced biliterals from the triliterals. Much of this must have taken place, according to the theory, in the prehistoric period; but the loss of weak consonants, of ע, and of one of two repeated consonants, and the development of periphrastic conjugations continued to the end. The typical Coptic root thus became biliteral rather than triliteral, and the verb, by means of periphrases, developed tenses of remarkable precision. Such verbal resemblances as exist between Coptic and Semitic are largely due to late exchanges with Semitic neighbours.

The following sketch of the Egyptian language, mainly in its earliest form, which dates from some three or four thousand years B.C., is founded upon Erman’s works. It will serve to contrast with Coptic grammar on the one hand and Semitic grammar on the other.

The Egyptian Alphabet


so conventionally transcribed since it unites two values, being sometimes y but often א (especially at the beginning of words), and from the earliest times used in a manner corresponding to the Arabic hamza, to indicate a prosthetic vowel. Often lost.

 are frequently employed for y.
 = ’(א);  easily lost or changes to y.
 = ꜥ(ע); 

lost in Coptic. This rare sound, well known in Semitic, occurs also in Berber and Cushite languages.

 = w; often changes to y.
 = b.
 = p.
 = f.
 = m.
 = n.
 = r

often lost, or changes to y. r and l are distinguished in later demotic and in Coptic.

 = h distinction lost in Coptic.
 = h

in Coptic ϣ (sh) or Ϧ (kh) correspond to it.

 =  generally written with
 (š) in the Old Kingdom,
 corresponds to kh in Coptic.
 = s distinction lost at the end of the Old Kingdom.
 = ś
 = š (sh).
 = q; Coptic ⲕ.
 = k Coptic ⲕ; or ϭ, ϫ, according to dialect.
 = g Coptic ⲕ; or ϭ.
 =  often lost at the end of words.

 = t (θ); often changes to t, otherwise Coptic ⲧ; or ϫ, ϭ.

 = d; in Coptic reduced to t.

 =  (z); often changes to d, Coptic ⲧ; otherwise in Coptic ϫ.


Egyptian roots consist of consonants and semi-consonants only, the inflexion being effected by internal vowel-change and the addition of consonants or vowels at the beginning or end. The Egyptian system of writing, as opposed to the Coptic, showed only the consonantal skeletons of words: it could not record internal vowel-changes; and semi-consonants, even when radicals, were often omitted in writing.


Sing.  1. c. ỉw (?) later wỉ. Pl.  1. c. n. Du.
2.  m.  kw. 2. c. ṯn. 2. c. ṯny.
f. ṯn.
3. m. *fy surviving only in a special verbal form. 3.  m.  śn early lost, except as suffix. 3. c. śny.
f. śy. f. *śt  surviving as 3. c.

From these are derived the suffixes, which are shortened forms attached to nouns to express the possessor, and to verbs to express the subject. In the latter case the verb was probably in the participle, so that śḏmỉỉ-śn, “they hear,” is literally “hearing are they.” The singular suffixes are: (1) c. -ỉ; (2) m. -k, f. -ṯ; (3) m. -f, f. ;—the dual and plural have no special forms.

Another series of absolute pronouns is: (2) m. ṯwt, ṯw; f. ṯmt, ṯm; (3) m. śwt, św; f. śtt, śt. Of these ṯwt, ṯmt, &c., are emphatic forms.

Many of the above absolute pronouns were almost obsolete even in the Old Kingdom. In ordinary texts some survive, especially as objects of verbs, namely, wỉ, tw, tn, sw, st. The suffixes of all numbers and persons except the dual were in full use throughout, to Coptic; sn, however, giving way to a new suffix, -w, which developed first in the New Kingdom.

Another absolute pronoun of the first person is ỉnk, ⲁⲛⲟⲕ, like Heb. אנכי. It is associated with a series for the second and third persons: nt-k, nt-ṯ, nt-f, nt-śn, &c.; but from their history, use and form, it seems probable that the last are of later formation, and are not to be connected with the Semitic pronouns (chiefly of the 2nd person) resembling them.


There are several series based on m. p; f. t; pl. n; but n as a plural seems later than the other two. From them are developed a weak demonstrative to which possessive suffixes can be attached, producing the definite and possessive articles (p’, t’, n’, “the,” p’y-f, “his,” p’y-s “her,” &c.) of Middle Egyptian and the later language.


Two genders, m. (ending w, or nothing), f. (ending t). Three numbers: singular, dual (m. wỉ, f. tỉ, gradually became obsolete), plural (m. w; f. wt). No case-endings are recognizable, but construct forms—to judge by Coptic—were in use. Masculine and feminine nouns of instrument or material are formed from verbal roots by prefixing m; e.g. m·sdm·t, “stibium,” from sdm, “paint the eye.” Substantives and adjectives are formed from substantives and prepositions by the addition of y in the masculine; e.g. n·t, “city,” nt·y, “belonging to a city,” “citizen”; ḥr, “upon,” ḥr·y (f. ḥr·t; pl. ḥr·w), “upper.” This is not unlike the Semitic nisbe ending iy, ay (e.g. Ar. beled, “city,” beledi, “belonging to a city”). Adjectives follow the nouns they qualify.


1, wꜥ; 2, śn; 3, ḫmt; 4, fdw; 5, dw’; 6, sis (or sw’ ?); 7, sfḫ; 8, ḫmn; 9, psḏ; 10, mt. 2, 6, 7, 8 and 9 (?) resemble Semitic numerals. 20 and 30 (mꜥb) had special names; 40-90 were named as if plurals of the units 4-9, as in Semitic. 100, šnt; 1000, ḫ’; 10,000, zbꜥ; 100,000, ḥfnw.


The forms observable in hieroglyphic writing lead to the following classification:—

Strong Verbs.  Biliteral Often showing traces of an original III. inf.; in early times very rare.
Triliteral Very numerous.
Generally formed by reduplication. In Late Egyptian they were no longer inflected, and were conjugated with the help of ỉry, “do.”
Weak Verbs. II.  geminatae Properly triliterals, but, with the 2nd or 3rd radical alike, these coalesced in many forms where no vowel intervened, and gave the word the appearance of a biliteral.
III. gem. Rare.
III. inf. Numerous. III. w, and III. were unified early. Some very common verbs, “do,” “give,” “come,” “bring” are irregular.
IV. inf. Partly derived from adjectival formations in y, from nouns and infinitives:—e.g. ś·ỉp, inf. śỉpt; adj. śỉpty; verb (4 lit.), śỉpty.

Many verbs with weak consonants—Iy, Iw, II. inf. (m[w]t), and those with א—are particularly difficult to trace accurately, owing to defective writing.

It seems that all the above classes may be divided into two main groups, according to the form of the infinitive:—with masculine infinitive the strong triliteral type, and with feminine infinitive the type of the III. inf. The former group includes all except III. inf., IV. inf., and the causative of the biliterals, which belong to the second group.

It is probable that the verb had a special form denoting condition, as in Arabic. There was a causative form prefixing ś, and traces of forms resembling Pi‘el and Niphal are observed. Some roots are reduplicated wholly or in part with a frequentative meaning, and there are traces of gemination of radicals.

Pseudo-Participle.—In very early texts this is the past indicative, but more commonly it is used in sentences such as, gm-n-f wỉ ꜥḥꜥ·kwỉ, “he found me I stood,” i.e. “he found me standing.” The indicative use was soon given up and the pseudo-participle was employed only as predicate, especially indicating a state; e.g. ntr·t šm·tỉ, “the goddess goes”; ỉw-k wḏ’·tỉ, “thou art prosperous.” The endings were almost entirely lost in New Egyptian. For early times they stand thus:—

Sing.  3.  masc. , late w. Dual wỉỉ. Pl.  w.
fem. tỉ. tỉỉw tỉ.
2. masc. tỉ tỉwny.
fem. tỉ
1. c. kwỉ. wyn.

The pseudo-participle seems, by its inflexion, to have been the perfect of the original Semitic conjugation. The simplest form being that of the 3rd person, it is best arranged like the corresponding tense in Semitic grammars, beginning with that person. There is no trace of the Semitic imperfect in Egyptian. The ordinary conjugation is formed quite differently. The verbal stem is here followed by the subject-suffix or substantive—śḏm-f, “he hears”; śḏmw śtn, “the king hears.” It is varied by the addition of particles, &c., n, ỉn, ḫr, tw, thus:—

śḏm-f, “he hears”; śḏm-w-f, “he is heard” (pl. śḏm-ỉỉ-śn, “they are heard”); śḏm-tw-f, “he is heard”; śḏm-n-f, “he heard”; śḏm-n-tw-f, “he was heard”; also, śḏm-ỉn-f, śḏm-ḫr-f, śḏm-k’-f. Each form has special uses, generally difficult to define, śdm-f seems rather to be imperfect, śḏm-n-f perfect, and generally to express the past. Later, śḏm-f is ordinarily expressed by periphrases; but by the loss of n, śḏm-n-f became itself sdm-f, which is the ordinary past in demotic. Coptic preserves śḏm-f forms of many verbs in its causative (e.g. ⲧⲁⲛϧⲟϥ “cause him to live,” from Egyptian di·t·nḫ-f), and, in its periphrastic conjugation, the same forms of wn, “be,” and ỉry, “do.” With śḏm-f (śeḏmo-f) was a more emphatic form (eśḏomef), at any rate in the weak verbs.

The above, with the relative forms mentioned below, are supposed by Erman to be derived from the participle, which is placed first for emphasis: thus, śḏm·w śtn, “hearing is the king”; śḏm-f, for śḏm-fy, “hearing he is.” This Egyptian paraphrase of Semitic is just like the Irish paraphrase of English, “It is hearing he is.”

The imperative shows no ending in the singular; in the plural it has y, and later w; cf. Semitic imperative.

The infinitive is of special importance on account of its being preserved very fully in Coptic. It is generally of masculine form, but feminine in iii. inf. (as in Semitic), and in causatives of biliterals.

There are relative forms of śḏm-f and śḏm-n-f, respectively śḏm·w-f (masc.), śḏm·t-n-f (fem.), &c. They are used when the relative is the object of the relative sentence, or has any other position than the subject. Thus śḏm·t-f may mean “she whom he hears,” “she who[se praises] he hears,” “she [to] whom he hears [someone speaking],” &c. There are close analogies between the function of the relative particles in Egyptian and Semitic; and the Berber languages possess a relative form of the verb.

Participles.—These are active and passive, perfect and imperfect, in the old language, but all are replaced by periphrases in Coptic.

Verbal Adjectives.—There is a peculiar formation, śḏm·ty-fy, “he who shall hear,” probably meaning originally “he is a hearer,” śḏm·ty being an adjective in y formed from a feminine (t) form of the infinitive, which is occasionally found even in triliteral verbs; the endings are: sing., masc. ty-fy, fem. ty-śy; pl., masc. ty-śn, fem. ty-śt. It is found only in Old Egyptian.

Particles.—There seems to be no special formation for adverbs, and little use is made of adverbial expressions. Prepositions, simple and compound, are numerous. Some of the commonest simple prepositions are n “for,” r “to,” m “in, from,” ḥr “upon.” A few enclitic conjunctions exist, but they are indefinite in meaning—śwt a vague “but,” grt a vague “moreover,” &c.

Coptic presents a remarkable contrast to Egyptian in the precision of its periphrastic conjugation. There are two present tenses, an imperfect, two perfects, a pluperfect, a present and a past frequentative, and three futures besides future perfect; there are also conjunctive and optative forms. The negatives of some of these are expressed by special prefixes. The gradual growth of these new forms can be traced through all the stages of Egyptian. Throughout the history of the language we note an increasing tendency to periphrasis; but there was no great advance towards precision before demotic. In demotic there are distinguishable a present tense, imperfect, perfect, frequentative, future, future perfect, conjunctive and optative; also present, past and future negatives, &c. The passive was extinct before demotic; demotic and Coptic express it, clumsily it must be confessed, by an impersonal “they,” e.g. “they bore him” stands for “he was born.”

It is worth noting how, in other departments besides the verb, the Egyptian language was far better adapted to practical ends during and after the period of the Deltaic dynasties (XXII.-XXX.) than ever it was before. It was both simplified and enriched. The inflexions rapidly disappeared and little was left of the distinctions between masculine and feminine, singular, dual and plural—except in the pronouns. The dual number had been given up entirely at an earlier date. The pronouns, both personal and demonstrative, retained their forms very fully. As prefixes, suffixes and articles, they, together with some auxiliary verbs, provided the principal mechanism of the renovated language. An abundant supply of useful adverbs was gradually accumulated, as well as conjunctions, so far as the functions of the latter were not already performed by the verbal prefixes. These great improvements in the language correspond to great changes in the economic condition of the country; they were the result of active trade and constant intercourse of all classes of Egyptians with foreigners from Europe and Asia. Probably the best stage of Egyptian speech was that which immediately preceded Coptic. Though Coptic is here and there more exactly expressive than the best demotic, it was spoilt by too much Greek, duplicating and too often expelling native expressions that were already adequate for its very simple requirements. Above all, it is clumsily pleonastic.

The Writing

The ancient Egyptian system of writing, so far as we know, originated, developed and finally expired strictly within the limits of the Nile Valley. The germ of its existence may have come from without, but, as we know it, it is essentially Egyptian and intended for the expression of the Egyptian language. About the 1st century B.C., however, the semi-barbarous rulers of the Ethiopian kingdoms of Meroe and Napata contrived the “Meroitic” alphabet, founded on Egyptian writing, and comprising both a hieroglyphic and a cursive form (see Ethiopia). As yet both of these kinds of Nubian writing are undeciphered. Egyptian hieroglyphic was carried by conquest into Syria, certainly under the XVIIIth Dynasty, and again under the XXVIth for the engraving of Egyptian inscriptions; but in the earlier period the cuneiform syllabary, and in the later the “Phoenician” alphabet, had obtained a firm hold there, and we may be sure that no attempt was made to substitute the Egyptian system for the latter. Cuneiform tablets in Syria, however, seem almost confined to the period of the XVIIIth Dynasty. Although it cannot be proved it seems quite possible that the traders of Phoenicia and the Aegean adopted the papyrus and Egyptian hieratic writing together, before the end of the New Kingdom, and developed their “Phoenician” alphabet from the latter about 1000 B.C. In very early times a number of systems of writing already reigned in different countries forming a compact and not very large area—perhaps from South Arabia to Asia Minor, and from Persia to Crete and Egypt. Whether they all sprang from one common stock of picture-writing we shall perhaps never know, nor can we as yet trace the influence which one great system may have had on another, owing to the poverty of documents from most of the countries concerned.

It is certain that in Egypt from the IVth Dynasty onwards the mode of writing was essentially the same as that which was extinguished by the fall of paganism in the 4th century A.D. Its elements in the hieroglyphic form are pictorial, but each hieroglyph had one or more well-defined functions, fixed by convention in such a manner that the Egyptian language was expressed in writing word by word. Although a picture sign may at times have embarrassed the skilled native reader by offering a choice of fixed values or functions, it was never intended to convey merely an idea, so as to leave to him the task of putting the idea into his own words. How far this holds good for the period before the IVth Dynasty it is difficult to say. The known inscriptions of the earlier times are so brief and so limited in range that the system on which they were written cannot yet be fully investigated. As far back as the Ist Dynasty, phonograms (see below) were in full use. But the spelling then was very concise: it is possible that some of the slighter words, such as prepositions, were omitted in the writing, and were intended to be supplied from the context. As a whole, we gain the impression that a really distinct and more primitive stage of hieroglyphic writing by a substantially vaguer notation of words lay not far behind the time of the Ist Dynasty.

The employment of the signs are of three kinds: any given sign represents either (1) a whole word or root; or (2) a sound as part of a word; or (3) pictorially defines the meaning of a word the sound of which has already been given by a sign or group of signs preceding. The number of phonograms is very restricted, but some signs have all these powers. For instance,


is the conventional picture of a draughtboard (shown in plan) with the draughtsmen (shown in elevation) on its edge:—this sign (1) signifies the root mn, “set,” “firm”; or (2) in the group


represents the same sound as part of the root mnḫ, “good”; or (3) added to the group

snt (thus: 

shows that the meaning intended is “draught-board,” or “draughts,” and not any of the other meanings of snt. Thus signs, according to their employment, are said to be (1) “word-signs,” (2) “phonograms,” or (3) “determinatives.”

Word-signs.—The word-sign value of a sign is, in the first place, the name of the object it represents, or of some material, or quality, or action, or idea suggested by it. Thus

 is ḥr, “face”;
, a vase of ointment, is mrḥ.t, “ointment”;
 is wdb, “turn.”

Much investigation is still required to establish the origins of the values of the signs; in some cases the connexion between the pictures and the primary values seems to be curiously remote. Probably all the signs in the hieroglyphic signary can be employed in their primary sense. The secondary value expresses the consonantal root of the name or other primary value, and any, or almost any, derivative from that root: as when

, a mat with a cake upon it,

is not only ḥtp, an “offering-mat,” but also ḥtp in the sense of “conciliation,” “peace,” “rest,” “setting” (of the sun), with many derivatives. In the third place, some signs may be transferred to express another root having the same consonants as the first: thus

, the ear,

by a play upon words can express not only śḏm, “hear,” but also śdm, “paint the eyes.”

Phonograms.—Only a limited number of signs are found with this use, but they are of the greatest importance. By searching throughout the whole mass of normal inscriptions, earlier than the periods of Greek and Roman rule when great liberties were taken with the writing, probably no more than one hundred different phonograms can be found. The number of those commonly employed in good writing is between seventy and eighty. The most important phonograms are the uniliteral or alphabetic signs, twenty-four in number in the Old Kingdom and without any homophones: later these were increased by homophones to thirty. Of biliteral phonograms—each expressing a combination of two consonants—there were about fifty commonly used: some fifteen or twenty were rarely used. As Egyptian roots seldom exceeded three letters, there was no need for triliteral phonograms to spell them. There is, however, one triliteral phonogram,

the eagle, 
, tyw, or tiu (?),

used for the plural ending of adjectives in y formed from words ending in t (whether radical or the feminine ending).

The phonetic values of the signs are derived from their word-sign values and consist usually of the bare root, though there are rare examples of the retention of a flexional ending; they often ignore also the weaker consonants of the root, and on the same principle reduce a repeated consonant to a single one, as when

the hoe 

has the phonetic value ḥn. The history of some of the alphabetic signs is still very obscure, but a sufficient number of them have been explained to make it nearly certain that the values of all were obtained on the same principles.[7] Some of the ancient words from which the phonetic values were derived probably fell very early into disuse, and may never be discoverable in the texts that have come down to us. The following are among those most easily explained:—

, reed flower, value y and א; from 
, y’, “reed.”

(It seems as if the two values y and א were obtained by choosing first one and then the other of the two semi-consonants composing the name. They are much confused, and a conventional symbol has to be adopted

for rendering 
, forearm, value ꜥ(ע);  from 
, ꜥ(ע), “hand.”
, mouth, value r from 
, r, “mouth.”
, belly and teats, value  from 
X1 Z1
, ḫ.t, “belly.”
(The feminine ending is here, as usual, neglected.)
, tank, value š from 
, š, “tank.”
, slope of earth or brickwork, value q from 
, q’’, “slope,” “height.”
(The doubled weak consonant is here neglected.)
, hand, value d from 
X1 Z1
, d.t, “hand.”
, cobra, value z from 
X1 Z1
, z.t, “cobra.”

For some alphabetic signs more than one likely origin might be found, while for others, again, no clear evidence of origin is yet forthcoming.

It has already been explained that the writing expresses only consonants. In the Graeco-Roman period various imperfect attempts were made to render the vowels in foreign names and words by the semi-vowels as also by

, the consonant ע which 
 originally represented

having been reduced in speech by that time to the power of א, only. Thus, Πτολεμαιος is spelt Ptwrmys, Antoninus, ’Nt’nynws or Intnyns, &c. &c. Much earlier, throughout the New Kingdom, a special “syllabic” orthography, in which the alphabetic signs for the consonants are generally replaced by groups or single signs having the value of a consonant followed by a semi-vowel, was used for foreign names and words, e.g.

תבכרמ , “chariot,” was written 
in Coptic ⲃⲉⲣⲉϭⲱⲟⲩⲧ.
לדגמ , “tower,” was written 
, Coptic ⲙⲉϭⲧⲟⲗ.
רונכ , “harp,” was written 
תמח , “Hamath,” was written 

According to W. Max Müller (Asien und Europa, 1893, chap, v.), this represents an endeavour to express the vocalization; but, if so, it was carried out with very little system. In practice, the semi-vowels are generally negligible. This method of writing can be traced back into the Middle Kingdom, if not beyond, and it greatly affected the spelling of native words in New Egyptian and demotic.

Determinatives.—Most signs can on occasion be used as determinatives, but those that are very commonly employed as phonograms or as secondary word-signs are seldom employed as determinatives; and when they are so used they are often somewhat differentiated. Certain generic determinatives are very common, e.g.:—

; of motion.
; of acts involving force.
; of divinity.
; of a person or a man’s name.
; of buildings.
; of inhabited places.
; of foreign countries.
; club; of foreigners.
; of all actions of the mouth—eating and speaking, likewise silence and hunger.
; ripple-lines; of liquid.
; hide; of animals, also leather, &c.
; of plants and fibres.
; of flesh.
; a sealed papyrus-roll; of books, teaching, law, and of abstract ideas generally.

In the earliest inscriptions the use of determinatives is restricted to

, &c.,

after proper names, but it developed immensely later, so that few words beyond the particles were written without them in the normal style after the Old Kingdom.

Some few signs ideographic of a group of ideas are made to express particular words belonging to that group by the aid of phonograms which point out the special meaning. In such cases the ideogram is not merely a determinative nor yet quite a word-sign. Thus

“Libyan,” &c.,

cannot stand by itself for the name of any particular foreign people. So also in monogram

 is šm “go,”
 is “conduct.”

Orthography.—The most primitive form of spelling in the hieroglyphic system would be by one sign for each word, and the monuments of the Ist Dynasty show a decided tendency to this mode. Examples of it in later times are preserved in the royal cartouches, for here the monumental style demanded special consciseness. Thus, for instance, the name of Tethmosis III.—MN-ḪPR-Rꜥ—is spelled


(as Rꜥ is the name of the sun-god, with customary deference to the deity it is written first though pronounced last). A number of common words—prepositions, &c.—with only one consonant are spelled by single alphabetic signs in ordinary writing. Word-signs used singly for the names of objects are generally marked with


in classical writing, as—

ỉb, “heart,”
ḥr, “face,” &c.

But the use of bare word-signs is not common. Flexional consonants are almost always marked by phonograms, except in very early times; as when the feminine word

 = z.t, “cobra,” is spelled 
X1 Z1

Also, if a sign had more than one value, a phonogram would be added to indicate which of its values was intended: thus

 is św, “he,”
but in 
 it is śtn, “king.”

Further, owing to the vast number of signs employed, to prevent confusion of one with another in rapid writing they were generally provided with “phonetic complements,” a group being less easily misread than a single letter. E.g.

, wz, “command,” is regularly written 
, wz (w);
, ḥz, “white,” is written 
, ḥz(z).

This practice had the advantage also of distinguishing determinatives from phonograms. Thus the root or syllable ḥn is regularly written


to avoid confusion with the determinative


Redundance in writing is the rule; for instance,

b is often spelled 

Biliteral phonograms are very rare as phonetic complements, nor are two biliteral phonograms employed together in writing the radicals of a word.

Spelling of words purely in phonetic or even alphabetic characters is not uncommon, the determinative being generally added. Thus in the pyramidal texts we find

ḫpr, “become,” written 
in one copy of a text, in another 
Aa1 Q3

Such variant spellings are very important for fixing the readings of word-signs. It is noteworthy that though words were so freely spelled in alphabetic characters, especially in the time of the Old Kingdom, no advance was ever made towards excluding the cumbersome word-signs and biliteral phonograms, which, by a judicious use of determinatives, might well have been rendered quite superfluous.

Abbreviations.—We find


strictly ꜥnḫ zś standing for the ceremonial viva! ꜥnḫ wz’ śnb. “Life, Prosperity and Health,” and in course of time


was used in accounts instead of

 dmz, “total.”

Monograms are frequent and are found from the earliest times. Thus


mentioned above are monograms, the association of


having no pictorial meaning. Another common monogram is

 for Ḥ·t-Ḥrw “Hathor.”

A word-sign may be compounded with its phonetic complement, as

 ḥz “white,”

or with its determinative, as

 ḥz “silver.”

The table on the opposite page shows the uses of a few of the commoner signs.

The decorative value of hieroglyphic was fully appreciated in Egypt. The aim of the artist-scribe was to arrange his variously shaped characters into square groups, and this could be done in great measure by taking advantage of the different ways in which many words could be spelt. Thus ḥs could be written

V28 W14

But some words in the classical writing were intractable from this point of view. It is obvious that the alphabetic signs played a very important part in the formation of the groups, and many words could only be written in alphabetic signs. A great advance was therefore made when several homophones were introduced into the alphabet in the Middle and New Kingdoms, partly as the result of the wearing away of old phonetic distinctions, giving the choice between


In later times the number of homophones in use increased greatly throughout the different classes, the tendency being much helped by the habit of fanciful writing; but few of these homophones found their way into the cursive script. Occasionally a scribe of the old times indulged his fancy in “sportive” or “mysterious” writing, either inventing new signs or employing old ones in unusual meanings. Short sportive inscriptions are found in tombs of the XIIth Dynasty; some groups are so written cursively in early medical papyri, and certain religious inscriptions in the royal tombs of the XIXth and XXth Dynasties are in secret writing. Fanciful writing abounds on the temples of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods.


Hieroglyphic.—The main division is into monumental or epigraphic hieroglyphs and written hieroglyphs. The former may be rendered by the sculptor or the painter in stone, on wood, &c., with great delicacy of detail, or may be simply sunk or painted in outline. When finely rendered they are of great value to the student investigating the origins of their values. No other system of writing bears upon its face so clearly the history of its development as the Egyptian; yet even in this a vast amount of work is still required to detect and disentangle the details. Monumental hieroglyphic did not cease till the 3rd century A.D. (Temple of Esna). The written hieroglyphs, formed by the scribe with the reed pen on papyrus, leather, wooden tablets, &c., have their outlines more or less abbreviated, producing eventually the cursive scripts hieratic and demotic. The written hieroglyphs were employed at all periods, especially for religious texts.

Hieratic.—A kind of cursive hieroglyphic or hieratic writing is found even in the Ist Dynasty. In the Middle Kingdom it is well characterized, and in its most cursive form seems hardly to retain any definable trace of the original hieroglyphic pictures. The style varies much at different periods.

Sign. Description. Name.  Word-sign 

 child hrd (khrod)      youth
 face ḥr (ḥor) ḥr [ḥr]  
 eye ỉr.t (yori.t) ỉr ỉr  see, &c.
 mouth r (ro) r r  
 forearm ꜥ (ꜥei)  [action of hand or arm]
 arm with stick  nḫt “be strong”  nḫt    violent action
 man with stick nḫt “be strong” nḫt    violent action
 lungs and windpipe smꜣ smꜣ    
 heart ỉb      heart
 heart and windpipe ? nfr    
 sparrow ? šr    evil, worthlessness, smallness 
 widgeon sꜣ.t sꜣ sꜣ  
 bolti-fish ỉn.t ỉn ỉn  
 tusk (1) ỉbḥ “tooth”
(2) ḥw “taste”
 bite, &c.
 cut branch ḫt ḫt [ḫt]  wood, tree
 threshing-floor sp.t sp    
 sun (1) rꜥ “sun”
(2) hrw “day”
     (1) sun
 (2) division of time
 chamber, house pr pr    
 flat land t’ t’ t’  boundless horizon, eternity
 libation vase ḥs.t ḥs ḥs  
 cord on stick wz wz wz  
 basket nb.t nb    
 looped basket ? k k  
 sickle ? m’ m’  
 composite hoe [mr?] mr mr  tillage
 fire-drill z’.t(?) z’ z’  
 attendant’s equipment  šmś “follow” šmś    
 knife    cut, prick, cutting instrument

Demotic.—Widely varying degrees of cursiveness are at all periods observable in hieratic; but, about the XXVIth Dynasty, which inaugurated a great commercial era, there was something like a definite parting between the uncial hieratic and the most cursive form afterwards known as demotic. The employment of hieratic was thenceforth almost confined to the copying of religious and other traditional texts on papyrus, while demotic was used not only for all business but also for writing literary and even religious texts in the popular language. By the time of the XXVth Dynasty the cursive of the conservative Thebais had become very obscure. A better form from Lower Egypt drove this out completely in the time of Amasis II. and is the true demotic. Before the Macedonian conquest the cursive ligatures of the old demotic gave birth to new symbols which were carefully and distinctly formed, and a little later an epigraphic variety was engraved on stone, as in the case of the Rosetta stone itself. One of the most characteristic distinctions of later demotic is the minuteness of the writing.

Hieroglyphic is normally written from right to left, the signs facing to the commencement of the line; hieratic and demotic follow the same direction. But monumental hieroglyphic may also be written from left to right, and is constantly so arranged for purposes of symmetry, e.g. the inscriptions on the two jambs of a door are frequently turned in opposite directions; the same is frequently done with the short inscriptions scattered over a scene amongst the figures, in order to distinguish one label from another.

In modern founts of type, the hieroglyphic signs are made to run from left to right, in order to facilitate the setting where European text is mixed with the Egyptian. The table on next page shows them in their more correct position, in order to display more clearly their relation to the hieratic and demotic equivalents.

Clement of Alexandria states that in the Egyptian schools the pupils were first taught the “epistolographic” style of writing (i.e. demotic), secondly the “hieratic” employed by the sacred scribes, and finally the “hieroglyphic” (Strom. v. 657). It is doubtful whether they classified the signs of the huge hieroglyphic syllabary with any strictness. The only native work on the writing that has come to light as yet is a fragmentary papyrus of Roman date which has a table in parallel columns of hieroglyphic signs, with their hieratic equivalents and words written in hieratic describing them or giving their values or meanings. The list appears to have comprised about 460 signs, including most of those that occur commonly in hieratic. They are to some extent classified.

The bee 

heads the list as a royal sign, and is followed by figures of nobles and other human figures in various attitudes, more or less grouped among themselves, animals, reptiles and fishes, scorpion, animals again, twenty-four alphabetic characters, parts of the human body carefully arranged


thirty-two in number, parts of animals, celestial signs, terrestrial signs, vases. The arrangement down to this point is far from strict, and beyond it is almost impossible to describe concisely, though there is still a rough grouping of characters according to resemblance of form, nature or meaning. It is a curious fact that not a single bird is visible on the fragments, and the trees and plants, which might easily have been collected in a compact and well-defined section, are widely scattered. Why the alphabetic characters are introduced where they are is a puzzle; the order of these is:—


Three others,


had already occurred amongst the fish and reptiles. There seems to be no logical aim in this arrangement of the alphabetic characters and the series is incomplete. Very probably the Egyptians never constructed a really systematic list of hieroglyphs. In modern lists the signs are classified according to the nature of the objects they depict, as human figures, plants, vessels, instruments, &c. Horapollon’s Hieroglyphica may be cited as a native work, but its author, if really an Egyptian, had no knowledge of good writing. His production consists of two elaborate complementary lists: the one describing sign-pictures and giving their meanings, the other cataloguing ideas in order to show how they could be expressed in hieroglyphic. Each seems to us to be made up of curious but perverted reminiscences eked out by invention; but they might some day prove to represent more truly the usages of mystics and magicians in designing amulets, &c., at a time approaching the middle ages.

  Demotic. Hieratic. Hieroglyphic.  

 ent, “who” EB1911 Egypt ent1.jpg EB1911 Egypt ent2.jpg
Z4 X1
 Perso (“Pharaoh”) EB1911 Egypt Perso1.jpg EB1911 Egypt Perso2.jpg
Perꜥo ꜥnḫ wz, śnb
 yôt, “father” EB1911 Egypt - yôt, “father” - Demotic.jpg EB1911 Egypt - yôt, “father” - Hieratic.jpg
 ꜥônkh, “live” EB1911 Egypt - ‘ônkh, “live” - Demotic.jpg EB1911 Egypt - ‘ônkh, “live” - Hieratic.jpg
 ekh, “know” EB1911 Egypt - ekh, “know” - Demotic.jpg EB1911 Egypt - ekh, “know” - Hieratic.jpg
 ahe, “stand” EB1911 Egypt - ahe, “stand” - Demotic.jpg EB1911 Egypt - ahe, “stand” - Hieratic.jpg
 eine, “carry” EB1911 Egypt - eine, “carry” - Demotic.jpg EB1911 Egypt - eine, “carry” - Hieratic.jpg
 ms (phon.) EB1911 Egypt - ms (phon.) - Demotic.jpg EB1911 Egypt - ms (phon.) - Hieratic.jpg
 s (alph.) EB1911 Egypt - s (alph.) - Demotic - first version.jpg Hieratic o34.svg
 s (alph.) EB1911 Egypt - s (alph.) - Demotic - second version.jpg Hieratic s29.svg
 m (alph.) EB1911 Egypt - m (alph.) - Demotic.jpg EB1911 Egypt - m (alph.) - Hieratic.jpg
 n (alph.) EB1911 Egypt - n (alph.) - Demotic.jpg EB1911 Egypt - n (alph.) - Hieratic.jpg

The early scribe’s outfit, often carried slung over his shoulder, is seen in the hieroglyph


It consisted of frayed reed pens or brushes, a small pot of water, and a palette with two circular cavities in which black and red ink were placed, made of finely powdered colour solidified with gum. In business and literary documents red ink was used for contrast, especially in headings; in demotic, however, it is very rarely seen. The pen became finer in course of time, enabling the scribe to write very small. The split reed of the Greek penman was occasionally adopted by the late demotic scribes.

Egypt had long been bilingual when, in papyri of the 2nd century A.D., we begin to find transcripts of the Egyptian language into Greek letters, the latter reinforced by a few signs borrowed from the demotic alphabet: so written we have a magical text and a horoscope, probably made by foreigners or for their use. The infinite superiority of the Greek alphabet with its full notation of vowels was readily seen, but piety and custom as yet barred the way to its full adoption. The triumph of Christianity banished the old system once and for all; even at the beginning of the 4th century the native Egyptian script scarcely survived north of the Nubian frontier at Philae; a little later it finally expired. The following eight signs, however, had been taken over from demotic by the Copts:

ϣ = š, from 
 šꜣ, dem. EB1911 Egypt - Demotic basis for Coptic ϣ (1).jpg, EB1911 Egypt - Demotic basis for Coptic ϣ (2).jpg.
ϩ = h, probably from 
 ḥw (or 
 ḥꜣ), dem. Demotique h.png.
Ϧ (Boh.) = , from 
 ḫꜣ, dem. Demotique kh.png.
Ⲝ (Akhm.) = , from 
X1 Z1
 ḫy, ḫt, dem. EB1911 Egypt - Demotic basis for Coptic Ⲝ.jpg.
ϥ = f, from 
 f, dem. Demotique f.png.
ϭ = č from 
 k (or 
 ), dem. Demotique tsh.png, EB1911 Egypt - Demotic basis for Coptic ϭ.jpg.
ϫ = ğ, from 
 dꜣ (or 
 tꜣ), dem. Demotique j.png.
ϯ = ti, from 
 dy·t, dem. EB1911 Egypt - Demotic basis for Coptic ϯ.jpg.

For origins of hieroglyphs, see Petrie’s Medum (1892); F. Ll. Griffith, A Collection of Hieroglyphics (1898); N. de G. Davies, The Mastaba of Ptahhetep and Akhethetep, pt. i. (1900); M. A. Murray, Saqqara Mastabas (London, 1905); also Petrie and Griffith, Two Hieroglyphic Papyri from Tanis (London, 1889) (native sign-list); G. Möller, Hieratische Paläographie (Leipzig, 1909); Griffith, Catalogue of Demotic Papyri in the J. Rylands Collection (Manchester, 1909).

 (F. Ll. G.) 

E. Art and Archaeology.—In the following sections a general history of the characteristics of Ancient Egyptian art is first given, showing the variation of periods and essentials of style; and this is followed by an account of the use made of material products, of the tools and instruments employed, and of the monuments. For further details see also the separate topographical headings (for excavations, &c.), and the general articles on the various arts and art-materials (for references to Egypt); also Pyramids; Mummy, &c.

General Characteristics.

The wide and complex subject of Egyptian art will be treated here in six periods: Prehistoric, Early Kings, Pyramid Kings, XIIth Dynasty, XVIIIth-XXth Dynasties, XXVIth Dynasty and later. In each age will be considered the (A) statuary, (B) reliefs, (C) painting.

Prehistoric.—The earliest civilized population of Egypt was highly skilled in mechanical accuracy and regularity, but had little sense of organic forms. They kept the unfinished treatment of the limbs and extremities which is so characteristic of most barbaric art; and the action was more considered than the form.

(A) In the round there are in the earlier graves female figures of two races, the Bushman type and European, both probably representing servants or slaves. These have the legs always united, sloping to a point without feet (Plate I. fig. 1); the arms are only stumps. The face has a beaky nose and some indication of eyes. Upon the surface is colouring; red for the Bushman, with black whisker though female; white for the European type, with black tattoo patterns. Other female figures are modelled in a paste, upon a stick, and the black hair is sometimes made separately to fit on as a wig over the red head, showing that wigs were then used. Male figures are generally only heads in the earlier times. Tusks with carved heads (Plate I. figs. 2, 3) are the earliest, beginning at S.D. (sequence date) 33;[8] heads on the top of combs are found, from S.D. 42 to the close of such combs in the fifties. All of these heads show a high forehead and a pointed beard; and such expression as may be discovered is grave but not savage. In later times whole figures of ivory, stone and clay are found, with the legs united, and the arms usually joined to the body. A favourite way of indicating the eyes was by drilling two holes and inserting a white shell bead in each. The figures of animals (Plate I. figs. 4, 5) are quite as rude as the human figures: they only summarily indicate the mature, and often hardly express the genus. They are most usual on combs and pins; but sacred animals are also found. The lion is the most usual (Plate I. fig. 7), but the legs are roughly marked, if at all: the leonine air is given, but the attitude is more distinct than the form. The hawk (Plate I. fig. 6) is modelled in block without any legs. The slate palettes in the form of animals are even more summary, and continually degraded until they lost all trace of their origin. There are also curious figures of animals chipped in flint, which show some character, but no detail.

(B) Reliefs with animal figures belong to the later part of the prehistoric age. The relief is low, and the form hatched across with lines (Plate I. fig. 8), a style copied from drawing. There is more animation than in the round figures. At the close of this age the fashion of long processions of animals appears (Plate I. fig. 9); some character is shown in these, but no sense of action.

(C) Drawing is found from the earliest civilization, done in white slip on red vases. Figures of men are very rare (Plate I. fig. 10); they have the body triangular, the waist being very narrow; the legs are two lines linked by a zigzag, as if to express that they move to and fro. The usual figures are goats and hippopotami; always having the body covered with cross lines to express the connexion of the outlines (Plate I. fig. 11). This technique is in every way closely akin to that of the modern Kabyle. An entirely different mode is common at a later time when designs were painted in thin red colour on a light brown ware. The subjects of the earlier of these examples are imitations of cordage, of marbling, and of basket-work; later there are rows of men and animals, and ships (Plate I. figs. 12, 13), with various minor signs. The figures are never cross-hatched as in earlier drawing, but always filled in altogether. The fact that the ships have oars and not sails makes it probable that they were rather for the sea than for Nile traffic, and a starfish among the motives on such pottery also points to the sea connexion. The ulterior meaning of the decoration is probably religious and funereal, but the objects which are figured must have been familiar.

For this whole period see Jean Capart, Débuts de l’art en Égypte (1904; trans. Primitive Art in Ancient Egypt).

Plate I.


EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - Tatooed Female.jpg EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - Heads on Ivory Tusks.jpg EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - Animals on Bone Combs.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - Ivory Hawk.jpg EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - Ivory Dog and Gazelle.jpg EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - White on Red Vases.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - Limestone Lion.jpg EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - Ivory Handle of Knife.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - Ship on a Vase.jpg EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - Ship on a Wall Painting.jpg EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - Ivory King.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - Archaic King's Head.jpg EB1911 Egypt - Earliest Art - Head of Khasekhem.jpg

The Early Kings.—The dynastic race wrought an entire transformation in the art of Egypt; in place of the clumsy and undetailed representations, there suddenly appears highly artistic work, full of character, action and anatomical detail.

(A) The earliest statues of this age are the colossi of the god Min from Coptos; that they belong to the artistic race is evident from the spirited reliefs upon them (see below, B), but the figures were very rude, the legs and arms being joined all in the mass. The main example of this early art is a limestone head of a king (Plate I. figs. 15, 16), which is a direct study from life, to serve as a model. For the accuracy of the facial curves, and the grasp of character and type, it is equal to any later work; and in its entire absence of conventions and its pure naturalism there is no later sculpture so good: as Prof. A. Michaelis says, “it renders the race type with astounding keenness, and shows an excellent power of observation in the exact representation of the eyes.” By the portrait, it is probably of King Narmer or some king related to him, that is, about the beginning of the Ist Dynasty. The ivory statuette of an aged king (Plate I. fig. 14) is probably slightly later. It shows the same subtle sense of character, and is unsurpassed in its reality. Many ivory figures of men, women and animals are known from Nekhen (Hieraconpolis) and Abydos; and they all show the same school of work, simple, dignified, observant, and with an air which places them on a higher plane of truthfulness and precision than later art. There is none of the mannerism of a long tradition, but a nobility pervades them which has no self-consciousness. The lower class of work of this age is shown by great numbers of glazed pottery figures both human and animal. Later in the IInd Dynasty, the head of Khasekhem (Plate I. fig. 17) shows the beginning of convention, but yet has a delicacy about the mouth which surpasses later works.

(B) Reliefs abound at this age, and include the most important evidences of the development of the art. The earliest examples are those of animals (Plate II. fig. 18) and shells on the colossi of Coptos. They show a keen sense of form, and the stag’s head, which is probably the earliest, already bears an artistic feeling wholly different to that of any of the prehistoric works (P.K. iii. iv.). The carvings on slate palettes appear to begin with work crudely accurate and forceful, the heavy limbs being ridged with tendons and muscles (Plate II. fig. 19), but there is more proportion, with the same massive strength (Plate II. fig. 20). Soon after, with a leap, the artist produced the first pure work of art that is known (Plate II. fig. 21), a design for its own sake without the tie of symbolism or history. The group of two long-necked gazelles facing a palm tree is of extraordinary refinement, and shows the artistic consciousness in every part; the symmetric rendering of the palm tree, reduced to fit the scale of the animals, the dainty grace of the smooth gazelles contrasted with the rugged stem, the delicacy of the long flowing curves and the fine indications of the joints, all show a sense of design which has rarely been equalled in the ceaseless repetitions of the tree and supporters motive during every age since. Passing the various palettes with hunting scenes and animals (Plate II. fig. 22), we come to the great historical carving of King Narmer (Plate II. fig. 23). Here the anatomy has reached its limits for such work; the precision of the muscles on the inner and outer sides of the leg, of the uniform grip in the left arm, and the tense muscle upholding the right arm, prove that the artist knew that part of his work perfectly. The large ceremonial mace-heads recording the Sed festivals of the king Narmer and another, belong also to this school; but owing to their smaller size they have not such artistic detail. With them were found many reliefs in ivory, on tusks, wands and cylinders. The main motive in these is a long procession of animals (Plate II. figs. 24, 25) often grotesquely crowded; but there is much observation shown and the figures are expressive. No drawing of this age has survived.

Plate II.


EB1911 Egypt - Early Art - Limestone Relief.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Early Art - Animals on Slate Palette.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Early Art - Conqueror as a Bull.jpg
Photo, Mansell.
EB1911 Egypt - Early Art - Gazelles and Palm, Slate.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Early Art - Animals, Slate.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Early Art - King Narmer, Slate Palette.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Early Art - Ivory Tusk, with Animals.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Early Art - Ivory Wand, with Animals.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Early Art - Wooden Panels of Hesi (1).jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Early Art - Wooden Panels of Hesi (2).jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Early Art - Rahotp and Nefert.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Early Art - Wooden Figure.jpg

The Pyramid Kings.—A different ideal appears in the pyramid times; in place of the naturalism of the earlier work there is more regularity, some convention, and the sense of a school in the style. The prevailing feeling is a noble spaciousness both in scale and in form, an equanimity based upon knowledge and character, a grandeur of conception expressed by severely simple execution. There is nothing superfluous, nothing common, nothing trivial. The smallest as well as the largest work seems complete, inevitable, immutable, without limitations of time, or labour or thought.

(A) The statuette of Khufu or Cheops (Plate III. fig. 29) though only a minute figure in ivory, shows the character of immense energy and will; the face is an astonishing portrait to be expressed in a quarter of an inch. The life-size statue of Khafrē or Chephren (Plate III. fig. 30) is a majestic work, serene and powerful; carved in hard diorite, yet unhesitating in execution. The muscular detail is full, but yet kept in harmony with the massive style of the figure. The private persons have entirely different treatment according to the character of their position. In place of the awful dignity of the kings there is the placid high-bred Princess Nofri (Plate II. fig. 27, Plate III. fig. 31), the calm conscientious dignitary Hemset (Plate III. fig. 32), the bustling, active, middle-class official, Ka-aper (Plate II. fig. 28, Plate III. fig. 33), and the kneeling figure of a servitor. The differences of character are very skilfully rendered in all the sculpture of this age. The whole figures are stiff in the earlier time, as the figure of Nes; then square and massive, but true in form, as Rahotp and Nofri (Plate II. fig. 27); and afterwards easier and less monumental, as Ka-aper (Plate II. fig. 28). The skill in beaten copper work is shown by the portrait of the Prince Mer-en-ra (Plate III. fig. 35).

(B) The reliefs are quite equal to the statuary. The wooden panels of Hesi (Plate II. fig. 26) show the archaic style of great detail, with a bold, stark vigour of attitude. Later work is abundant in the tomb-sculptures of this age, with a fulness of variety and detail which makes them the most interesting of all branches of the art. The general effect cannot be judged without a large scene, but the figures of two men and an ox (Plate III. fig. 37) show the freshness and vigour of the style, which is even higher than this in some examples. The clear, noble spacing of the surface work is well shown by a group of offerings and inscribed titles (Plate III. fig. 36).

(C) Flat drawings of this age are rare. Some fine examples, such as the geese from Mēdūm, show that such work kept pace with the reliefs; but most of the fresco-work has perished, and there are few instances of line drawing.

The XIIth Dynasty.—This age overlaps the previous in its style. The end of the last age was in the very degraded tomb work of the early XIth Dynasty.

(A) The new style begins with the royal statues, which it seems we must attribute to the foreign kings from whom the XIIth Dynasty was descended. These statues were later appropriated by the Hyksos, and so came to be called by their name, which is a misnomer. The type of face (Plate III. fig. 38) is thick-featured, full of force, with powerful masses of facial muscle covering the skull. The style is very vigorous and impassioned, without any trace of relenting towards conventional work. The surfaces are not in the least subdued by a general breadth of style, as in the last period; but, on the contrary, revel in the full detail of variety. There is perhaps no age where nature is so little controlled by convention in either the living character or its sculptured expression. One of these kings might well be the founder of the IXth Dynasty, “Achthoes (Kheti), who did much injury to all the inhabitants,” “Khuther Taurus the tyrant”; the expression is that of a Chlodwig or an Alboin. From this type evidently descended the milder and more civilized kings of the XIIth Dynasty, the resemblance being so strong that the fierce figures have even been identified with that dynasty by some. A good example is that of the statue of Amenemhat (Amenemhē) III. (Plate III. fig. 39). The style of the XIIth Dynasty may be summed up as clean, highly-finished work, strong in facial detail; but with neither the grandeur of the IVth nor the vivacity of the XVIIIth Dynasty. This passed in the XIIIth Dynasty into a graceful but weak manner, as in the statues of Sebkhotp (Sebek-hotep) III. and Neferhotp.

(B) The relief work shows most clearly the rise of the new style. In the middle of the XIth Dynasty an entirely fresh treatment appears; the Old Kingdom work had died out in very bad sunk-reliefs, the fresh style (Plate III. fig. 41) was a low relief with sharp edges above the field. It was full of delicate variety in the surfaces, and of elaborated close-packed lines of hair and ornaments. By the time of the early XIIth Dynasty, this reached a perfection of refinement in the detail of facial curves, with an ostentatiously low relief (P.K. ix. i.), rather on the lines of modern French work; but the whole with clean, firm outlines, severely restrained in the expression, and without any trace of emotion. It is the work of a school, in which high training took the place of the reliance on nature. Sunk relief was also well used, as by Senusert (Senwosri) I. (Plate III. fig. 40). There was a steady decline during the XIIth Dynasty and onward, but the same tone was followed.

(C) In some tombs painting only was used, and it followed the general character of the relief treatment, being more rigid, detailed, and scholastic than the older style.

The XVIIIth-XXth Dynasties.—The obvious, not to say superficial, character of this age has rendered it one of the most popular in Egyptian art. The older breadth, fulness, and vigour have vanished, those great qualities which stamp the immortal works of early times. The difference is much like that between the Parthenon and the Niobids, or between Jacopo Avanzi and Caracci. In this change is the whole difference between the art of character and the art of emotion; and though the emotional side is the more popular, as needing less thought to understand it, yet the unfailing canon is that in every age and land the true quality of art is proportionate to the expression of character as apart from transient emotion. This may perhaps apply to other arts as well as to sculpture and painting. If we accept frankly the emotional nature of this age, we may admire its graceful outlines, its vivacious manner, its romantic style, with an occasional sauciness which is amusing and attractive. It revelled in rich detail, and close masses of lines, as in wigs and ribbed dresses. It sported with a seductive Syrian type of face, especially under Amenophis (Amenhotep) III.; but we find the anatomy giving way to mere smoothness of surface, for the sake of contrast with the masses of detail. The romantic element increased, solemn funereal statues show husband and wife hand in hand; and it culminated under Akhenaton, who is seen kissing his wife in the chariot, or dancing her on his knee. An overwhelming naturalism swamped the older reserves of Egyptian art, and the expression of the postures, actions and familiarities of daily life, or the instantaneous attitudes of animals, became the dernier cri of fashion. It was all charming and wonderful, but it was the end,—nothing could come after it. The XIXth Dynasty, at its best under Seti I., could only excel in high finish of smoothness and graceful curves; life, character, meaning, had vanished. And soon after, under Rameses II., mere mechanical copying, hard lifeless routine of stone-cutting, regardless of truth and of nature, dominated the whole.

(A) In sculpture there is a certain baldness of style at first, as in the Amenophis I. at Turin or Mutnefert at Cairo. More fulness and richness of character succeeded, as in Tahutmes (Tethmosis) III. and Amenophis III. (Plate IV. fig. 42, British Museum). And the feeling of the age finds greater scope in private statues, many of which have a personal fascination about them, as in the seated figures at Cairo and Florence, and the freer work in wood, of which the ebony negress (Plate IV. fig. 45) is the best example. The burst of naturalism under Akhenaton resulted in some marvellous portraiture, of which the fragment of a queen’s head (Plate IV. fig. 43) is perhaps the most brilliant instance; the fidelity in the delicate curves of the nose and around the mouth is enhanced by the touch of artistic convention in the facing of the lips. The only work of ability in the XIXth Dynasty is the black granite figure (Plate IV. fig. 44) of Rameses II. at Turin. The ordinary statuary of his reign is painfully stiff and poor, and there is no later work in the period worth notice.

(B) The reliefs of the early XVIIIth Dynasty are closely like the scenes of the tombs in the pyramid age, but soon carving was superseded by the cheaper painting, and but few tombs in relief are known. The temples were the principal places for reliefs; and they steadily deteriorate from the first great example, Deir el Bahri (see Architecture: Egyptian), down to the late Ramessides. The portraiture is strong and clear-cut (Plate IV. fig. 46), but somewhat mechanical and without muscular detail: the sameness is rather more than is probable. There is a good deal of repetition for mere effect, even in the fine work of Kha-em-hat (Plate IV. fig. 47), under Amenophis III. That the artists were conscious of their poverty of thought is shown by some precise imitations of the style of early monuments. On reaching the age of Akhenaton, the peculiar style of that school is obvious in every relief; the older conventions were deserted, and, for good or for bad, a new start from nature was attempted. After that the smooth finish of the Seti reliefs at Abydos (Plate IV. fig. 48) shows no life or observation; and only occasionally the artist triumphed over the stone-worker, as in the portrait of Bantanta at Memphis, which is precisely like another head of her found in Sinai. The innumerable reliefs of the XIXth-XXth Dynasty temples are only of historic interest, and are all despicable in comparison with earlier works.

(C) Painting was the art most congenial to this age; the lightness of touch, abundance of incident, and even comedy, of the scenes are familiar in the frescoes in the British Museum. And under Akhenaton this was pervaded by an entire naturalism of posture, as seen in the two little princesses (Plate IV. fig. 49). Drawing continued to be the strong point of the art after the more laborious sculpture had lost all vitality. The tomb of Seti shows exquisitely firm line drawing; and the heads of four races (Plate IV. fig. 50), Western, Syrian, and two Negro, here show the unfailing line-work which has never been matched in later times. The artist habitually drew the long lines of whole limbs without a single hesitation or revoke; and the drawing of a tumbling girl (Plate IV. fig. 51) shows how credibly such contortions could be represented. The comic papyri of the XXth Dynasty have also a very strong sense of character, even through coarse drawing and some childish combinations.

The subsequent centuries show continuous decline, and in whatever branch we compare the work, we see that each dynasty was poorer than that which preceded it. The XXVIth Dynasty is often looked on as a renaissance; but when we compare similar work we see that it was poorer than the XXIInd, as that was poorer than the XIXth. The alabaster statue of Amenardus of the XXVth is faulty in pose, and perfunctory in modelling; the resemblance between this and the head of her nephew Tirhaka is perhaps the best evidence of truthful work. After this there was a strong archaistic fashion, much like that under Hadrian; in both cases it may have arrested decay, but it did not lift the art up again. The work of this age can always be detected by the faulty jointing (Plate IV. fig. 52) and muscular treatment. The elements are right enough, but there was not the vital sense to combine them properly. Hence the monstrous protuberances (Plate IV. fig. 53) on relief figures of this age; a fault which the Greek fell into in his decline, as shown in the Farnese Hercules.

Portraiture, with its limited demand on imagination and lack of ideals, was the form of art which flourished latest. The Saitic heads in basalt show a school of close observation, with fair power of rendering the personal character; and even in Roman times there still were provincial artists who could model a face very truthfully, as is shown in one case in which the stucco head (Plate IV. fig. 54) from a coffin is here superposed on the view of the actual skull to show the accuracy of the work. The school of portrait-painting belongs entirely to Greek art, and is therefore not touched upon here. (See Edgar, Catalogue of Graeco-Egyptian Coffins, 48 plates, for this subject.)

Lastly we must recognize the different schools of Egyptian sculpture which are as distinct as those of recent painting. The black-granite school in every age is the finest; its seat we do not know, but its vitality and finish always exceed those of contemporary works. The limestone school was probably the next best, to judge from the reliefs, but hardly any statues of this school have survived; it probably was seated at Memphis. The quartzite work from Jebel Ahmar near Cairo stands next, as often very fine design is found in this hard material. The red granite school of Assuan comes lower, the work being usually clumsy and with unfinished corners and details. And the lowest of all was the sandstone school of Silsila, which is always the worst. Broadly speaking, the Lower Egyptian was much better than the Upper Egyptian; a conclusion also evident in the art of the tombs done on the spot. But the secret of the black granite school, and its excellence, is the main problem unsolved in the history of the art. (W. M. F. P.)

Plate III.


EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - Cheops Ivory.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - Diorite of Chephren.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - Limestone of Nefert.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - Hemset (Limestone).jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - Wood.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - Scribe (Limestone).jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - Mer-En-Ra (Copper).jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - Slab of Khent-Er-Ka (Limestone).jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - The Oxherds (Limestone).jpg
Photo, Bonfils.
EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - Granite Sphinx.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - Amenemhe III.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - Senwosri I (Limestone Relief).jpg
EB1911 Egypt - Pyramid Period - Hotepa (Limestone Relief).jpg

Plate IV.

1400 B.C. TO ROMAN.

EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Amenophis III (Granite).jpg
EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Queen Taia (Limestone).jpg
EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Ramses II (Granite).jpg
Photo, Manseil. Photo, Anderson.
EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Negress (Ebony).jpg
EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Queen Hatshepsut.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Kha-em-hat.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Seti I.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Princesses (Fresco).jpg
EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Four Races of Man.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Tumbler.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Scene in XXVI Dynasty.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Ptolemaic Relief.jpg
EB1911 Egypt - 1400 B.C. to Roman - Modelled Head and Skull.jpg

Tools and Material Products.

Tools (see Illustrations 1 to 111).—The history of tools is a very large subject which needs to be studied for all countries; the various details of form are too numerous to specify here, but the general outline of tools used in Egypt may be briefly stated under general and special types. The general include tools for striking, slicing and scraping; the special tools are for fighting, hunting, agriculture, building and thread-work.

Striking Tools.—The wooden mallet of club form (1) was used in the VIth and XIIth Dynasties; of the modern mason’s form (2) in the XIIth and XVIIIth. The stone mace head was a sharp-edged disk (3), in the prehistoric from 31-40 sequence date; of the pear shape (4) from S.D. 42, which was actually in use till the IVth Dynasty, and represented down to Roman time. The metal or stone hammer with a long handle was unknown till Greek or Roman times; but, for beating out metal, hemispherical stones (5) were held in the hand, and swung at arm’s length overhead. Spherical hard stone hammers (6) were held in the hand for dressing down granite. The axe was at the close of the prehistoric age a square slab of copper (7) with one sharp edge; small projecting tails then appeared at each end of the back (8), and increased until the long tail for lashing on to the handle is more than half the length of the axe in an iron one of Roman (?) age (13). Flint axes were made in imitation of metal in the XIIth Dynasty (9). Battle-axes with rounded outline started as merely a sharp edge of metal (10) inserted along a stick (10, 11); they become semicircular (12) by the VIth Dynasty, lengthen to double their width in the XIIth, and then thin out to a waist in the middle by the XVIIIth Dynasty. Flint hoes (14) are common down to the XIIth Dynasty. Small copper hoes (15) with a hollow socket are probably of about the XXIInd Dynasty. Long iron picks (16), like those of modern navvies, were made by Greeks in the XXVIth Dynasty.

Slicing Tools.—The knife was originally a flint saw (17), having minute teeth; it must have been used for cutting up animals, fresh or dried, as the teeth break away on soft wood. The double-edged straight flint knife dates from S.D. 32-45. The single-edged knife (18) is from 33-65. The flint knives of the time of Menes are finely curved (19), with a handle-notch; by the end of the IInd Dynasty they were much coarser (20) and almost straight in the back. In the XIth-XIIth Dynasty they were quite straight in the back (21), and without any handle-notch. The copper knives are all one-edged with straight back (22) down to the XVIIIth Dynasty, when two-edged symmetrical knives (23) become usual. Long thin one-edged knives of iron begin about 800 B.C. Various forms of one-edged iron knives, straight (24) and curved (25), belong to Roman times. A cutting-out knife, for slicing through textiles, began double-edged (26) in the Ist Dynasty, and went through many single-edged forms (27-29) until it died out in the XXth Dynasty (Man, 1901, 123). A small knife hinged on a pointed backing of copper (31) seems to have been made for hair curling and toilet purposes. Razors (30) are known of the XIIth Dynasty, and became common in the XVIIIth. A curious blade of copper (32), straight sided, and sharpened at both ends, belongs to the close of the prehistoric age. Shears are only known of Roman age and appear to have been an Italian invention: there is a type in Egypt with one blade detachable, so that each can be sharpened apart. Chisels of bronze began of very small size (33) at S.D. 38, and reached a full size at the close of the prehistoric age. In historic times the chisels are about 1 × ½, × 6 to 8 in. long (34). Small chisels set in wooden handles are found (35) of the XIIth and XVIIIth Dynasties. Ferrules first appear in the Assyrian iron of the 7th century B.C. The rise of stone work led to great importance of heavy chisels (36) for trimming limestone and Nubian sandstone; such chisels are usually round rods about ¾ in. thick and 6 in. long. The cutting edge was about ½ in. wide for flaking tools (36), which were not kept sharp, and 1 in. wide for facing tools (37) which had a good edge. In Greek times the iron chisels are shorter and merge into wedges (39). The socketed or mortising chisel (38) is unknown till the Italian bronze of the 8th century B.C., and the Naucratis iron of the 6th century. Adzes begin in S.D. 56, as plain slips of copper (40) 4 to 6 in. long, about 1 wide and ⅛th thick. The square end was rounded in the early dynastic times, and went through a series of changes down to the XIXth Dynasty. Adzes of iron are probably of Greek times. A fine instance of a handle about 4 ft. long is represented in the IIIrd Dynasty (P.M. XI.). The adze (41) was used not only for wood-work but also for dressing limestone.

Scraping Tools.—Flint scrapers are found from S.D. 40 and onward. The rectangular scraper (42) began in S.D. 63, and continued into the IInd Dynasty: the flake with rounded ends (43) was used from the Ist to the IVth Dynasty (P. Ab. i. xiv., xv.). Round scrapers were also made (44). Flint scrapers were used in dressing down limestone sculpture in the IIIrd Dynasty. Rasps of conical form (45), made of a sheet of bronze punched and coiled round, were common in the XVIIIth Dynasty, apparently as personal objects, possibly used for rasping dried bread. In the Assyrian iron tools of the 7th century B.C. the long straight rasp (46) is exactly of the modern type. The saw is first found as a notched bronze knife of the IIIrd Dynasty. Larger toothed saws (47) are often represented in the IVth-VIth Dynasty, as used by carpenters. There are no dated specimens till the Assyrian iron saws (48) of the 7th century B.C. Drills were of flint (49) for hard material and bead-making, of bronze for woodwork. In the Assyrian tools iron drills are of slightly twisted scoop form (50), and of centre-bit type with two scraping edges (51). In Roman times the modern V drill (52) is usual. The drill was worked by a stock with a loose cap (53), rotated by a drill bow, in the XIIth to Roman dynasties. The pump drill with cords twisted round it was in Roman use. The bow drill (56) was used as a fire drill to rotate wood (55) on wood (57); and the cap (54) for such use was of hard stone with a highly polished hollow. The drill brace appears to have been used by Assyrians in the 7th century B.C. Piercers of bronze tapering (58), to enlarge holes in leather, &c., were common in all ages.

Fighting Weapons.—The battle-axe has been described above with axes. The flint dagger (59) is found from S.D. 40-56. A very finely made copper dagger (60) with deep midrib is dated to between 55 and 60 S.D. Copper daggers with parallel ribbing (61) down the middle are common in the XIth-XIVth Dynasties; and in the XVIIIth-XXth Dynasties they are often shown in scenes and on figures. The falchion with a curved blade (62) belongs to the XVIIIth-XXth Dynasty. The rapier (63) or lengthened dagger is rarely found, and is probably of prehistoric Greek origin. The sword is of Greek and Roman age, always double-edged and of iron. The spear is not commonly found in Egypt, until the Greek age, but it is represented from the XIth Dynasty onward; it belonged to the Semitic people (L.D. ii. 133). The bow was always of wood, in one piece in the prehistoric and early times, also of two horns in the Ist Dynasty; but the compound bow of horn is rarely found, only as an importation, in the XVIIIth Dynasty. The arrow-heads of flint (64-66) and of bone (68-69) were pointed, and also square-ended (67) for hunting (P.R.T. ii. vi.; vii. A., 7; xxxiv.). The copper arrow-heads appear in the XIXth Dynasty, of blade form with tang (70); the triangular form (72), and leaf form with socket (71), are of the XXVIth Dynasty. Triangular iron arrows with tang are of the same age. Tangs show that the shaft was a reed, sockets show that it was of wood. Many early arrows (XIIth) have only hard wood points of conical form. The sling is rarely shown in the XIXth-XXth Dynasties; and the only known example is probably of the XXVIth.

Hunting Weapons.—The forked lance of flint was at first wide with slight hollow (73) from S.D. 32-43; then the hollow became a V notch (74) in 38 S.D. and onward. The lance was fixed in a wooden shaft for throwing, and held in by a check-cord from flying too far if it missed the animal (P.N. LXXIII.). The harpoon for fishing was at first of bone (75), and was imitated in copper (76, 77) from S.D. 36 onwards. The boomerang or throw-stick (78) was used from the Ist to the XXIInd Dynasty, and probably later. Fish-hooks of copper (79-82) are found from the Ist Dynasty to Roman times. A trap for animals’ legs, formed by splints of palm stick radiating round a central hole, is figured in S.D. 60, and one was found of probably the XXth Dynasty. Fishing nets were common in all historic times, and the lead sinkers (83) and stone sinkers (84) are often found under the XVIIIth-XXth Dynasties.

Agricultural Tools.—The hoe of wood (85) is the main tool from the late prehistoric time, and many have been found of the XVIIIth Dynasty. With the handle lengthened (86) and turned forward, this became the plough (87 is the hieroglyph, 88 the drawing, of a plough); this was always sloping, and never the upright post of the Italic type. The rake of wood (89) is usual in the XIIth and XVIIIth Dynasties. The fork (90), used for tossing straw, was common in the Old Kingdom, but none has been found. The sickle was of wood (92), with flints (91) inserted, apparently a copy of the ox-jaw and teeth. The notched flints for it are common from the Ist to the XVIIIth Dynasty. In Roman times the same principle was followed, by making an iron sickle with a deep groove, in which was inserted the cutting blade of steel (P.E. XXIX.). Shovel-boards, to hold in right (93) or left hand for scraping up the grain in winnowing, are usual in the XVIIIth Dynasty, and are figured in use in the Old Kingdom Pruning knives with curved blades (94) are Italic, and were made of iron by the Romans. Corn grinders were flat oval stones, with a smaller one lying cross-ways (95), and slid from end to end. Such were used from the Old Kingdom down to late times. In the Roman period a larger stone was used, with a rectangular slab (96) sliding on it, in which a long trough held the grain and let it slip out below for grinding. The quern with rotary motion is late Roman, and still used by Arabs. The large circular millstones of Roman age worked by horse-power are usually made from slices of granite columns.

Building Tools.—The adze described above was used for dressing blocks of limestone. The brick-mould was an open frame, with one side prolonged into a handle (97), exactly as the modern mould. The plasterers’ floats (98) were entirely cut out of wood. The mud rake for mixing mortar is rather narrower than the modern form. The square (99) and plummet (100, 101) have remained unchanged since the XIXth Dynasty. For dressing flat surfaces three wooden pegs (102) of equal length were used; a string was stretched between the tops of two, and the third peg was set on the point to be tested and tried against the string.

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Ancient Egyptian Tools.

Thread-Work.—Stone spindle whorls (103) are common in the prehistoric age; wooden ones were usual, of a cylindrical form (104) in the XIIth, and conical (105) in the XVIIIth Dynasty. The thread was secured by a spiral notch in the stick. In Roman times an iron hook on the top held the thread (106) as in modern spindles. Needles of copper were made in the prehistoric, as early as S.D. 48, and very delicate ones by S.D. 71. Gold needles are found of the Ist Dynasty. Fine ones of bronze are common in the XVIIIth Dynasty, and some with two eyes at right angles, one above the other, to carry two different threads. The copper bodkin is found in S.D. 70. Netters are common, of rib bones, pointed (107); the thread was wound round them. Long netting needles were probably brought in by the dynastic people as they figure in the hieroglyphs. Finely-made ones are found in the XVIIIth Dynasty and later. Reels were also commonly used for net making, of pottery (108) or even pebbles (109) with a groove chipped around. The flint vase-grinders were used in the early dynasties (110), and also sandstone grinders for hollowing larger vases (111).

Stone-Work.—In the prehistoric ages stone building was unknown, but many varieties of stones were used for carving into vases, amulets and ornaments. The stone vases were at first of cylindrical forms, with a foot, and ears for hanging. These are worked in brown basalt, syenite, porphyry, alabaster and limestone. In the second prehistoric civilization barrel-shaped vases became usual; and to the former materials were added slate, grey limestone and breccia. Serpentine appears later, and diorite towards the close of the prehistoric ages. Flat dishes were used in earlier times; gradually deeper forms appear, and lastly the deep bowl with turned-in edge belongs to the close of the prehistoric time and continued common in the earlier dynasties (P.D.P. 19). This stone-work was usually formed on the outside with rotary motion, but sometimes the vase was rotated upon the grinder (Q. H. 17). The interior was ground out by cutters (figs. 110, 111) fixed in the end of a stick and revolved with a weight on the top, as shown in scenes on the tombs of the Vth Dynasty. The cutters were sometimes flints of a crescent shape (P. Ab. ii. liii. 24), but more usually grinders blocks of quartzite sandstone (26-34), and occasionally of diorite (Q. H. xxxii. lxii.). These blocks were fed with sand and water to give the bite on the stone (P. Ab. i. 26). The outsides of the vases were entirely wrought by handwork, with the polishing lines crossing diagonally. Probably the first forming was done by chipping and hammer-dressing, as in later times; the final facing of the hard stones was doubtless by means of emery in block or powder, as emery grinding blocks are found.

In the early dynasties the hard stones were still worked, and the Ist dynasty was the most splendid age for vases, bowls, and dishes of the finest stones. The royal tombs have preserved an enormous quantity of fragments, from which five hundred varied forms have been drawn (P.R.T. ii. xlvi.-liii. 6). The materials are quartz crystal, basalt, porphyry, syenite, granite, volcanic ash, various metamorphics, serpentine, slate, dolomite marble, alabaster, many coloured marbles, saccharine marble, grey and white limestones. The most splendid vase is one from Nekhen (Hieraconpolis), of syenite, 2 ft. across and 16 in. high, hollowed so as to be marvellously light and highly polished (Q.H. xxxvii). Another branch of stone-work, surface carving, was early developed by the artistic dynastic race. The great palettes of slate covered with elaborate reliefs are probably all of the pre-Menite kings; the most advanced of them having the figure of Narmer, who preceded Menes. Other carving full of detail is on the great mace-heads of Narmer and the Scorpion king, where scenes of ceremonials are minutely engraved in relief. In the Ist Dynasty the large tombstones of the kings are of bold work, but the smaller stones of private graves vary much in the style, many being very coarse. All of this work was by hammer-dressing and scraping. The scrapers seem to have always been of copper.

The earliest use of stone in buildings is in the tomb of King Den (Ist Dynasty), where some large flat blocks of red granite seem to have been part of the construction. The oldest stone chamber known is that of Khasekhemui (end of the IInd Dynasty). This is of blocks of limestone whose faces follow the natural cleavages, and only dressed where needful; part is hammer-dressed, but most of the surfaces are adze-dressed. The adze was of stone, probably flint, and had a short handle (P.R.T. ii. 13). The same king also wrought granite with inscriptions in relief. In the close of the IIIrd Dynasty a great impetus was given to stone-work, and the grandest period of refined masonry is at the beginning of the IVth Dynasty under Cheops. The tombs of Mēdūm under Snefru are built with immense blocks of limestone of 20 and 33 tons weight. The dressing of the face between the hieroglyphs was done partly with copper and partly with flint scrapers (P.M. 27). The most splendid masonry is that of the Great Pyramid of Cheops. The blocks of granite for the roofing are 56 in number, of an average weight of 54 tons each. These were cut from the water-worn rocks at the Cataract—the soundest source for large masses, as any incipient flaws are well exposed by wear. The blocks were quarried by cleavage; a groove was run along the line intended, and about 2 ft. apart holes about 4 in. wide were jumped downward from it in the intended plane; this prevented a skew fracture (P.T. 93). In shallower masses a groove was run, and then holes, apparently for wedges, were sunk deeper in the course of it; whether wetted wood was used for the expansive force is not known, but it is probable, as no signs are visible of crushing the granite by hard wedges. The facing of the cloven surfaces was done by hammer-dressing, using rounded masses of quartzose hornstone, held in the hand without any handle. In order to get a hold for moving the blocks without bruising the edges, projecting lumps or bosses were left on the faces, about 6 or 8 in. across and 1 or 2 in. thick. After the block was in place the boss was struck off and the surface dressed and polished (P.T. 78, 82). In the pyramid of Cheops the blocks were all faced before building; but the later granite temple of Chephren and the pyramid of Mycerinus (Menkaura, Menkeurē) show a system of building with an excess of a few inches left rough on the outer surface, which was dressed away when in position (P.T. 110, 132).

The flatness of faces of stone or rock (both granite and limestone) was tested by placing a true-plane trial plate, smeared with red ochre, against the dressed surface, as in modern engineering. The contact being thus reddened showed where the face had to be further dressed away; and this process was continued until the ochre touched points not more than an inch apart all over the joint faces, many square feet in area. On stones too large for facing-plates a diagonal draft was run, so as to avoid any wind in the plane (P.T. 83).

The cutting of granite was not only by cleavage and hammer dressing, but also by cutting with harder materials than quartz such as emery. Long saws of copper were fed with emery powder, and used to saw out blocks as much as 7½ ft. long (P.T. Plate XIV.). In other cases the very deep scores in the sides of the saw-cut suggest that fixed cutting points were inserted in the copper saws; and this would be parallel to the saw-cuts in the very hard limestone of the Palace of Tiryns, in which a piece of a copper saw has been broken, and where may be yet found large chips of emery, too long and coarse to serve as a powder, but suited for fixed teeth. A similar method was common for circular holes, which were cut by a tube, either with powder or fixed teeth. These tubular drills were used from the IVth Dynasty down to late times, in all materials from alabaster up to carnelian. The resulting cores are more regular than those of modern rock-drilling.

Limestone in the Great Pyramid, as elsewhere, was dressed by chopping it with an adze, a tool used from prehistoric to Roman times for all soft stones and wood. This method was carried on up to the point of getting contact with the facing-plate at every inch of the surface; the cuts cross in various directions. For removing rock in reducing a surface to a level, or in quarrying, cuts were made with a pick, forming straight trenches, and the blocks were then broken out between these. In quarrying the cuts are generally 4 or 5 in. wide, just enough for the workman’s arm to reach in; for cutting away rock the grooves are 20 in. wide, enough to stand in, and the squares of rock about 9 ft. wide between the grooves (P.T. 100). The accuracy of the workmanship in the IVth Dynasty is astonishing. The base of the pyramid of Snefru had an average variation of 6 in. on 5765 and 10′ of squareness. But, immediately after, Cheops improved on this with a variation of less than 6 in. on 9069 in. and 12′ of direction. Chephren fell off, having 1.5 error on 8475, and 33′ of variation; and Mycerinus (Menkeurē) had 3 in. error on 4154 and 1′ 50′ variation of direction (P.M. 6; P.T. 39, 97, 111). Of perhaps later date the two south pyramids of Dahshur show errors of 3.7 on 7459 and 1.1 on 2065 in., and variation of direction of 4′ and 10′ (P.S. 28, 30). The above smallest error of only 1 in 16,000 in lineal measure, and 1 in 17,000 of angular measure, is that of the rock-cutting for the foundation of Khufu, and the masonry itself (now destroyed) was doubtless more accurate. The error of flatness of the joints from a straight line and a true square is but 1100th in. on 75 in. length; and the error of level is only 150th in. along a course, or about 10′ on a long length (P.T. 44). We have entered thus fully on the details of this period, as it is the finest age for workmanship in every respect. But in the XIIth Dynasty the granite sarcophagus of Senwosri II. is perhaps the finest single piece of cutting yet known; the surfaces of the granite are all dull-ground, the errors from straight lines and parallelism are only about 1200th inch (P. 1, 3).

In later work we may note that copper scrapers were used for facing the limestone work in the VIth, the XIIth and the XVIIIth Dynasties. In the latter age granite surfaces were ground, hieroglyphs were chipped out and polished by copper tools fed with emery; outlines were graved by a thick sheet of copper held in the hand, and sawed to and fro with emery. Corners of signs and intersections of lines were first fixed by minute tube-drill holes, into which the hand tool butted, so that it should not slip over the outer surface.

The marking out of work was done by fine black lines; and supplemental lines at a fixed distance from the true one were put in to guard against obliteration in course of working (P.T. 92); similarly in building a brick pyramid the axis was marked, and there were supplemental marks two cubits to one side (P.K. 14). When cutting a passage in the rock a rough drift-way was first made, the roof was smoothed, a red axis line was drawn along it, and then the sides were cut parallel to the axis. For setting out a mastaba with sloping sides, on an irregular foundation at different levels, hollow corner walls were built outside the place of each corner; the distances of the faces at the above-ground level were marked on the inner faces of the walls; the above-ground level was also marked; then sloping lines at the intended angle of the face were drawn downward from the ground-level measures, and each face was set out so as to lie in the plane thus defined by two traces at the ends (P.M. VIII.).

Metal-Work.—Copper was wrought into pins, a couple of inches long, with loop heads, as early as the oldest prehistoric graves, before the use of weaving, and while pottery was scarcely developed. The use of harpoons and small chisels of copper next arose, then broad flaying knives, needles and adzes, lastly the axe when the metal was commoner. On these prehistoric tools, when in fine condition, the original highly-polished surface remains. It shows no trace of grinding lines or attrition, nor yet of the blows of a hammer. Probably it was thus highly finished by beating between polished stone hammers which were almost flat on the face. Most likely the forms of the tools were cast to begin with, and then finished and polished by fine hammering. A series of moulds for casting in the XIIth Dynasty show that the forms were carved out in thick pieces of pottery, and then lined with fine ashy clay. The mould was single, so that one side of the tool was the open face of metal. As early as the pyramid times solid casting by cire perdue was already used for figures: but the copper statues of Pepi and his son seem, by their thinness and the piecing together of the parts, to have been entirely hammered out. The portraiture in such hammer work is amazingly life-like. By the time of the XIIth Dynasty, and perhaps earlier, cire perdue casting over an ash core became usual. This was carried out most skilfully, the metal being often not 150th in. thick, and the core truly centred in the mould. Casting bronze over iron rods was also done, to gain more stiffness for thin parts.

In gold work the earliest jewelry, that of King Zer of the Ist Dynasty, shows a perfect mastery of working hollow balls with minute threading holes, and of soldering with no trace of excess nor difference of colour. Thin wire was hammered out, but there is no ancient instance of drawn wire. Castings were not trimmed by filing or grinding, but by small chisels and hammering (P.R.T. ii. 17). In the XIIth Dynasty the soldering of the thin cells for the cloisonnée inlaid pectorals, on to the base plate, is a marvellous piece of delicacy; every cell has to be perfectly true in form, and yet all soldered, apparently simultaneously, as the heat could not be applied to successive portions (M.D. i.). Such work was kept up in the XVIIIth and XXVIth Dynasties. There is nothing distinctive in later jewelry different from Greek and Roman work elsewhere.

Glaze and Glass.—From almost the beginning of the prehistoric age there are glazed pottery beads found in the graves: and glazing on amulets of quartz or other stones begins in the middle of the prehistoric. Apparently then glazing went together with the working of the copper ores, and probably accidental slags in the smelting gave the first idea of using glaze intentionally. The development of glazing at the beginning of the dynasties was sudden and effective. Large tiles, a foot in length, were glazed completely all over, and used to line the walls of rooms; they were retained in place by deep dovetails and ties of copper wire. Figures of glazed ware became abundant; a kind of visiting card was made with the figure of a man and his titles to present in temples which he visited; and glazed ornaments and toggles for fastening dresses were common (P. Ab. ii.). Further, besides thus using glaze on a large scale, differently coloured glazes were used, and even fused together. A piece of a large tile, and part of a glazed vase, have the royal titles and name of Menes, originally in violet inlay in green glaze. There was no further advance in the art until the great variety of colours came into use about 4000 years later. In the XIIth Dynasty a very thin smooth glaze was used, which became rather thicker in the XVIIIth. The most brilliant age of glazes was under Amenophis III. and his son Akhenaton. Various colours were used; beside the old green and blue, there were purple, violet, red, yellow and white. And a profusion of forms is shown by the moulds and actual examples, for necklaces, decorations, inlay in stone and applied reliefs on vases. Under Seti II. cartouches of the king in violet and white glaze are common; and under Rameses III. there were vases with relief figures, with painted figures, and tiles with coloured reliefs of captives of many races. The latter development of glazing was in thin delicate apple-green ware with low relief designs, which seem to have originated under Greek influence at Naucratis. The Roman glaze is thick and coarse, but usually of a brilliant Prussian blue, with dark purple and apple-green; and high reliefs of wreaths, and sometimes figures, are common.

Though glaze begins so early, the use of the glassy matter by itself does not occur till the XVIIIth Dynasty; the earlier reputed examples are of stone or frit. The first glass is black and white under Tethmosis (Tahutmes) III. It was not fused at a high point, but kept in a pasty state when working. The main use of it was for small vases; these were formed upon a core of sandy paste, which was modelled on a copper rod, the rod being the core for the neck. Round this core threads of glass were wound of various colours; the whole could be reset in the furnace to soften it for moulding the foot or neck, or attaching handles, or dragging the surface into various patterns. The colours under later kings were as varied as those of the glazes. Glass was also wheel-cut in patterns and shapes under Akhenaton. In later times the main work was in mosaics of extreme delicacy. Glass rods were piled together to form a pattern in cross-section. The whole was then heated until it perfectly adhered, and the mass was drawn out lengthways so as to render the design far more minute, and to increase the total length for cutting up. The rod was then sliced across, and the pieces used for inlaying. Another use of coloured glass was for cutting in the shapes of hieroglyphs for inlaying in wooden coffins to form inscriptions. Glass amulets were also commonly placed upon Ptolemaic mummies. Blown glass vessels are not known until late Greek and Roman times, when they were of much the same manufacture as glass elsewhere. The supposed figures of glass-blowers in early scenes are really those of smiths, blowing their fires by means of reeds tipped with clay. The variegated glass beads belonging to Italy were greatly used in Egypt in Roman times, and are like those found elsewhere. A distinctively late Egyptian use of glass was for weights and vase-stamps, to receive an impress stating the amount of the weight or measure. The vase-stamps often state the name of the contents (always seeds or fruits), probably not to show what was in them, but to show for what kind of seed the vessel was a true measure. These measure stamps bear names dating them from A.D. 680 to about 950. The large weights of ounces and pounds are disks or cuboid blocks; they are dated from 720 to 785 for the lesser, and to A.D. 915 for larger, weights. The greater number are, however, small weights for testing gold and silver coins of later caliphs from A.D. 952 to 1171. The system was not, however, Arab, as there are a few Roman vase-stamps and weights. Of other medieval glass may be noted the splendid glass vases for lamps, with Arab inscriptions fused in colours on the outsides. No enamelling was ever done by Egyptians, and the few rare examples are all of Roman age due to foreign work.

The manufacture of glass is shown by examples in the XVIIIth Dynasty. The blue or green colour was made by fritting together silica, lime, alkaline carbonate and copper carbonate; the latter varied from 3% in delicate blues to 20% in deep purple blues. The silica was needed quite pure from iron, in order to get the rich blues, and was obtained from calcined quartz pebbles; ordinary sand will only make a green frit. These materials were heated in pans in the furnace so as to combine in a pasty, half-fused condition. The coloured frit thus formed was used as paint in a wet state, and also used to dissolve in glass or to fuse over a surface in glazing. The brown tints often seen in glazed objects are almost always the result of the decomposition of green glazes containing iron. The blue glazes, on the other hand, fade into white. The essential colouring materials are, for blue, copper; green, copper and iron; purple, cobalt; red, haematite; white, tin. An entirely clear colourless glass was made in the XVIIIth Dynasty, but coloured glass was mainly used. After fusing a panful of coloured glass, it was sampled by taking pinches out with tongs; when perfectly combined it was left to cool in the pan, as with modern optical glass. When cold the pan was chipped away, and the cake of glass broken up into convenient pieces, free of sediment and of scum. A broken lump would then be heated to softness in the furnace; rolled out under a bar of metal, held diagonally across the roll; and when reduced to a rod of a quarter of an inch thick, it was heated and pulled out into even rods about an eighth of an inch thick. These were used to wind round glass vases, to form lips, handles, &c.; and to twist together for spiral patterns. Glass tube was similarly drawn out. Beads were made by winding thin threads of glass on copper wires, and the greater contraction of the copper freed the bead when cold. The coiling of beads can always be detected by (1) the little tails left at the ends, (2) the streaks, (3) the bubbles, seen with a magnifier. Roman glass beads are always drawn out, and nicked off hot, with striation lengthways; except the large opaque variegated beads which are coiled. Modern Venetian beads are similarly coiled. In the XXIIIrd Dynasty beads of a rich transparent Prussian blue glass were made, until the XXVIth. About the same time the eyed beads, with white and brown eyes in a blue mass, also came in (P.A. 25-27, Plate XIII.).

Pottery (see fig. 112).—The earliest style of pottery is entirely hand made, without any rotary motion; the form being built up with a flat stick inside and the hand outside, and finally scraped and burnished in a vertical direction. The necks of vases were the first part finished with rotation, at the middle and close of the prehistoric age. Fully turned forms occur in the Ist Dynasty; but as late as the XIIth Dynasty the lower part of small vases is usually trimmed with a knife. In the earlier part of the prehistoric age there was a soft brown ware with haematite facing, highly burnished. This was burnt mouth-down in the oven, and the ashes on the ground reduced the red haematite to black magnetic oxide of iron; some traces of carbonyl in the ash helped to rearrange the magnetite as a brilliant mirror-like surface of intense black. The lower range of jars in the oven had then black tops, while the upper ranges were entirely red. A favourite decoration was by lines of white clay slip, in crossing patterns, figures of animals, and, rarely, men. This is exactly of the modern Kabyle style in Algeria, and entirely disappeared from Egypt very early in the prehistoric age. Being entirely hand made, various oval, doubled and even square forms were readily shaped.

The later prehistoric age is marked by entirely different pottery, of a hard pink-brown ware, often with white specks in it, without any applied facing beyond an occasional pink wash, and no polishing. It is decorated with designs in red line, imitating cordage and marbling, and drawings of plants, ostriches and ships. The older red polished ware still survived in a coarse and degraded character, and both kinds together were carried on into the next age (P.D.P.).

The early dynastic pottery not only shows the decadent end of the earlier forms, but also new styles, such as grand jars of 2 or 3 ft. high which were slung in cordage, and which have imitation lines of cordage marked on them. Large ring-stands also were brought in, to support jars, so that the damp surfaces should not touch the dusty ground. The pyramid times show the great jars reduced to short rough pots, while a variety of forms of bowls are the most usual types (P.R.T.; P.D.; P. Desh.)

In the XIIth Dynasty a hard thin drab ware was common, like the modern qulleh water flasks. Drop-shaped jars with spherical bases are typical, and scrabbled patterns of incised lines. Large jars of light brown pottery were made for storing liquids and grain, with narrow necks which just admit the hand (P.K.).

The XVIIIth Dynasty used a rather softer ware, decorated at first with a red edge or band around the top, and under Tethmosis (Tahutmes) III. black and red lines were usual. Under Amenophis III. blue frit paint was freely used, in lines and bands around vases; it spread to large surfaces under Amenophis IV., and continued in a poor style into the Ramesside age. In the latter part of the XVIIIth and the XIXth Dynasties a thick hard light pottery, with white specks and a polished drab-white facing, was generally used for all fine purposes. The XIXth and XXth Dynasties only show a degradation of the types of the XVIIIth; and even through to the XXVth Dynasty there is no new movement (P.K.; P.I.; P.A.; P.S.T.).

The XXVIth Dynasty was largely influenced by Greek amphorae imported with wine and oil. The native pottery is of a very fine paste, smooth and thin, but poor in forms. Cylindrical cups, and jars with cylindrical necks and no brim, are typical. The small necks and trivial handles begin now, and are very common in Ptolemaic times (P.T. ii.).

The great period of Roman pottery is marked by the ribbing on the outsides. The amphorae began to be ribbed about A.D. 150, and then ribbing extended to all the forms. The ware is generally rather rough, thick and brown for the amphorae, thin and red for smaller vessels. At the Constantine age a new style begins, of hard pink ware, neatly made, and often with “start-patterns” made by a vibrating tool while the vessel rotated: this was mainly used for bowls and cups (P.E.). Of the later pottery of Arab times we have no precise knowledge.

The abbreviations used above refer to the following sources of information:—

M.D. Morgan, Dahshur;
P.A. Petrie, Tell el Amarna;
P. Ab. Petrie, Abydos;
P.D. Petrie, Dendereh;
P. Desh. Petrie,  Deshasheh;
P.D.P. Petrie, Diospolis Parva;
P.E. Petrie, Ehnasya;
P.I. Petrie, Illahun;
P.K. Petrie, Kahun;
P.M. Petrie, Medum;
P.N. Petrie, Naqada;
P.R.T. Petrie, Royal Tombs;
P.S. Petrie, Season in Egypt;
P.S.T. Petrie, Six Temples;
P.T. Petrie, Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh;
P.T. ii. Petrie, Tanis, ii.;
Q.H. Quibell, Hieraconpolis.

EB1911 Egypt - Principal Types of Ancient Pottery.jpg

Fig. 112.—Principal Types of Pottery of Ancient Egypt. (Scale 1 : 20.)

Monuments.—The principal monuments that are yet remaining to illustrate the art and history of Egypt may be best taken in historical order. Of the prehistoric age there are many rock carvings, associated with others of later periods: they principally remain on the sandstone rocks about Silsila, and their age is shown by the figures of ostriches which were extinct in later times. One painted tomb was found at Nekhen (Hieraconpolis), now in the Cairo Museum; the brick walls were colour-washed and covered with irregular groups of men, animals and ships, painted with red, black and green. The cemeteries otherwise only contain graves, cut in gravel or brick lined, and formerly roofed with poles and brushwood. The Ist to IIIrd Dynasties have left at Abydos large forts of brickwork, remains of two successive temples, and the royal tombs (see Abydos). Elsewhere are but few other monuments; at Wadi Maghāra in Sinai is a rock sculpture of Semerkhet of the Ist Dynasty in perfect state, at Gīza is a group of tombs of a prince and retinue of the Ist Dynasty, and at Gīza and Bēt Khallaf are two large brick mastabas with extensive passages closed by trap-doors, of kings of the IIIrd Dynasty. The main structure of this age is the step-pyramid of Sakkara, which is a mastaba tomb with eleven successive coats of masonry, enlarging it to about 350 by 390 ft. and 200 ft. high. In the interior is sunk in the rock a chamber 24 × 23 ft. and 77 ft. high, with a granite sepulchre built in the floor of it, and various passages and chambers branching from it. The doorway of one room (now in Berlin Museum) was decorated with polychrome glazed tiles with the name of King Neterkhet. The complex original work and various alterations of it need thorough study, but it is now closed and research is forbidden.

The IVth to VIth Dynasties are best known by the series of pyramids (see Pyramid) in the region of Memphis. Beyond these tombs, and the temples attached to them, there are very few fixed monuments; of Cheops and Pepi I. there are temple foundations at Abydos (q.v.), and a few blocks on other sites; of Neuserre (Raenuser) there is a sun temple at Abusīr; and of several kings there were tablets in Sinai, now in the Cairo Museum. A few tablets of the IXth Dynasty have been found at Sakkāra, and a tomb of a prince at Assiūt. Of the XIth Dynasty is the terrace-temple of Menthotp III. recently excavated at Thebes: also foundations of this king and of Sankhkerē at Abydos. In the XIIth Dynasty there is the celebrated red granite obelisk of Heliopolis, one of a pair erected by Senwosri (Senusert) I. in front of his temple which has now vanished. Another large obelisk of red granite, 41 ft. high, remains in the Fayūm. The most important pictorial tombs of Beni Hasan belong to this age; the great princes appear to have largely quarried stone for their palaces, and to have cut the quarry in the form of a regular chamber, which served for the tomb chapel. These great rock chambers were covered with paintings, which show a large range of the daily life and civilization. The pyramids and temples of Senwosri II. and III. and Amenemhē III. remain at Illahūn, Dahshūr and Hawāra. The latter was the celebrated Labyrinth, which has been entirely quarried away, so that only banks of chips and a few blocks remain. At the first of these sites is the most perfect early town, of which hundreds of houses still remain. Of Senwosri III. there are the forts and temples above the second cataract at Semna and Kumma. Of the Hyksos age there are the scanty remains of a great fortified camp at Tell el-Yehudia.

In the XVIIIth to XXth Dynasties we reach the great period of monuments. Of Amāsis (Aahmes) and Amenophis I. there are but fragments left in later buildings; and of the latter a great quantity of sculpture has been recovered at Karnak. The great temple of Karnak had existed since the XIth Dynasty or earlier, but the existing structure was begun under Tethmosis (Tahutmes) I., and two of the great pylons and one obelisk of his remain in place. He also built the simple and dignified temple of Medinet Habu at Thebes, which was afterward overshadowed by the grandiose work of Rameses III. The next generation—Tethmōsis II. and Hatshepsut—added to their father’s work; they also built another pylon and some of the existing chambers at Karnak, set up the great obelisks there and carved some colossi. The obelisks are exquisitely cut in red granite, each sign being sawn in shape by copper tools fed with emery, and the whole finished with a perfection of proportion and delicacy not seen on other granite work. One obelisk being overthrown and broken we can examine the minute treatment of the upper part, which was nearly a hundred feet from the ground. The principal monument of this period is the temple of Deir el Bahri, the funeral temple of Hatshepsut, on which she recorded the principal event of her reign, the expedition to Punt. The erasures of her name by Tethmosis III., and reinsertions of names under later kings, the military scenes, and the religious groups showing the sacred kine of Hathor, all add to the interest of the remarkable temple. It stands on three successive terraces, rising to the base of the high limestone cliffs behind it. The rock-cut shrine at Speos Artemidos, and the temple of Serabīt in Sinai are the only other large monuments of this queen yet remaining. Tethmosis III. was one of the great builders of Egypt, and much remains of his work, at about forty different sites. The great temple of Karnak was largely built by him; most of the remaining chambers are his, including the beautiful botanical walls showing foreign plants. Of his work at Heliopolis there remain the obelisks of London and New York; and from Elephantine is the obelisk at Sion House. On the Nubian sites his work may still be seen at Amāda, Ellesīa, Ibrīm, Semna and in Sinai at Serabīt el Khādem. Of Amenophis II. and Tethmosis IV. there are no large monuments, they being mainly known by additions at Karnak. The well known stele of the sphinx was cut by the latter king, to commemorate his dream there and his clearing of the sphinx from sand. Amenophis III. has left several large buildings of his magnificent reign. At Karnak the temple had a new front added as a great pylon, which was later used as the back of the hall of columns by Seti I. But three new temples at Karnak, that of Month (Mentu), of Mut and a smaller one, all are due to this reign, as well as the long avenue of sphinxes before the temple of Khons; these indicate that the present Ramesside temple of Khons has superseded an earlier one of this king. The great temple of Luxor was built to record the divine origin of the king as son of Ammon; and on the western side of Thebes the funerary temple of Amenophis was an immense pile, of which the two colossi of the Theban plain still stand before the front of the site, where yet lies a vast tablet of sandstone 30 ft. high. The other principal buildings are the temples of Sedenga and of Sōlib in Nubia. Akhenaton has been so consistently eclipsed by the later kings who destroyed his work, that the painted pavement and the rock tablets of Tell el Amarna are the only monuments of his still in position, beside a few small inscriptions. Harmahib (Horemheb) resumed the work at Karnak, erecting two great pylons and a long avenue of sphinxes. The rock temple at Silsila and a shrine at Jebel Adda are also his.

In the XIXth Dynasty the great age of building continued, and the remains are less destroyed than the earlier temples, because there were subsequently fewer unscrupulous rulers to quarry them away. Seti I. greatly extended the national temple of Karnak by his immense hall of columns added in front of the pylon of Amenophis III. His funerary temple at Kurna is also in a fairly complete condition. The temple of Abydos is celebrated owing to its completeness, and the perfect condition of its sculptures, which render it one of the most interesting buildings as an artistic monument; and the variety of religious subjects adds to its importance. The very long reign and vanity of Rameses II. have combined to leave his name at over sixty sites, more widely spread than that of any other king. Yet very few great monuments were originated by him; even the Ramesseum, his funerary temple, was begun by his father. Additions, appropriations of earlier works and scattered inscriptions are what mark this reign. The principal remaining buildings are part of a court at Memphis, the second temple at Abydos, and the six Nubian temples of Bēt el-Wāli, Jerf Husein, Wadi es-Sebūa, Derr, and the grandest of all—the rock-cut temple of Abu Simbel, with its neighbouring temple of Hathor. Mineptah has left few original works; the Osireum at Abydos is the only one of which much remains, his funerary temple having been destroyed as completely as he destroyed that of Amenophis III. The celebrated Israel stele from this temple is his principal inscription. The rock shrines at Silsila are of small importance. There is no noticeable monument of the dozen troubled years of the end of the dynasty.

The XXth Dynasty opened with the great builder Rameses III. Probably he did not really exceed other kings in his activity; but as being the last of the building kings at the western side of Thebes, his temple has never been devastated for stone by the claims of later work. The whole building of Medinet Habu is about 500 ft. long and 160 wide, entirely the work of one reign. The sculptures of it are mainly occupied with the campaigns of the king against the Libyans, the Syrians and the negroes, and are of the greatest importance for the history of Egypt and of the Mediterranean lands. Another large work was the clearance and rebuilding of much of the city of Tell el Yehudia, the palace hall of which contained the celebrated coloured tiles with figures of captives. At Karnak three temples, to Ammon, Khonsu and Mut, all belong to this reign. The blighted reigns of the later Ramessides and the priest-kings did not leave a single great monument, and they are only known by usurpations of the work of others. The Tanite kings of the XXIst Dynasty rebuilt the temple of their capital, but did little else. The XXIInd Dynasty returned to monumental work. Sheshonk I. added a large wall at Karnak, covered with the record of his Judaean war. Osorkon (Uasarkon) I. built largely at Bubastis, and Osorkon II. added the great granite pylon there, covered with scenes of his festival; but at Thebes these kings only inscribed previous monuments. The Ethiopian (XXVth) dynasty built mainly in their capital under Mount Barkal, and Shabako and Tirhaka (Tahrak) also left chapels and a pylon at Thebes; and the latter added a great colonnade leading up to the temple of Karnak, of which one column is still standing.

Of the Saite kings there are very few large monuments. Their work was mainly of limestone and built in the Delta, and hence it has been entirely swept away. The square fort of brickwork at Daphnae (q.v.) was built by Psammetichus I. Of Apries (Haa-ab-ra, Hophra) an obelisk and two monolith shrines are the principal remains. Of Amasis (Aahmes) II. five great shrines are known; but the other kings of this age have only left minor works. The Persians kept up Egyptian monuments. Darius I. quarried largely, and left a series of great granite decrees along his Suez canal; he also built the great temple in the oasis of Kharga.

The XXXth Dynasty renewed the period of great temples. Nekhtharheb built the temple of Behbēt, now a ruinous heap of immense blocks of granite. Beside other temples, now destroyed, he set up the great west pylon of Karnak, and the pylon at Kharga. Nekhtnebf built the Hathor temple and great pylon at Philae, and the east pylon of Karnak, beside temples elsewhere, now vanished. Religious building was continued under the Ptolemies and Romans; and though the royal impulse may not have been strong, yet the wealth of the land under good government supplied means for many places to rebuild their old shrines magnificently. In the Fayum the capital was dedicated to Queen Arsinoe, and doubtless Ptolemy rebuilt the temple, now destroyed. At Sharona are remains of a temple of Ptolemy I. Dendera is one of the most complete temples, giving a noble idea of the appearance of such work anciently. The body of the temple is of Ptolemy XIII., and was carved as late as the XVIth (Caesarion), and the great portico was in building from Augustus to Nero. At Coptos was a screen of the temple of Ptolemy I. (now at Oxford), and a chapel still remains of Ptolemy XIII. Karnak was largely decorated; a granite cella was built under Philip Arrhidaeus, covered with elaborate carving; a great pylon was added to the temple of Khonsu by Ptolemy III.; the inner pylon of the Ammon-temple was carved by Ptolemy VI. and IX.; and granite doorways were added to the temples of Month and Mūt by Ptolemy II. At Luxor the entire cella was rebuilt by Alexander. At Medīnet Habū the temple of Tethmosis III. had a doorway built by Ptolemy X., and a forecourt by Antoninus. The smaller temple was built under Ptolemy X. and the emperors. South of Medīnet Habū a small temple was built by Hadrian and Antoninus. At Esna the great temple was rebuilt and inscribed during a couple of centuries from Titus to Decius. At El Kab the temple dates from Ptolemy IX. and X. The great temple of Edfū, which has its enclosure walls and pylon complete, and is the most perfect example remaining, was gradually built during a century and a half from Ptolemy III. to XI. The monuments of Philae begin with the wall of Nekhtnebf. Ptolemy II. began the great temple, and the temple of Arhesnofer (Arsenuphis) is due to Ptolemy IV., that of Asclepius to Ptolemy V., that of Hathor to Ptolemy VI., and the great colonnades belong to Ptolemy XIII. and Augustus. The beautiful little riverside temple, called the “kiosk,” was built by Augustus and inscribed by Trajan; and the latest building was the arch of Diocletian.

Farther south, in Nubia, the temples of Dabōd and Dakka were built by the Ethiopian Ergamenes, contemporary of Ptolemy IV.; and the temple of Dendūr is of Augustus. The latest building of the temple style is the White Monastery near Suhag. The external form is that of a great temple, with windows added along the top; while internally it was a Christian church. The modern dwellings in it have now been cleared out, and the interior admirably preserved and cleaned by a native Syrian architect.

Beside the great monuments, which we have now noticed, the historical material is found on several other classes of remains. These are: (1) The royal tombs, which in the Vth, VIth, XVIIIth, XIXth and XXth Dynasties are fully inscribed; but as the texts are always religious and not historical, they are less important than many other remains. (2) The royal coffins and wrappings, which give information by the added graffiti recording their removals; (3) Royal tablets, which are of the highest value for history, as they often describe or imply historical events; (4) Private tombs and tablets, which are in many cases biographical. (5) Papyri concerning daily affairs which throw light on history; or which give historic detail, as the great papyrus of Rameses III., and the trials under Rameses X. (6) The added inscriptions on buildings by later restorers, and alterations of names for misappropriation. (7) The statues which give the royal portraits, and sometimes historical facts. (8) The ostraca, or rough notes of work accounts, and plans drawn on pieces of limestone or pottery. (9) The scarabs bearing kings’ names, which under the Hyksos and in some other dark periods, are our main source of information. (10) The miscellaneous small remains of toilet objects, ornaments, weapons, &c., many of which bear royal names.

Every object and monument with a royal name will be found catalogued under each reign in Petrie’s History of Egypt, 3 vols., the last editions of each being the fullest.

(W. M. F. P.)

F. Chronology.—1. Technical.—The standard year of the Ancient Egyptians consisted of twelve months of thirty days[9] each, with five epagomenal days, in all 365 days. It was thus an effective compromise between the solar year and the lunar month, and contrasts very favourably with the intricate and clumsy years of other ancient systems. The leap-year of the Julian and Gregorian calendars confers the immense benefit of a fixed correspondence to the seasons which the Egyptian year did not possess, but the uniform length of the Egyptian months is enviable even now. The months were grouped under three seasons of four months each, and were known respectively as

the first, second, third and fourth month 
Z1 Z1
Z1 Z1 Z1
Z1 Z1 Z1 Z1
 (ỉ’ḫ·t) “inundation” or “verdure,”
 pr·t (pro) “seed-time,” “winter,” and
 šmw (shôm) “harvest,” “summer,”
 “five (days) over the year”

being outside these seasons and the year itself, according to the Egyptian expression, and counted either at the beginning or at the end of the year. Ultimately the Egyptians gave names to the months taken from festivals celebrated in them, in order as follows:—Thoth, Paophi, Athyr, Choiak, Tōbi, Mechīr, Phamenōth, Pharmūthi, Pachons, Payni, Epiphi, Mesore, the epagomenal days being then called “the short year.” In Egypt the agricultural seasons depend more immediately on the Nile than on the solar movements; the first day of the first month of inundation, i.e. nominally the beginning of the rise of the Nile, was the beginning of the year, and as the Nile commences to rise very regularly at about the date of the annual heliacal rising of the conspicuous dog-star Sothis (Sirius) (which itself follows extremely closely the slow retrogression of the Julian year), the primitive astronomers found in the heliacal rising of Sothis as observed at Memphis (on July 19 Julian) a very correct and useful starting-point for the seasonal year. But the year of 365 days lost one day in four years of the Sothic or Julian year, so that in 121 Egyptian years New Year’s day fell a whole month too early according to the seasons, and in 1461 years a whole year was lost. This “Sothic period” or era of 1460 years, during which the Egyptian New Year’s day travelled all round the Sothic year, is recorded by Greek and Roman writers at least as early as the 1st century B.C. The epagomenal days appear on a monument of the Vth Dynasty and in the very ancient Pyramid texts. They were considered unlucky, and perhaps this accounts for the curious fact that, although they are named in journals and in festival lists, &c., where precise dating was needed, no known monument or legal document is dated in them. It is, however, quite possible that by the side of the year of 365 days a shorter year of 360 was employed for some purposes. Lunar months were observed in the regulation of temples, and lunar years, &c., have been suspected. To find uniformity in any department in Egyptian practice would be exceptional. By the decree of Canopus, Ptolemy III. Euergetes introduced through the assembly of priests an extra day every fourth year, but this reform had no acceptation until it was reimposed by Augustus with the Julian calendar. Whether any earlier attempt was made to adjust the civil to the solar or Sothic year in order to restore the festivals to their proper places in the seasons temporarily or otherwise, is a question of great importance for chronology, but at present it remains unanswered. Probably neither the Sothic nor any other era was employed by the ancient Egyptians, who dated solely by regnal years (see below). An inscription of Rameses II. at Tanis is dated in the 400th year of the reign of the god Sēth of Ombos, probably with reference to some religious ordinance during the rule of the Seth-worshipping Hyksos; Rameses II. may well have celebrated its quater-centenary, but it is wrong to argue from this piece of evidence alone that an era of Sēth was ever observed.

From the Middle Kingdom onward to the Roman period, the dates upon Egyptian documents are given in regnal years. On the oldest monuments the years in a reign were not numbered consecutively but were named after events; thus in the Ist Dynasty we find “the year of smiting the Antiu-people,” in the beginning of the IIIrd Dynasty “the year of fighting and smiting the people of Lower Egypt.” But under the IInd Dynasty there was a census of property for taxation every two years, and the custom, continuing (with some irregularities) for a long time, offered a uniform mode of marking years, whether current or past. Thus such dates are met with as “the year of the third time of numbering” of a particular king, the next being designated as “the year after the third time of numbering.” Under the Vth Dynasty this method was so much the rule that the words “of numbering” were commonly omitted. It would seem that in the course of the next dynasty the census became annual instead of biennial, so that the “times” agreed with the actual years of reign; thenceforward their consecutive designation as “first time,” “second time,” for “first year,” “second year,” was as simple as it well could be, and lasted unchanged to the fall of paganism. The question arises from what point these regnal dates were calculated. Successive regnal years might begin (1) on the anniversary of the king’s accession, or (2) on the calendrical beginning in each year (normally on the first day of the nominal First month of inundation, i.e. 1st Thoth in the later calendar). In the latter case there would be a further consideration: was the portion of a calendar year following the accession of the new king counted to the last year of the outgoing king, or to the first year of the new king? In Dynasties I., IV.-V., XVIII. there are instances of the first mode (1), in Dynasties II., VI. (?), XII., XXVI. and onwards they follow the second (2). It may be that the practice was not uniform in all documents even of the same age. In Ptolemaic times not only were Macedonian dates sometimes given in Greek documents, but there were certainly two native modes of dating current; down to the reign of Euergetes there was a “fiscal” dating in papyri, according to which the year began in Paophi, besides a civil dating probably from Thoth; later, all the dates in papyri start from Thoth.

The Macedonian year is found in early Ptolemaic documents. The fixed year of the Canopic decree under Euergetes (with 1st Thoth on Oct. 22) was never adopted. Augustus established an “Alexandrian” era with the fixed Julian year, retaining the Egyptian months, with a sixth epagomenal day every fourth year. The capture of Alexandria having taken place on the 1st of August 30 B.C., the era began nominally in 30 B.C., but it was not actually introduced till some years later, from which time the 1st Thoth corresponded with the 29th of August in the Julian year. The vague “Egyptian” year, however, continued in use in native documents for some centuries along with the Alexandrian “Ionian” year. The era of Diocletian dates from the 29th of August 284, the year of his reforms; later, however, the Christians called it the era of the Martyrs (though the persecution was not until 302), and it survived the Arab conquest. The dating by indictions, i.e. Roman tax-censuses, taking place every fifteenth year, probably originated in Egypt, in A.D. 312, the year of the defeat of Maxentius. The indictions began in Payni of the fixed year, when the harvest had been secured.

See F. K. Ginzel, Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie, Bd. i. (Leipzig, 1906), and the bibliography in the following section.

2. Historical.[10]—As to absolute chronology, the assigning of a regnal year to a definite date B.C. is clear enough (except in occasional detail) from the conquest by Alexander onwards. Before that time, in spite of successive efforts to establish a chronology, the problem is very obscure. The materials for reconstructing the absolute chronology are of several kinds: (1) Regnal dates as given on contemporary monuments may indicate the lengths of individual reigns, but not with accuracy, as they seldom reach to the end of a reign and do not allow for co-regencies. Records of the time that has elapsed between two regnal dates in the reigns of different kings are very helpful; thus stelae from the Serapeum recording the ages of the Apis bulls with the dates of their birth and death have fixed the chronology of the XXVIth Dynasty. Traditional evidence for the lengths of reigns exists in the Turin Papyrus of kings and in Manetho’s history; unfortunately the papyrus is very fragmentary and preserves few reign-lengths entire, and Manetho’s evidence seems very untrustworthy, being known only from late excerpts. (2) The duration of a period may be calculated by generations or the probable average lengths of reigns, but such calculations are of little value, and the succession of generations even when the evidence seems to be full is particularly difficult to ascertain in Egyptian, owing to adoptions and the repetition of the same name even in one family of brothers and sisters. (3) Synchronisms in the histories of other countries furnish reliable dates—Greek, Persian, Babylonian and Biblical dates for the XXVIth Dynasty, Assyrian for the XXVth; less precise are the Biblical date of Rehoboam, contemporary with the invasion of Shishak (Sheshonk) in the XXIInd Dynasty, and the date of the Babylonian and Assyrian kings contemporary with Amenhotp IV. in the XVIIIth Dynasty. The last, about 1400 B.C., is the earliest point to which such coincidences reach. (4) Astronomical data, especially the heliacal risings of Sothis recorded by dates of their celebration in the vague year. These are easily calculated on the assumption first that the observations were correctly made, secondly that the calendrical dates are in the year of 365 days beginning on 1st Thoth, and thirdly that this year subsequently underwent no readjustment or other alteration before the reign of Euergetes. The assumption may be a reasonable one, and if the results agree with probabilities as deduced from the rest of the evidence it is wise to adopt it; if on the other hand the other evidence seems in any serious degree contrary to those results it may be surmised that the assumption is faulty in some particular. The harvest date referred to below helps to show that the first part of the assumption is justified.

The duration of the reigns in several dynasties is fairly well known from the incontrovertible evidence of contemporary monuments. The XXVIth Dynasty, which lasted 139 years, is particularly clear, and synchronisms fix its regnal dates to the years B.C. within an error of one or two years at most. The lengths of several reigns in the XIIth, XVIIIth and XIXth Dynasties are known, and the sum total for the XIIth Dynasty is preserved better than any other in the Turin Papyrus, which was written under the XIXth Dynasty. The succession and number of the kings are also ascertained for other dynasties, together with many regnal dates, but very serious gaps exist in the records of the Egyptian monuments, the worst being between the XIIth and the XVIIIth Dynasties, between the XIth and the VIth, and at Dynasties I.-III. For the chronology before the time of the XXVIth Dynasty Herodotus’s history is quite worthless. Manetho alone of all authorities offers a complete chronology from the 1st Dynasty to the XXXth. In the case of the six kings of the XXVIth Dynasty, Africanus, the best of his excerptors, gives correct figures for five reigns, but attributes six instead of sixteen years to Necho; the other excerptors have wrong numbers throughout. For the XIXth Dynasty Manetho’s figures are wrong wherever we can check them; the names, too, are seriously faulty. In the XVIIIth Dynasty he has too many names and few are clearly identifiable, while the numbers are incomprehensible. In the XIIth Dynasty the number of the kings is correct and many of the names can be justified, but the reign-lengths are nearly, if not quite, all wrong. The summations of years for the Dynasties XII. and XVIII. are likewise wrong. It seems, therefore, that the known texts of Manetho, serviceable as they have been in the reconstruction of Egyptian history, cannot be employed as a serious guide to the early chronology, since they are faulty wherever we can check them, even in the XXVIth Dynasty whose kings were so celebrated among the Greeks. There remain the astronomical data. Of these, the Sothic date furnished by a calendar in the Ebers Papyrus of the 9th year of Amenophis I. (when interpreted on the assumption stated above), and another at Elephantine of an uncertain year of Tethmosis III., tally well with each other (1550–1546, 1474–1470 B.C.) and with the Babylonian synchronism (not yet accurately determined) under Amenhotp IV. (Akhenaton). Another Sothic date of the 7th year of Senwosri III. on a Berlin papyrus from Kahūn, similarly interpreted (1882–1878 B.C.), gives for the XIIth Dynasty a range from 2000 to 1788 B.C. This (discovered by L. Borchardt in 1899) seems to offer a welcome ray, piercing the obscurity of early Egyptian chronology; guided by it the historian Ed. Meyer, and K. Sethe have framed systems of chronology in close agreement with each other, reaching back to the 1st Dynasty at about 3400 B.C. To Meyer is further due a calculation that the Egyptian calendar was introduced in 4241–4238 B.C.[11] Their results in general have been adopted by the “Berlin school,” including Erman, Steindorff (in Baedeker’s Egypt) and Breasted in America. Nevertheless many Egyptologists are unwilling to accept the new chronology, the chief obstacle being that it allows so short an interval for the six dynasties between the XIIth and the XVIIIth. If the XIIth Dynasty ended about 1790 B.C. and the XVIIIth began about 1570 B.C., taking what seems to be the utmost interval that it permits, 220 years have to contain a crowd of kings of whom nearly 100 are already known by name from monuments and papyri, while fresh names are being added annually to the long list; the shattered fragments of the last columns in the Turin Papyrus show space for 150 or perhaps 180 kings of this period, apparently without reaching the XVIIth Dynasty. An estimate of 160 to 200 kings would therefore not be excessive. The dates that have come down to us are very few; the only ones known from the Hyksos period are of a 12th and a 33rd year. In the Turin Papyrus two reign-lengths of less than a year, seven others of less than five years each, one of ten years and one of thirteen seem attributable to the XIIIth and XIVth Dynasties. Probably most of the reigns were short, as Manetho also decidedly indicates. It is possible that the compiler of the Turin Papyrus, who excluded contemporary reigns in the period between the VIth and the XIIth Dynasties, here admitted such; nor is a correspondingly large number of kings in so short a period without analogies in history. Professor Petrie, however, thinks it best, while accepting the evidence of the Sirius date, to suppose further that a whole Sothic period of 1460 years had passed in the interval, making a total of 1650 years for the six dynasties in place of 220 years. This, however, seems greatly in excess of probability, and several Egyptologists familiar with excavation are willing to accept Meyer’s figures on archaeological grounds. To the present writer it seems that Meyer’s chronology provides a convenient working theory, but involves such an improbability in regard to the interval between the XIIth and the XVIIIth Dynasties that the interpretation of the Sothic date on which it is founded must be viewed with suspicion until clear facts are found to corroborate it. Corroboration has been sought by Mahler, Sethe and Petrie in the dates of new moons, of warlike and other expeditions, and of high Nile, but their evidence so far is too vague and uncertain to affect the question seriously. It is remarkable that no records of eclipses are known from Egyptian documents. The interesting date of the harvest at El Bersha, quoted by Meyer in Breasted, Records, i. p. 48, confirms the Sothic date for the XIIth Dynasty in some measure, but it belongs to the same age, and therefore its evidence would be equally vitiated with the other by any subsequent alteration in the Egyptian calendar. Before the discovery of the Kahun Sothic date, Professor Petrie put the end of the XIIth Dynasty at 2565 B.C.; in 1884 even Meyer had suggested 1930 B.C. as its minimum date, thus allowing 400 years at the least for the period from the XIIIth Dynasty to the XVIIth.

Dynasty. Meyer 1887
(minimum date).
1894 &c.
I. 3180 4777 3315 3360 3400 5510
II. 4514   3110   5247
III. 4212 2895 2810 2980 4945
IV. 2830 3998 2840 2720 2900 4731
V.   3721 2680 2630 2750 4454
VI. 2530 3503 2540 2480 2625 4206
VII.   3322   2300 2475 4003
VIII.   3252       3933
IX.   3106 2360   2445 3787
X.   3006       3687
XI.   2821 2160 2100 2160 3502
XII. 2130 2778 2000 2000 2000 3459
XIII. 1930 2565 1791   1788 3246
XIV.   2112       2793
XV. 1780   1680*     2533
XVI.   1928       2249
XVII.   1738       1731
XVIII. 1530 1587 1580   1580 1580
XIX. 1320 1327 1321   1350 1323
* Meyer makes XIII. overlap XV. (Hyksos), and XIV. (Xoite), contemporary with
 XVI. (Hyksos) and XVII. (Theban).

Dynasty. Wiedemann
XIX. 1490 1320 (1328), 1322 1350  
XX. 1280 1180 1202 1200  
XXI. 1100 1060 1102 1090  
XXII. 975 930 952 945  
XXIII. 810   755 745  
XXIV. 720   721 718  
XXV. 715 728 715 712  
XXVI. 664 663 664 663  
XXVII. 525 525 525 525 425
XXVIII. 415   405   c. 405
XXIX. 408   399   399
XXX. 387   378   380
Ochus 350   342   342

Beyond the XIIth Dynasty estimates must again be vague. The spacing of the years on the Palermo stone has given rise to some calculations for the early dynasties. Others are grounded on the dates of certain operations which are likely to have taken place at particular seasons of the year so that they can be roughly calculated on the Sothic basis, others on Manetho’s figures, average lengths of reigns, evidence of the Turin Papyrus, &c.

Table I. page 79 shows the chronology of the first nineteen dynasties, according to recent authorities, before and after the discovery of the Kahun Sothic date.

The dates of the earlier dynasties in this table are always intended to be only approximate; for instance, Meyer in 1904 allowed an error of 100 years either of excess or deficiency in the dates he assigned to the dynasties from the Xth upwards.

The other dynasties are dated as in Table II. by different authorities.

See Ed. Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums, Bd. i. (Stuttgart, 1884), Geschichte des alten Ägyptens (1887), Ägyptische Chronologie (Abhandl. of Prussian Academy) (Berlin, 1904, with the supplement Nachträge zur ägypt. Chronologie, ib. 1907); K. Sethe, “Beiträge zur ältesten Geschichte Ägyptens” (in his Untersuchungen, Bd. iii.) (Leipzig, 1905); J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, “Historical Documents,” vol. i. (Chicago, 1906); W. M. F. Petrie, A History of Egypt, vol. i. (London, 1884), vol. iii. (1905), Researches in Sinai (London, 1906); G. Maspero, Histoire ancienne des peuples de l’orient (Paris, 1904); A. Wiedemann, Ägyptische Geschichte (Gotha, 1884); articles by Mahler and others in the Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache and Orientalistische Literaturzeitung (recent years).  (F. Ll. G.) 

  1. Formerly transcribed hau or “heap”-problems.
  2. Clepsydras inscribed in hieroglyphic are found soon after the Macedonian conquest.
  3. Annual reports of the progress of the work are printed in the Sitzungsberichte of the Berlin Academy of Sciences; see also Erman, Zur ägyptischen Sprachforschung, ib. for 1907, p. 400, showing the general trend of the results.
  4. In the temple of Philae, where the worship of Isis was permitted to continue till the reign of Justinian, Brugsch found demotic inscriptions with dates to the end of the 5th century.
  5. The Arabic dialects, which gradually displaced Coptic as Mahommedanism supplanted Christianity, adopted but few words of the old native stock.
  6. In the articles referring to matters of Egyptology in this edition, Graecized forms of Old Egyptian names, where they exist, are commonly employed; in other cases names are rendered by their actual equivalents in Coptic or by analogous forms. Failing all such means, recourse is had to the usual conventional renderings of hieroglyphic spelling, a more precise transcription of the consonants in the latter being sometimes added.
  7. It seems that “acrophony” (giving to a sign the value of the first letter of its name) was indulged in only by priests of the latest age, inventing fantastic modes of writing their “vain repetitions” on the temple walls.
  8. In the prehistoric age when absolute dating is out of reach a “sequence dating” by means of the sequence of types in pottery, tools, &c., has been proposed in Petrie’s Diospolis Parva, pp. 4 et sqq. The earliest prehistoric graves yet known are placed at S.D. 30, and shortly before S.D. 80 the period of the first historic dynasty is entered.
  9. Ten-day periods as subdivisions of the month can be traced as far back as the Middle Kingdom. The day consisted of twenty-four hours, twelve of day (counted from sunrise to sunset) and twelve of night; it began at sunrise.
  10. For the “sequence” dating (S.D.) used by archaeologists for the prehistoric period see above (§ Art and Archaeology, ad init. note).
  11. Reisner (Early Dynastic Cemeteries, p. 126), from his work in the prehistoric cemeteries, believes that Egypt was too uncivilized at that early date to have performed this scientific feat.