June 13th, 2008 by mrpowell2
This year, HistoryAtOurHouse will offer both Ancient history and American history. American history will be available solely in the form of digital recordings. Ancient history will be available both as recordings and as live teleconference (audio) lectures. Here’s a preview of Part 1 of the Ancient history curriculum: Ancient Egypt. For a more complete preview, including Mesopotamia and Persia, Greece, and Rome, be sure to join the HistoryAtOurHouse mailing list (via the link on the sidebar of this blog.) Also, I’ll be announcing discounted tuition specials for American history to my list members this weekend! Don’t miss it.
Ever since Chapollion deciphered the Rosetta stone, Western civilization has been fascinated with Ancient Egypt. And for good reason. The Pyramids and the Sphinx as well as the stunning temples that line the Nile have stood the test of time and seduced recent generations with their mysteries. The study of Ancient Egypt provides us with a taste of a life that is foreign and exotic to us. And yet even in this exotic setting, we find certain threads that link our own experiences to those of the people of the most distant past. No matter how far from us they may be, we are linked by a bond of humanity, and we may learn valuable lessons from their successes and failures.
The story of Egypt begins with its unification under Menes/Narmer, who brought Upper and Lower Egypt together. With its gradual rise from obscurity the Egyptian Old Kingdom established a lasting historical footprint, which includes the world’s most famous pyramids. Life on the Nile in this early civilization is examined for the conditions that precipitated the formation of a stable, organized society there. The engineering and artistic achievements of the Egyptians are examined within the religious context that dominated cultural life.
The Narmer Palette illustrates the idea of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by the larger-than-life Menes/Narmer.
The cyclical pattern of Egyptian history is explored, by narrating the fall of the Old Kingdom, the transition through the First Intermediate Period, and the rise of the Middle Kingdom, which can be credited with its own amazing engineering achievement: the first canal linking the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. The pattern is repeated with the fall of the Middle Kingdom, associated with the invasion of the “Hyksos,” the Second Intermediate Period, and the rise of the New Kingdom.
The most compelling figure of Egyptian history, the boy king Tutankhamun, is the figure students most enjoy learning about in the New Kingdom period. The connection of his story to the failed “Egyptian Reformation” of his father Akhenaten makes him that much more interesting. Was he murdered? If so, by whom and why? We’ll look at the suspects!
One of the famous masks of Tutankhamun
Egypt began to clash with other major empires during the period of the New Kingdom. Its extended conflict with other powers eventually brought about its downfall. One of the more interesting episodes in this story serves to demonstrate the nature of the process of scientific historical research to young minds. As discussed in this recent blog post, the issue is whether or not Ramses II defeated his enemy the Hittites at the major Battle of Kadesh. Ramses certainly wanted posterity to think so, but modern historians have not been fooled.
The onslaught of the “sea peoples” (possibly from Greece) and the constant stress of imperial wars brought about the decline and fall of the New Kingdom, and sets the scene for the rise of Assyrian power in Egypt.
This provides a logical segue into the parallel story of the Fertile Crescent, but before students and I part with Ancient Egypt we’ll pause to discuss its unique characteristics and the nature of its culture’s footprint in history.
Would you like book recommendations for studying Ancient history? Be sure to join either the HistoryAtOurHouse Yahoogroup or mailing list to learn about everything HistoryAtOurHouse has to offer.