Ancient Egypt

Papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Any

Towards the end of the fourth millennium BC several independent -states were unified to form a single state, marking the beginning of over 3,000 years of pharaonic civilisation in the Nile Valley. Fertile earth left behind after the yearly Nile flood provided the basis for Egypt’s agricultural prosperity, a key factor in the longevity of the civilisation.

Impressive monuments were erected in the name of kings, monumental temples for the to the marking the burials of rulers.

The British Museum collection includes statuary and decorated architecture from throughout pharaonic history, often inscribed with hieroglyphs. Many other aspects of are represented: coffins and mummies of individuals, but also furniture, fine jewellery and other burial goods. These reflect the practice of lavish burials for the wealthy, which included the royal family, government officials and the priesthood.

Texts preserved on papyrus help reveal the complex administration of the country, but also include magical, medical and mathematical works and poetry. Pottery vessels and a variety of tools and agricultural equipment hint at the day-to-day lives of ancient Egyptians.

At certain periods, Egypt’s empire extended over neighbouring areas, from Upper Nubia to the Euphrates river. But Egypt was also linked to other countries through trade, and many foreigners came to reside in Egypt, producing a cosmopolitan society.

Egypt did endure several periods of foreign domination, by Palestinian, Nubian, Persian, and rulers. Yet throughout, temples to the Egyptian gods continued to be built in the traditional style and aspects of Egyptian spread throughout the ancient .

By the fourth century AD, had become the dominant religion along the Nile, with Islam first introduced in the seventh century AD.

Image caption: Papyrus from of the Dead of Any
From Thebes, Egypt. 19th , around 1275 BC

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