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Ancient Man and His First Civilizations



Religion and everyday life

As mentioned before, the religion of Neolithic (late stone age) and pre-dynastic Egypt appears to have been animistic/nature worship, where each village or town had its own spirit deity in the form of an animal, bird, reptile, tree, plant or object. This spirit was always in something that played a prominent part in the life of the people. The spirits fell into two general categories, those which were friendly and helpful, such as cattle, or those that were menacing and powerful such as Bulls, crocodiles or snakes. In both cases, the favor of the spirit had to be solicited with a set formula of words and actions, and the spirits also had to have houses built for them, and offerings made to them.

As these spirits evolved into gods, the deity then had to have its own special type of house built, a temple. This building would then need full-time staff, to attend to the gods wants and needs, such as performing the proper rituals, making the proper offerings etc, and also to administer the gods blessings back to the people - the Priests.  Since the Kings own divinity was legitimized by the priesthood, it was also very necessary to insure that the temple and priesthood were properly provided for.

So in addition to the offerings from the people, the temple was given large land grants, to insure a source of income. Then of course, the god would need a wife - a high priestess. Here, as with the priests, there was a hierarchy, from the high priestess herself, to the lowest level priestesses, who preformed household chores and often served as temple prostitutes. In return for these services, the god was thought to protect its people, ensuring fertility and well-being. But if the gods needs weren't met, the deity might bring down wrath on the community, in the form of plague, famine or some such natural disaster. The insignia or standard of a Nome clearly showed which god protected the town, and as the town gained prominence, so too did the town's god.

Religion was interwoven, not only into the pharaohs power, but into life itself. It was the deity of a town who the people turned to, in order to prevent the everyday hazards of living. They used magic spells, charms, folklore and amulets to appealed to the deity for protection against hazards, and to intercede on their behalf, for anything from the Nile flooding, to sowing seeds and harvesting crops, to protection from poisonous snakes, and for safe childbirth.









Horus and Nekhbet {the vulture goddess}, came to represent Upper Egypt. In Lower Egypt, it was Set/Seth and Udjo, and also the cobra goddess of Buto. In later Egyptian history, the vulture and cobra were united into the royal diadem, to represent dominion over both lands. So when Nekhem became the most powerful town, Horus became the main god. The rulers started to identify themselves as the living embodiment of the hawk god. The ability to grow of Egyptian religion is one of the reasons why Egypt ended up with such a complex and polytheistic religious system. When a town grew in prominence, so too did the god. When the town was deserted, the god disappeared.

Only a few of the many original deities ended up in the Egyptian pantheon, and even then, their popularity waxed and waned through the thousands of years of Egyptian history. Another reason for complexity was that when people moved, their god did too. This meant that at the new town, there was sometimes a battle between the old and new gods - but the Egyptian gods were easily merged, so that you would have one god taking over the other god's attributes and abilities. That is why, some of the ancient gods of Neolithic and Pre-dynastic Egypt, those that had maintained their popularity, became main gods in the later Egyptian pantheon: Amun of Thebes, Ptah of Hikuptah (Memphis), Horus (the Elder) of Nekhem, Set/Seth of Tukh (Ombos), Ra of Iunu (Heliopolis), Min of Gebtu (Koptos), Hathor of Dendra and Osiris of Abydos.



Egyptians had a very varied diet, they grew wheat and other cereal grains from which they made breads, and brewed many varieties of beer. They grew a large variety of fruits, which they ate fresh or dried, they also grew grapes, which were eaten fresh or dried, but also with which they made a great variety of wines. They also grew a wide variety of vegetables. They ate beef, fowl, fish and game animals, and pork - contrary to popular belief, Egyptians did eat pork.

As a matter of fact, the only food prohibition in the ancient world that we can find, is the Nubian ban on "FISH" (ya fish - go figure). They felt that fish were unclean, and the king wouldn't give audience to anyone who had eaten fish. (The logic here may have been based on the fact that, some fish - like pork, can have worms in the flesh, and will make a person ill, if not cooked properly, that's our guess!). Egyptians had many sources of oil, but they preferred olive oil, which they used for cooking, lighting and as an oil for the skin.

The prohibition against eating "FISH" is taken from the "Victory Stela" of Nubian King Piye. Click here for the text of his Stela. "Surrender of the last opponents section": <<CLICK>>


Egyptian climate with its hot summers and mild winters favored light clothing made from plant fibers, predominantly linen. The manufacture of clothes was women's work. It was mostly done at home, but there were workshops run by noblemen or other men of means. Fibers were made by beating and combing the flax plant, which could then be spun into thread. The weaving was done at first on horizontal looms, which were often just pegs rammed into the ground, but later they developed vertical looms.  

Their tools such as knives and needles changed over the centuries. Blades were made from stone during the Neolithic, then from copper, and from bronze during the Middle Kingdom and finally from iron. Though flint knives, which had sharper edges than iron ones, continued to be used, ever decreasingly until Roman times. Needles were fashioned from wood, bone and metal. The Egyptians succeeded in making extremely thin millimeter thick eyes in copper needles. Scissors came into general use late in Egypt's history, though the principle was known since the second millennium B.C.






Because of its hot climate, in Egypt shaving and hair removal was a regular part of daily grooming. The Egyptians had an unusual obsession with personal body hygiene. The great Greek historian/storyteller HERODOTUS, stated that the Egyptians bathed several times a day, and "set cleanness above seemliness."

Clearly, being so clean all the time, was associated with fanatical behavior by outsiders. The ancient Romans thought that a lack of body hair, was some kind of terrible deformity. But not in Egypt, people there believed that body hair was shameful and unclean. Wild animals and barbarian people had hair, not the sophisticated, super-advanced Egyptian civilization.

Being hairless was accomplished by shaving, or using depilatory creams, and even rubbing one’s hair off with a pumice stone. Men, women, and even the children of ancient Egypt, all shaved their heads bald and wore elaborate specially-made wigs. These wigs were made of natural or artificial hair, and were specially designed to keep one’s head cool.

The Greek historian/storyteller "Herodotus" maintained that it was the Egyptians, who invented circumcision, and all who practiced it, learnt it from them. Which logically follows, because there is a hygienic value to circumcision. If not kept scrupulously clean, a male can have problems there - it's not all about torturing little boys.



There is always an argument as to whether it was the Sumerians, Egyptians or Indus valley people, who invented writing, mathematics, astronomy, calendars etc, etc, etc. As soon as a site is discovered that proves the one, another site is discovered that proves the other. Suffice to say that they were contemporary with each other, and in contact with each other. Though logically you could say that all things originated in Egypt. So far though, no one has disproved that the Sumerians invented the wheel and wagon. Although it was the Egyptians, who took the wagon to its highest refinement, with their light and agile chariots.

In writing, the Egyptians eventually came to use two scripts for their language. Hieroglyphics recorded their language with a mixed system of sound signs and picture signs. Demotic script is a more cursive development of the hieratic script, it was the standard script for business and legal affairs throughout the country; Hieroglyphics was retained for writing religious texts and inscriptions on monuments.

The Egyptians followed a calendar system of 360 days, with three seasons, each made up of 4 months, with thirty days in each month. The seasons of the Egyptians, corresponded to the cycles of the Nile, and were known as Inundation (pronounced akhet which lasted from June 21st to October 21st), Emergence (pronounced proyet which lasted from October 21st to February 21st), and Summer (pronounced shomu which lasted from February 21st to June 21st).

The beginning of the year, also called "the opening of the year", was marked by the emergence of the star Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major. The constellation emerged roughly on June 21st, and was called "the going up of the goddess Sothis". The star was visible just before sunrise, and is still one of the brightest stars in the sky, located to the lower left of Orion and taking the form of the dogs nose in the constellation Canis Major.

Though the Egyptians had a 360 day calendar, in a literal sense, they did have a 365 day calendar system. The beginning of the year was marked by the addition of five days, known as "the yearly five days". These additional five days were times of great feasting and celebration for the Egyptians, and it was not uncommon for the Egyptians to perform rituals, and other celebratory dealings on these days.


Now let's move on, to see how Modern Man is doing in other places.


Please visit the "Additional Material Area" for many more photographs of each civilization, and related material <Click>



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