Friday, February 5, 2010

What is "Important"?

What is important? For an optimist, everything is important. For a pessimist, nothing is imperative. In terms of history, everything that has shaped our future withstands some sort of importance. If nothing was considered vital or crucial, the world would go to wrack and ruin as we know it. The ancient Egyptians saw the world in a perspective that gave meaning to every aspect of life and death. For the most part, the things that the Egyptians held up on a pedestal, theoretically speaking, were Pharaohs, gods and goddesses, afterlife and death, slaves, Nile River, monumental structures, mortuary cities, and a form of communication.
To begin with, a lot of city-states along the Nile River began to form under one rule; the rule of the Pharaoh. The pharaoh was a sacred being and was thought to be the incarnation of Horus in life and Osiris in death (F. Fleming & A. Lothian, 12 & 59). This concept was probably the most important because every facet of life was dictated by the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh had all the supremacy. Entire cities, known as mortuary cities, were established to be a complete and separate economy dedicated to building a monumental structure most likely in the form of a pyramid to honor the Pharaoh after his death.
While still worshiping the Pharaoh, the Egyptians worshiped many gods. There religious view was polytheistic. The polytheistic system was very complex, as some deities were believed to exist in many different manifestations, and some has multiple mythological roles (Wilkinson (2003) 30, 32). This polytheistic way of veneration was of great magnitude to the Egyptians because more often than not, civilizations based their society on a set of an orderly religious system. The gods and goddesses the people of Egypt worshiped were the reason they mummified their dead, had fertile land, and had strong, influential rulers.
The afterlife for Egyptians was just as significant as life. Man was regarded as a complex being that could exist both before and after death in different manifestations, known as kheperu (“The Concept of the Afterlife”). For this reason, the Egyptian people dissected their dead and preserved them as mummies. The departed bodies were embalmed so excellent, that medicine and embalmment were also important to the Egyptians. The concept of the afterlife was tied together with religion which made those two perceptions even better together. The Egyptians believed that death occurred when Ka left the physically body (Oakes (2003) 162). The Ka of a deceased person would eventually find its way into another physical being. This is commonly known as reincarnation.
Slaves were important to the entire country of Egypt because the slaves aided in the building of the pyramids for the pharaoh. Most of the slaves of Egypt were prisoners of war. Indeed, there were laborers who were not prisoners of war. They could have given the impression of being a slave. Considering their apparent permanent attachment to the land and their master, they were almost certainly a form of slave (Dunn). These workers created an entire ecosystem based on the work they dedicated there whole life to.
The Nile River was the reason all life was sustained in Egypt. Water is not necessary for life, but rather life itself (De Saint-Exupery). The Nile was the most important source of water that supplied the Egyptian people. The Nile River’s annual inundation was relatively reliable, and the floodplain and delta were extremely fertile. Egyptian agriculture was the most secure and productive in the near East (Baines). The prominent crops that the fertile soil of the Nile riverbeds could produce were cereals, emmer wheat, and barley. Other vital crops were flax and papyrus. The Nile River served as the leading supply of water; therefore its waters were praised and sacred.
Monumental Structures such as pyramids and temples were important to the Egyptians because they housed and valued Egypt’s Pharaohs. The pyramids and temples also showed evidence of mathematical and architectural importance. The Great Pyramid at Giza was aligned with amazing accuracy almost exactly to true north (Tyldesley). This shows that the Egyptians held every aspect of math and astrology of an important knowledge to possess. The intriguing fact of the pyramids is that they were not just built by slaves, but were in fact built by permanent workers. These workers dedicated their entire lives to building a pyramid or other monumental structure. Consequently, monumental structures were of high importance of the ancient Egyptian world.
Mortuary cities would be connected to monumental structures in a way that would make both of them equal importance. The cities were built because of the monumental structures. These mortuary cities were important because they were a way of life that the Egyptians could live by. The people that worked and lived in these cities were part of the Pharaoh’s mortuary cult (Warren). Complete economies were built for a purpose. This purpose was to serve the ruler, and oblige with all his requests. If he wanted a pyramid, a pyramid in his admiration was what he received. Mortuary cities were important because it gave meaning to life. They gave Egyptians work, trust, and order.
What was the Egyptians’ way of communication? Did they even care about having a way to communicate to others? Yes, they cared and writing was vital to the advancement and progression of their ancient society. The Egyptians wrote in Hieroglyphics. Archaeologists suspected that hieroglyphs were nothing more than primitive picture writing. They believed that their decipherment relied on an exact translation of the imagery that they saw. These elaborate symbols were ideal for inscriptions on the walls of majestic temples and monuments (Singh). Hieroglyphics were phonetic. This means that the symbols and pictures represented individual sounds much like the English alphabet today. Hieroglyphics were used to decipher Pharaoh’s names and gods and goddesses. Those two things were important to Egyptians. Language and specific dialect, unites certain groups of people. It shows distinction between societies and civilizations. For that reason, the Egyptians thought of Hieroglyphics as a well-regarded form of writing.
Every aspect of life and death are important. It is just up to humanity to choose which of those aspects are worth honouring more than the others.

Citation: Tyldesley, Joyce. "Ancient Egypt and the Modern World". 2009. 4 Feb. 2010.

Singh, Simon. "The Decipherment of Hieroglyphs". 2009 4 Feb. 2010.

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