Life in Ancient Egypt

Egypt as a Crossroads

Map of EgyptEgypt's location as the keystone region at the center of the Afro-Asian geographical nexus is apparent from ancient times. During periods of conquest in ancient Egypt, both by foreign invaders and by Egyptians attacking Near Eastern states, the ancient Egyptians and the peoples of Syro-Palestine were introduced to each other's culture. The ancient Egyptians also came into contact with the Nubians to the south and the Libyans to the west through their continued struggle to protect their borders and expand their sources of raw materials. The Ptolemaic and Roman periods brought additional contact with Mediterranean countries.

Obviously flowing from the rich history of contacts among the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Europe has been an equally rich blending of cultural and physical types. In New Kingdom times of Pharonic Egypt, the only culture the ancient Egyptians recognized was Egyptian; therefore, any person who was a member of another cultural group, that is, Nubians, Libyans, or Syro-Palestines, could become Egyptian by practicing Egyptian culture and speaking the Egyptian language. That slow integration formed the basis of today's physical and cultural blend. Over the millennia, from Ptolemaic-Roman times on, contact and mingling with these peoples increased, creating a truly multiracial and, to a lesser extent, multicultural situation in Egypt.

Excerpted from Modern Egypt and Its Heritage by Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban. © 1990 The Board of Trustees, Carnegie Institute.

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