Life in Ancient Egypt

Orientation

Map of EgyptBecause of its location at the crossroads of the African and Asian continents, Egypt has been an important geographical and political power since the earliest times. In ancient times, the boundaries of Egypt were the Mediterranean Sea to the north and Elephantine (modern Aswan) to the south. Its eastern and western boundaries were in the high desert on either side of the narrow strip of Nile valley and low desert. The Nile River, the most important geographic feature in the area, runs the length of the country, flowing from south to north.

Ancient Egypt was divided into two regions: Upper and Lower Egypt. Lower (northern) Egypt consisted of the Nile River's delta made by the river as it empties into the Mediterranean. Today the Delta is fifteen thousand square miles of alluvium (silt), which has been deposited over the centuries by the annual flooding of the Nile. For much of Egypt's history, this area was only thinly settled, although it was used as a grazing area for cattle.

Upper Egypt was the long, narrow strip of ancient Egypt located south of the Delta. This area is composed of four topographic zones: the Nile River, the floodplain, the low desert, and the high desert. Each of these zones was exploited differently by the ancient Egyptians.

Throughout their history, Egyptians shared a common language, world view, and institutional structure, as well as a common territory. Ancient Egyptians had a keen sense of the distinctiveness and superiority of their culture, and they struggled to maintain it. Many of the rituals they performed encouraged continuity with earlier periods of their history that they visualized as ideal.

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