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HIST251: History of Africa to 1890

Unit 3: Ancient and Classical Africa—The North (c. 2700 BCE – 700 CE)   *The earliest and most sophisticated civilization to emerge in Africa in the early period was ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptian civilization emerged in northern Africa along the Nile River around 3000 BCE. It benefitted from Mesopotamian trade and influence, but also emerged as a distinct culture. Capable of adapting to the volatile flood cycle of the Nile River, the ancient Egyptians used sophisticated irrigation techniques to grow surplus crops. In turn, these surplus crops created extra resources that fueled social development and culture. The ancient Egyptians created new trade networks, an independent writing system based on hieroglyphics, and a strong army to assert Egyptian dominance throughout the Nile River valley. They also undertook significant agricultural and construction projects, building monumental temples, pyramids, and obelisks. Egyptian society (which was comprised of farmers, artists, craftsmen, and slaves) was highly stratified and was ruled by a pharaoh and a powerful bureaucracy of elite scribes, religious leaders, and administrators. Despite the deserts, mountains, and ocean that surrounded them, Egyptians were not isolated. They lived in concert with societies of the Mediterranean, Horn of Africa, Mesopotamia, and Upper Nile.

In this unit, you will study the complex nature of ancient Egyptian society and culture, and that of the African societies that surrounded it. The topics we will look at include daily life, religion, and political organization. You will also look at the experiences of Greek and Roman rule in the period following the demise of the pharaonic state.*

Unit 3 Time Advisory
☐    Subunit 3.1: 4 hours
☐    Subunit 3.2: 6 hours
☐    Subunit 3.3: 7 hours
☐    Subunit 3.4: 3 hours
☐    Subunit 3.5: 4 hours

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Describe the events that led to the development of sophisticated societies along the Nile.

  • Outline the major developments in the history of Egypt and neighboring societies prior to circa 700 CE.
  • Compose a description of the social and cultural worlds in which New Kingdom Egyptians lived.

3.1 Egypt’s Environment and the Origins of Egyptian Society   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Egypt’s Environment and the Origins of Egyptian Society” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Egypt’s Environment and the Origins of Egyptian Society” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the linked introduction to this unit.

  • Reading: Exploring Africa, “History of Africa during the Time of the Great Egyptian Civilization” Link: Exploring Africa, “History of Africa during the Time of the Great Egyptian Civilization” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: The article discusses ancient Egyptian civilization from 3100 BCE to 332 BCE (often referred to as the Pharaonic period) while at the same time addressing the history of other regions of Africa during the same period. After reading the article, fill in the missing sections of the timeline (located at the bottom of the page).  Please read the article in its entirety.
     
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  • Reading: Fordham University: “Hymn to the Nile, c. 2100 BCE” Link: Fordham University: “Hymn to the Nile, c. 2100 BCE” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the “Hymn to the Nile.”  As you read, consider both the physical and metaphysical importance assigned to the River Nile in ancient Egyptian theology.
     
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3.2 Kingdoms of Ancient Egypt   3.2.1 The Old Kingdom   - Lecture: YouTube: University of Houston: “HIST 3379 LECTURE 2B” Link: YouTube: University of Houston: “HIST 3379 LECTURE 2B” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: This lecture provides an overview of the geography, ecology, and theology of ancient Egypt during the period known as “The Old Kingdom.”  Watch the entire lecture in its entirety.
 
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3.2.2 The Middle Kingdom   - Reading: W. Lawrence Balls’s Egypt of the Egyptians “Chapter 1” Link: W. Lawrence Balls’s Egypt of the Egyptians “Chapter 1” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read chapter 1 for an outline of this period of Egyptian history. As you read, consider the following questions:
 
·      What changes in the structure of leadership (from the Old Kingdom period to the Middle Kingdom) does the author identify?
 
·      What changes in the social structure does he describe, and to what does he attribute them?
 
·      What evidence does the author provide to demonstrate a high level of state administrative organization?
 
·      The Hyksos invaders toppled the Middle Kingdom and were themselves expelled approximately one hundred years later by Ahmose I, founder of the new dynasty. How did the Hyksos invasion and rule contribute – directly or indirectly - to the expansion and consolidation of the Egyptian empire under Ahmose I and his successors?
 
·      What administrative and social changes does the author identify as occurring under the new regime?
 
·      How did the new empire expand in terms of territory and in terms of trade and cultural exchange?
 
·      To what factors does the author attribute the fall of the empire?
 
·      The author uses words such as “middle class,” “feudal,” and “feminist” to describe various facets of Egyptian social and political life. To what extent do you think these terms might or might not be applicable to ancient Egyptian society? Why do you think the author might have chosen to use this terminology?
 
Reading this chapter and answering the questions should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the Public Domain.

3.2.3 The New Kingdom   Note: This subunit is covered by the material in 3.2.2.

3.2.4 Post-Imperial Egypt   - Web Media: BBC and The British Museum: “Sphinx of Taharqo” Link: BBC and The British Museum: “Sphinx of Taharqo” (HTML, Flash Video, and Java)
 
Instructions: Read the article and view the slideshow and video. This particular sphinx features the face of King Taharqo, one of several Kushite (or Sudanese) pharaohs to rule Egypt in the post-imperial period. As you read about and view this historical object, consider the political and ethnic diversity of ancient Egypt.
 
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  • Reading: Fordham University: “Egypt under the Roman Empire” Link: Fordham University: “Egypt under the Roman Empire” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this short excerpt from Strabo’s Geography (ca. 22 CE) in which he describes life and politics in ancient Egypt under the Roman Empire.
     
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3.3 Egyptian Religion and Culture   3.3.1 Origin Myths   - Reading: Egypt Art: “Creation Mythology: The Great Creators” Link: Egypt Art: “Creation Mythology: The Great Creators” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read all three sections of “The Great Creators” for an overview of ancient Egyptian mythology.
 
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  • Reading: Aldokkan: “Egyptian Creation Myth: Heliopolis Version” Link: Aldokkan: “Egyptian Creation Myth: Heliopolis Version” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Browse through the entire article and read the “Conclusion” section. Note the similarities between ancient Egyptian and ancient Hebrew mythologies.
     
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3.3.2 The Memphite Theology   - Reading: Charles H. Long’s “Egyptian Mythology” Link: Charles H. Long’s “Egyptian Mythology” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Charles H. Long’s article provides an overview of Memphite theology, an outgrowth of the general theology of ancient Egypt.  Please read it in its entirety.
 
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  • Reading: Michael Wilson’s “Sources on Memphite Theology” Link: Michael Wilson’s “Sources on Memphite Theology” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read all four sections. This resource contains primary source texts on Memphite theology.
     
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3.3.3 Death and Resurrection   - Reading: Tour Egypt: Marie Parsons’s “The Book of the Dead: An Introduction” Link: Tour Egypt: Marie Parsons’s “The Book of the Dead: An Introduction” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read Marie Parsons’ article, which provides a brief introduction to one of ancient Egypt’s most well-known primary source documents: “The Book of the Dead.”
 
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  • Reading: Tour Egypt: “The Declaration of Innocence—Chapter 125” Link: Tour Egypt: “The Declaration of Innocence—Chapter 125” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Contained within “The Book of the Dead,” “The Declaration of Innocence” was intended to be recited by the deceased in the Hall of Two Truths for the express purpose of gaining entry into the afterlife.  Please read the entire document.
     
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3.3.4 Arts and Literature   - Reading: Crystal Links: “Art in Ancient Egypt” Link: Crystal Links: “Art in Ancient Egypt” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this article for an overview of ancient Egyptian art, from sculpture and paintings to literature and architecture.
 
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  • Reading: Aldokkan: “The Egyptian Cinderella” Link: Aldokkan: “The Egyptian Cinderella” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: This article contains the text of what is considered by many to be the oldest version of what is commonly known as the Cinderella story.  Please read it in its entirety.
     
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3.3.5 Everyday Life   - Reading: St. Petersburg Times: “Egypt: Daily Life” Link: St. Petersburg Times: “Egypt: Daily Life” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the linked article, which addresses everyday life in ancient Egypt, ranging from food consumption, clothing, and cosmetics to forms of entertainment and government.
 
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  • Reading: Canadian Museum of Civilization: “Mysteries of Ancient Egypt: Daily Life” Link: Canadian Museum of Civilization: “Mysteries of Ancient Egypt: Daily Life” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Browse through each of the five sections.  This website details aspects of everyday life in ancient Egypt through various visual and textual primary sources.  Note the changes in dress and appearance that took place between the Old Kingdom and the New Kingdom (see the “Clothing and Adornment” section).
     
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3.4 Societies of the Nile and Horn   3.4.1 Kush   - Reading: Nicholas C. J. Pappas’s “Kush, Meroe, and Nubia” Link: Nicholas C. J. Pappas’s “Kush, Meroe, and Nubia” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This reading outlines the history of Kush between 2700 BCE and 1300 CE.  Pay close attention to the “Christian Nubia” and “The Coming of Islam” sections, as they will be helpful to you when you study Christianity and Islam in Africa in unit 5.
 
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  • Reading: Fordham University: “Accounts of Meröe, Kush, and Axum, c. 430 BCE–550 CE” Link: Fordham University: “Accounts of Meröe, Kush, and Axum, c. 430 BCE–550 CE” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: This resource contains primary sources on ancient Nubia and Ethiopia. Skim through each of the sections, paying close attention to the differences between each of the authors (i.e., some are Africans and some are not).
     
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3.4.2 Axum   - Reading: About.com: K. Kris Hirst’s “Aksum of Ethiopia: Ancient African Kingdom of the Axumites” Link: About.com: K. Kris Hirst’s “Aksum of Ethiopia: Ancient African Kingdom of the Axumites” (HTML)
 
Instructions: K. Kris Hirst’s article outlines the history of one of East Africa’s most powerful ancient civilizations: Axum (or Aksum).  Please read it in its entirety.
 
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  • Web Media: YouTube: RodvienAPWH’s “Kingdom of Aksum” Link: YouTube: RodvienAPWH’s “Kingdom of Aksum” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Please watch the linked video, which contains a slideshow presentation on the history of Aksum between the first century CE and the rise and spread of Islam in the early eighth century CE.
     
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3.5 Greek and Roman North Africa   3.5.1 Ptolemaic Egypt   - Reading: Tour Egypt: “Alexandria: The Ptolemaic Dynasty” Link: Tour Egypt: “Alexandria: The Ptolemaic Dynasty” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This article provides a brief history of the ancient city of Alexandria. Founded by Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE, Alexandria went on to become one of ancient Egypt’s most populous and powerful cities. Controlled by both the Greeks and the Romans, Alexandria was witness to the gradual decline of ancient Egypt as both a regional and imperial power.  Read the entire article in its entirety.
 
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  • Reading: Fordham University: “The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century” Link: Fordham University: “The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Written in Greek, this is a first- to third-century CE document detailing the Greco-Roman navigation and trade routes that existed between Roman Egypt and India.  Please read the entire resource.
     
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  • Web Media: Wikipedia: “Map of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea” Link: Wikipedia: “Map of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea” (JPG)
     
    Instructions: View and analyze the linked map.
     
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3.5.2 Roman Africa   - Reading: United Nations of Roma Victrix: “Provinces of Roman Africa” Link: United Nations of Roma Victrix: “Provinces of Roman Africa” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This resource outlines ancient Rome’s various provinces in Africa. Read the entire article.
 
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  • Reading: Villanova University: “A Brief History of Roman North Africa” Link: Villanova University: “A Brief History of Roman North Africa” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the first section, titled “The Rise and Fall of Carthage.”  This section briefly discusses the rise and fall of the capital of one of North Africa’s most powerful ancient civilizations: the Phoenicians.
     
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  • Lecture: YouTube: Academic Earth: Diana E. E. Kleiner’s “Roman North Africa: Timgad and Leptis Magna” Link: YouTube: Academic Earth: Diana E. E. Kleiner’s “Roman North Africa: Timgad and Leptis Magna”(YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch the entire lecture.  In it, Diana E E Kleiner outlines the history of two of the most famous ancient Roman cities in North Africa: Timgad and Leptis Magna.