Ancient Egypt, a civilization located in northeastern Africa that dates back to the fourth millennium BC, has been a subject of great interest to many, and has held a mysterious allure that continues to develop with each new archaeological discovery that seeks to reveal her secrets (“Ancient Egypt”). Life in ancient Egypt can be compared to “an oasis in the desert of northeastern Africa, dependent on the annual inundation of the Nile River to support its agricultural population” (“Ancient Egypt”). The culture that developed there was unique, having relatively little influence from the trade that was conducted by way of the Mediterranean sea, as Egypt required “few imports to maintain basic standards of living” (“Ancient Egypt”). Nearly all the people of ancient Egypt were tied to the land (which was, in theory, rightfully owned by the king) through its cultivation and were not allowed to leave even though they were not considered to be slaves (“Ancient Egypt”). Slavery was reserved for “captives and foreigners or to people who were forced by poverty or debt to sell themselves into service” (“Ancient Egypt”). The gods that Egyptians worshipped were represented by animals as well as forces of nature, with their principal god being the sun (called Ra-Horakhty) (Davies et al. 49). The geography of the land not only played a part in the everyday lives of the people, but “also played a formative role in the development of art” (Davies et al. 49). One of the reasons that ancient Egypt is so captivating is due to the incomparable and epic design that went into its monuments and works of art. “Egyptian artists executed works of art mainly for the elite patrons of a society that was extremely hierarchical” (Davies et al. 49). Mighty structures, the pyramids, were commissioned by royalty (mainly by the kings, also known as pharaohs) to be used as tombs to commemorate their rule, and were built to leave a lasting impression (Davies et al. 57). Much of the artwork that survives from the ancient Egyptians are “paintings, sculptures, and other objects they placed in the tombs to accompany the deceased into eternity” (Davies et al. 49). Egyptian temples and tombs were constructed of “stone with relief decoration on their walls and were filled with stone and wooden statuary, inscribed and decorated stelae (freestanding small stone monuments), and, in their inner areas, composite works of art in precious materials” (“Ancient Egypt”). These precious materials, such as “obsidian and lapis lazuli were imported from as far afield as Anatolia and Afghanistan” (“Ancient Egypt”). Not only were the tombs of remarkable size and decoration, but the way the deceased were prepared (mummified) and dressed for the afterlife was also impressive. “The mummified body was usually placed within a sarcophagus (a stone coffin) and buried in a chamber at some depth…” (Davies et al. 53). The deceased were also buried with jewelry and other items of artwork, with the living believing that the “paintings provided nourishment, company, and pastimes for the dead” (Davies et al. 63). The following exhibit of funerary ritual objects used in Ancient Egyptian burial practices offers a visual perspective of this culture and an explanation as to why people are continually fascinated by it.
"Ancient Egypt". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 07 Mar. 2016. <http: / /www.britannica.com /place /ancient-egypt>.
Davies, Penelope J.E., et al. Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition. 8th ed. New Jersey: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2011. Print.