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It's a long way from the Bayou City to Egypt, and, for the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the pharaonic splendor of the ancient kingdom somehow got lost along the way.


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Eye-dazzling gems, energy-industry technology and fearsome carnivores from the prehistoric world the museum has in spades. The institution's Egypt gallery, though, tucked away in a shadowy corner in the museum's basement, offers little more than a few mummies - a human, a cat, a hawk and a fish - and a small collection of amulets. That deficiency should be rectified in May, museum officials say, with the opening of an approximately 10,square-foot hall of Egyptian antiquities drawn from the world's leading public and private collections. Addressed, too, will be the Egyptian influence on American popular culture.

There will be the serious side - Howard Carter discovering King Tut's tomb in the s - and the crazy side of movie posters. From the consolidation of upper and lower Egypt about B. It pioneered writing and mathematics, engineering and irrigation, before succumbing to a wave of invaders and finally falling to Rome in the last century B.

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Bartsch conceded that the Houston museum came late to developing a significant Egyptian exhibition. He said the museum's strategy is to gradually build a collection while augmenting those artifacts with items on long-term loan from other institutions. Carlos Museum. Cultural developments were rapid, and many of the basic symbols and characteristics of Egyptian culture emerged.

Kings were buried at Abydos and Saqqara. There is evidence of military incursions into Nubia. Old Kingdom: Dynasties , c.

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The first great phase of Egyptian culture is notable for the development of the pyramid as the royal tomb at the beginning of the Third Dynasty. During this period a great centralized power base grew up at Memphis. Kings constructed pyramids north and south of Memphis, and large necropoleis cemeteries of officials grew up around some of the pyramids, particularly at Giza and Saqqara.

The Egyptian elite tomb developed into the basic form that endured for the next 2, years, with a decorated chapel and a subterranean burial chamber; many of the decorative motifs lasted almost as long. The administration of Egypt was highly organized under royal control, with a small group of senior officials overseeing the system; some administrative papyri survive from this period. The first expeditions to the east and north-east of Egypt, to the Sinai, for turquoise, copper, and various types of stone, were apparently made at this time.

Late in the Old Kingdom, perhaps about BC, the monarchy seems to have weakened, a process only visible today as a proliferation of kings with very short reigns the Seventh and Eighth Dynasties. After about BC, however, the centralized administration seems to have failed. The reasons for this are not completely clear, but may be a combination of many factors, such as low Nile floods, famines, and weak kings, and there is a general impression of problems and disorder.

First Intermediate Period: Dynasties , c. With the collapse of central control, the Nile Valley broke into a number of independently ruled districts centred on the different provinces. Predominant among these early on were the rulers of Herakleopolis, the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties.

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Little is known about them, but they seem to have controlled the country at least as far south as Asyut, whose governors nomarchs were loyal to them, and they may have received some nominal allegiance in other parts of Upper Egypt early on. However, the provincial rulers in the south fought with each other for control; gradually the rulers of Thebes became the dominant southern power, and began to call themselves kings Eleventh Dynasty. Fighting between Thebes and Herakleopolis, probably around Abydos, is referred to in several contemporary texts.

The Thebans were ultimately victorious, and gradually extended their control over the whole land; this process seems to have been complete by about year 39 of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep 11 c. There is little documentation for the later stages of this internal strife, but many Upper Egyptian sources record the earlier stage of the conflict.

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Middle Kingdom: Dynasties , c. The Middle Kingdom began with the unification of Egypt under Mentuhotep Following two more kings of the same name, the throne passed to a new family the Twelfth Dynasty , also apparently from southern Egypt. These kings moved the capital north to Lisht, and were buried at sites between Dahshur and the Faiyum; all bar the last were named either Senwosret or Amenemhat Greek: Sesostris and Ammenemes. Although residing in the north, they made Thebes a religious centre, and were largely responsible for promoting its deity, Amun, to the top of the Egyptian pantheon.

The Middle Kingdom was a period of prosperity and stability. Military expeditions were sent abroad, and Lower Nubia was brought under full control by means of a series of forts south of the Second Cataract; limited forays may also have been made into the Near East.

Considerable numbers of people from Canaan moved into the Eastern Delta during the later Twelfth Dynasty. Internal administrative reforms improved the running of the land, and in the later Middle Kingdom, the Faiyum area was first developed for major settlements and agriculture. This dynasty's artistic products are among the finest in Egypt, and the era is also renowned for its literary output, including many of the greatest written works of ancient Egypt, such as the Tale of Sinuhe and the Teaching of Ptahhotep.

The last ruler of the Twelfth Dynasty was a woman, Sobekneferu. The following dynasty continued to rule from Lisht, effectively as an extension of the Twelfth, but there is a noticeable decline in the number of monuments and an increase in the number of kings with very short reigns, a sure sign of a less stable era. Second Intermediate Period: Dynasties , c. The internal history of Egypt at this time is still most unclear. The disintegration of the state was due to several factors, such as administrative decline, famine, and plague, and the establishment of a Canaanite polity in the Delta Fourteenth Dynasty.

It seems that the weakened Thirteenth and Fourteenth Dynasties were overthrown in the north by an invasion from Canaan, doubtless the rulers known now as the Hyksos based on Egyptian heqaukhasut , 'rulers of foreign lands' —the Fifteenth Dynasty. The south of Egypt was under varying control, but in due course another Theban dynasty Seventeenth reasserted the area's independence. The later Seventeenth Dynasty, particularly its last two kings, Segenenre and Kamose, fought to topple the Hyksos rulers.

It seems that the Egyptians also had to contend with an invasion in the south from the kingdom of Kush, based at Kerma in the Sudan. New Kingdom: Dynasties , c. Ahmose, the first king of the Eighteenth Dynasty, does not seem to have taken up arms against the Hyksos until later in his reign. With this event begins Egypt's great imperial epoch.

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It was not long before the royal residence and capital were transferred back to Memphis, and Ahmose's successors began both large construction projects at home and military expeditions abroad. Thutmose III, probably his grandson, mounted a series of campaigns spreading Egyptian influence further around the Near East. A permanent military presence was established in Nubia, but the Asiatic provinces were governed by vassal governors with a relatively limited Egyptian presence.

Considerable international trade built up, and Egypt became more prosperous and aware of its place in the world than ever before. Much temple-building happened at this time; in particular, the cult centre of Amun at Karnak was rebuilt and expanded dramatically. The kings built temples elsewhere, including mortuary temples for their funerary cults on the West Bank at Thebes, to complement their rock-hewn burial places in the Valley of the Kings.

By the reign of Amenhotep III c. Amenhotep's son, also called Amenhotep, made some very visible changes to the practice of religion after only two or three years on the throne. He changed his name to Akhenaten, concentrated his worship on one god, the solar disc or Aten, and moved his capital to the new site of Akhetaten modern Amarna in Middle Egypt.

This part of the dynasty is often called the Amarna Period. The reasons for this are hotly debated; suffice it to say that his changes barely survived him, and his successor Tutankhamun gradually restored the old ways. Tutankhamun had no heirs, and the throne passed to two of his senior officials, Ay and then Horemheb. Horemheb seems to have designated his general Ramesses as his successor, and his family is termed the Nineteenth Dynasty. They came from the Eastern Delta, and it was not long before the residence and capital were moved from Memphis to Pi-ramesse modern Qantir.

After Ramesses' short reign, his son Sety 1, and particularly his grandson Ramesses II, undertook extensive building projects in Egypt; they also campaigned vigorously in the Near East, where many political changes in the later Eighteenth Dynasty, perhaps coupled with less active interference from Egypt, meant that the empire was smaller than in the time of Amenhotep III. Ramesses II's conflict with the Hittites Egypt's main enemy culminated in the famous battle of Qadesh, and led ultimately to a peace treaty.

The dynasty ended in disputes about the succession, and Sethnakht, a man from outside the family, seized the throne, beginning what we term the Twentieth Dynasty. At this time, the so-called 'Sea Peoples, groups who formed part of the great population migrations in the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East in the later first millennium BC, were attempting to settle in Egypt. Ramesses kept these forces at bay, but lost the remnants of the Egyptian empire, other than in the south. This king built temples and made great donations to the cults of Amun, but Egypt began to decline.

He was succeeded by eight further kings also called Ramesses. During this Ramesside Period various economic and political problems became apparent, as recorded by many documents on stone and papyri from the west of Thebes. Workmen went on strike for wages, there were unspecified threats from the desert, and tomb-robbery became common. By the end of the dynasty, the king was ruling primarily in the north, and the religious capital of Thebes had become largely self-governing, ruled by the high priest of Amun. Third Intermediate Period: Dynasties , c.

The division of Egypt remained in force. The new rulers in the north are termed the Twenty-first Dynasty, with their capital at Tanis. Some of the Theban high priests assumed royal titles, but there was contact between the two halves of the land, and one of the Twenty-first Dynasty kings, Psusennes I, was the son of the Theban high priest Panedjem 1; Psusennes 11, the last king of the dynasty, had previously been high priest in Thebes. Upon his death, the kingship passed to Sheshonq the biblical Shishak, who attacked Jerusalem , from a family of Libyan descent from Bubastis Twenty-second Dynasty.

This dynasty maintained stronger connections with Thebes, but the Delta became increasingly fragmented, with a number of local rulers, some of whom are possibly the Twenty-third Dynasty; the Twenty-fourth Dynasty consisted of kings in Sais. In the mid-eighth century BC, southern Egypt came increasingly under attack from Kush, a powerful state based in Upper Nubia northern Sudan. Various incursions were made, largely shows of strength, with the invaders returning to Nubia, but in BC Shabaka launched a campaign to take over Egypt.

He and his successors are known as the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. With the reunification of the country came something of a renaissance in Egypt. Artistic styles based on older models harked back to the great eras of the past. Periods chosen for inspiration generally depended on the location of the new monuments—thus Old Kingdom models are more common in the north, and Middle and New Kingdom ones in the south. After almost fifty years, Egypt came under threat from the expanding Assyrian empire.

After making several attempts at invasion, the last Kushite king Taharga was driven out in BC, and the Assyrians gained the allegiance of various vassal rulers. Of these, Psamtek of Sais Psammetichus 1 , first established himself as pre-eminent and then removed Egypt from Assyrian control; his dynasty, the Twenty-sixth, lasted until the first Persian invasion of BC under Cambyses, continuing the revivals of his predecessors and producing many great works of art. The First Persian Period Twenty-seventh Dynasty was punctuated by a number of Egyptian revolts, but the Persians were able to maintain control until their influence was ended by Amrytaios in BC.

His Twenty-eighth and the succeeding Twenty-ninth Dynasties have left relatively little material, but with the accession of Nectanebo I Egyptian: Nakhtnebef, Thirtieth Dynasty of Sebennytos in BC, perhaps after an internal coup, another artistic renaissance began. Egypt was then controlled by foreign powers until the revolution.

This Second Persian Period is occasionally termed the Thirty-first Dynasty, and fell in turn to the imperial expansion of Alexander of Macedon in BC, who was apparently treated by the Egyptians as a liberator.

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Ptolemaic Period: BC. Egypt's history now largely tracked that of the classical world for the next seven centuries. His capital was Alexandria, from where his successors—all male and called Ptolemy except for the last, Cleopatra—ruled for nearly years. The Ptolemaic Period is marked by a number of revolts of the native population, and, as well as putting these down, the kings made various attempts to obtain the favour of at least the priestly elites—one attempt resulted in the decree of BC promulgated on the Rosetta Stone.

In the arts, interesting mixtures of Hellenistic and traditional Egyptian forms attest the coexistence of the two cultures. In the first century BC, Egypt came increasingly under the influence of Rome, as did the rest of the Mediterranean, and was drawn into some of the internal Roman political conflicts, the last of which resulted in the defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 30 BC at the battle of Actium, and the addition of Egypt to the Roman empire. With the death of Cleopatra, Egypt was no longer an independent nation but was ruled by the Roman emperor, who appointed a prefect to run the country.

Egypt was termed the 'granary of Rome, as it supplied grain for the empire's needs; harsh taxes were often imposed since it was a wealthy land. Various prefects and emperors campaigned on Egypt's southern borders, and there were times when the country was threatened by Syria and Persia. Christianity, by tradition brought to Egypt by St Mark in AD 65, flourished and expanded despite persecutions in the third century AD, culminating in those of the emperor Diocletian ruled In the reign of Constantine , Christianity became the official religion of the empire. Egypt was thus largely Christian when the Roman empire split into eastern and western halves in , and Egypt came under the rule of Constantinople, the eastern capital.

Christianization continued apace, and the development of monastic communities boomed. Various attempts to reunify the empire achieved only minor success, and in the seventh century Egypt was again briefly ruled by the Persians. With the dramatic campaigns by Arab armies led by the successors of Mohamed, it was not long before Egypt fell to Amr ibn el-As in Arab Conquest: AD The new conquerors established their capital city at Fustat, south of modern Cairo, and of course introduced Islam to Egypt.

For the first years of the occupation, there was little persecution of Christians, although they were subject to higher taxes than Muslims; in fact many of the more substantial older Coptic remains in Egypt date from the fifth to ninth centuries. However, gradual Islamicization did take place, and the Copts were reduced to a substantial minority in Egypt. Kush: Kush is the Egyptian name for the southern part of Nubia. The first kingdom of Kush c. This period is known as the Napatan phase ninth-fourth centuries BC of the kingdom.

The Kushite state adopted many Egyptian cultural and artistic characteristics; the Egyptian language was used in monumental inscriptions, though it is unlikely that it was spoken by the people. By BC the Kushites had been expelled from Egypt by the Assyrians; they withdrew to the Middle Nile area, where their culture continued to flourish for another thousand years. In the fourth century BC, the royal residence moved south to Meroe, while Gebel Barkal remained the religious centre.

This may reflect a dynastic change. Between the fourth century BC and the fourth century AD, Kushite monuments display a rich mixture of Egyptian, Graeco-Roman, and indigenous African architectural and artistic styles, and the Kushites began to write their own, as yet undeciphered, language, known as Meroitic. This later period is known as the Meroitic phase. How did the British Museum come to hold its wonderful Egyptian and Sudanese collection? Objects have been acquired by a variety of means, mainly purchase, excavation, and donation.


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