Over the last several thousand years, dozens of great civilizations have risen from nothing and fallen back into obscurity. Not all civilizations, however, leave a lasting mark on the world, especially not one so profound that influences the world as it exists today. One such civilization that has had a profound impact on daily modern lives was that of Ancient Egypt. Their systems of religion and technological innovation helped not only to leave a permanent impression on the world, but also served to mold both the civilizations that directly followed it as well as society today.
The Ancient Egyptian civilization spanned several thousand years and is one of the few societies of the time that came into being independently. “Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 B.C. with the unification of upper and lower Egypt under the first Pharaoh” (Dodson 46). Because of the Nile river, Egypt was able to grow and thrive. “The fertile floodplain of the Nile gave humans the opportunity to develop a settled agricultural economy and a more sophisticated, centralized society that became a cornerstone in the history of human civilization” (Shaw 17).
Although Egypt is perhaps best known for the pyramids, monuments such as the Sphinx, and mummies, their culture created many other important artifacts. Because Egypt did not want for food due to their ability to harness the waters of the Nile, they were able to focus more of their energies on their religious practices as well as their fantastic technological innovations.
The Egyptian religion is complex. They worshipped not only many deities but also the souls of their leaders and even certain others among the dead. Similar to several European societies that would come later on in Egypt’s timeline, they had both household gods and state gods. Gods of the household were worshipped by the general populace whereas state gods were reserved specifically for the pharaoh and priests. In Egypt, like in early Medieval society, the Pharaoh was believed to be divine and carried out the will of the gods because only he had access to them (Sirry 1).
“Although the king of Egypt was considered divine, and pharaohs were given God status in life and in afterlife - they were not the only humans that were worshipped” (Sirry 1). Egyptians also worshipped the dead. They are one of the first cultures not only to develop organized religion, but to also believe in the concept of a soul enduring after the physical body perished. Because of their strong religious beliefs concerning life and death, Egyptians performed several rituals to assist the soul in its journey to the after-life. One of these well-known practiced is the art of embalming.
Although not the original pioneers of preserving the bodies of their dead, Egyptians are known for having developed a more advanced method of embalming than any other culture in their time as Brenner states:
Perhaps the ancient culture that had developed embalming to the greatest extent was that...