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2 - Ancient Egypt

Rosalie David
Affiliation:
Director, The KNH Centre, University of Manchester
John R. Hinnells
Affiliation:
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
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Summary

History of scholarship

Ancient Egypt has left the modern world a rich legacy: not only are there well-preserved monuments, artefacts and human remains, but an extensive religious and secular literature has also survived. The following discussion of the religious beliefs and practices will attempt to show how all these sources enable us to understand and interpret ideas and concepts that originated over 5000 years ago (Frankfort 1961; Hornung 1971; Morenz 1973; Shafer 1991). However, it must be stated that even this rich legacy can provide only a partial view of the civilization.

The surviving archaeological evidence is fragmentary, owing on the one hand to environmental and geographical factors and, on the other, to political and cultural practices. Sites in the south of Egypt, better preserved than those in the north because of climatic and environmental variations, have attracted more attention from the excavators. Religious monuments (pyramids, tombs and temples) were largely constructed of stone, so that they would survive ‘for eternity’, whereas cities, towns and domestic buildings, mainly built of mudbrick, have consequently suffered more destruction. This inequality of evidence profoundly affects our knowledge and understanding of the people's daily religious observances.

It was only after Champollion's decipherment of hieroglyphs 200 years ago that scholars were able to translate and begin to understand the texts. Subsequently, intensive study of the language in all its forms has been required to enable scholars to interpret the inscriptions more accurately.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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  • Ancient Egypt
    • By Rosalie David, Director, The KNH Centre, University of Manchester
  • Edited by John R. Hinnells, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • Book: A Handbook of Ancient Religions
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511488429.003
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Save book to Dropbox

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  • Ancient Egypt
    • By Rosalie David, Director, The KNH Centre, University of Manchester
  • Edited by John R. Hinnells, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • Book: A Handbook of Ancient Religions
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511488429.003
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Ancient Egypt
    • By Rosalie David, Director, The KNH Centre, University of Manchester
  • Edited by John R. Hinnells, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • Book: A Handbook of Ancient Religions
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511488429.003
Available formats
×