The Ancient Egyptians were a marvellous people with the ability to change the entire world just by being themselves and using their primitive tools. Egyptian art, design, architecture, and culture have profoundly affected the outcome of contemporary society by acting as models. With their art, Egyptians were able to depict their religious beliefs and tell stories. The men were drawn handsomely and muscular and the women were young and vibrant. Their artifacts usually depicted cats and gods, which were mostly given to pharaohs. Each section of an artifact meant something different. For example, a crown on a cat-like artifact meant that it was for the higher classes.
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They would use tools that we still find today. Egyptian fashion is very interesting. Just like today, the Egyptians would wear make-up and jewelry. Like in Indian culture, Egyptians would wear jewels in the middle of their foreheads. They would wear beautiful earrings and necklaces, depending on their class. The women would create garments and other clothing made from linen cloth to protect them from the desert heat while giving them a nice breeze. They would use paint for eye shadow, and tattoos. Egyptian architecture greatly influenced the way we build today. They would use the “Divine Proportion” called Phi, which was used to measure the perfect angles and edges to build pyramids.
Today, we still use that number to build anything that has edges, which is everything non-circular. The Egyptians would build memorials for their past pharaohs, which we do also do with our past Presidents. They also created the first Irrigation system, which is very useful in farming today. They had alchemy, priests, horoscopes, calendars, cooking, alcohol, and blacksmithing which we use today. Their ways of art, design, architecture, and culture were amazing, thus affecting modern art, design, architecture, and culture.
Ever wonder how modern society came to be? All these questions can be answered by going to the past, when the Ancient Egyptians existed. According to John D. Coodey, for over two thousand years, Egypt was one of the richest and civilized lands in the ancient world. The Egyptians had 36 Dynasty periods: the Predynastic Period (before 3100 BC) the Protodynastic Period (3200 BC- 3000 BC), the 1st and 2nd Early Dynastic Period (3050 BC-2890 BC), the 3rd, 4th (when Khafre’s Pyramid was built), and 5th Old Kingdom (2889 BC-2183 BC, Great Sphinx of Giza was built around 2500 BC), the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th First Intermediate Period (Years are unknown), the 11th First Intermediate Period (Thebes only, 2134 BC- 1991 BC), the 12th, 13th, and 14th Middle Kingdom (1991 BC-1620 BC), the 15th, 16th, and 17th Second Intermediate Period (160 BC-1534 BC), the 18th, 19th, 20th New Kingdom (1534 BC-1107 BC), the 21st-26th Third Intermediate Period (1107 BC-525 BC), the First Persian Period (525 BC-402 BC), the 28th, 29th, and 30th Late Period (525 BC-343 BC), the Second Persian Period (343 BC-332 BC), the Graeco-Roman Period (332 BC-261), and the Arab Conquest (261-1517).
During these times, many Egyptians died in war or because of the work they had to do. The Ancient Egyptians specifically worked for the Pharaoh and no one else since the pharaoh was the ultimate ruler among them and gave the army the commands and such. Society has benefited a lot from the Egyptian ways. Egyptian art, design, architecture, and culture have profoundly affected the outcome of contemporary society by acting as models.
To begin with, Egyptian art has had a significant influence on contemporary art and design. According to the Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, the Egyptians drew in perfect sense, meaning that men were depicted as handsome and muscular, while women were depicted as young and vibrant. When portraits were made, the subject, mainly people, were drawn balanced, which means that they were painted still, never in action. However, in the rare occasions that they were painted in action, meaning they were hunting, they were still depicted balanced. No matter what, the Egyptians only drew in two-dimensional form, trying to depict their supposed simple life. Unlike today in modern art, the Egyptians used art, not to express their feelings and whatnot, but to tell stories and to express religious beliefs. The Egyptians had a peculiar style, creating strange artifacts that resembled cats, gods, and power in general. One of the strange artifacts, called Sign of Life, was composed of three main parts.
These three parts are: the god of “millions of years” holding branches in his hands that are at the very top of the artifact, inside an oval-like orb, the Pillar of the god Osiris, which is holding up the god of “millions of years” which has 4-8 equal layers and one uneven layer, and a sceptre with a dog head as its head and a hoof as its bottom, both combined they formed what only kings, queens, and gods were allowed to yield since it symbolized power and the power to extinguish any one’s life. In modern society, this kind of object can be seen as the button the President can push to launch nuclear weapons. Another ancient artifact is the Royal Throne, believe it or not.
This throne was made of gold and symbolized power since only the ruler was allowed to sit here; anyone else would get the death penalty. This, in contemporary society, is still used in countries like Europe, in which no one is allowed to sit on the throne except the king or queen. To make these artifacts, Egyptians used materials like a saw, which was used back then and now, to chop down wood. Back then, they used choppers, which are like the wood shaping factories we have today, except the wood had to be made by hand. Today in society, we sand everything down using either smooth, medium, or rough sandpaper, which did not exist so they used what is called an Adze or they used the smoothing stone.
The Adze was a simple curved wooden stick with a metal blade held together by leather straps and the Smoothing Stone was like the fine sandpaper, the one that makes the object smooth and soft. An interesting piece of carpentry that the Egyptians created was the desert hare-shaped headrest. They used the rabbit’s ears as a headrest so that air can circulate past the neck to get a refreshing breeze. One of the most important tools, one that is also used to this day, is the chisel. The chisel was used to carve pictures or to actually make hieroglyphs.
Back then, they used what is called the bradawl, which is like the modern drill, well, at least the part of making a hole in concrete or wood. Well, to tell the truth, they used the drill a lot more because the bradawl was just used to make a small hole for the actual drill. The drill was a metal drill bit strung to a wooden bow that was extremely powerful. All these materials were used for art, to create artifacts mainly for the Pharaoh or to honour a god. Glass-making technology was first used back then, with the manufacturing of small beads. It was first discovered when someone used to fire on a clay pot. There are also signs that they did glass-blowing.
The fashion in Egypt was spectacular, with its amazing looks and rich ways. They created leather sandals, wigs, and reed sandals, which were commonly used by civilians. They used flax combs, linen sheets, spinners, and spindles to create what is known as “From Fabric to Finery” (Hart 54). The Egyptians used a lot of gold to make jewelry. One, worn by royals, was called the Royal Bracelet, which was a bracelet with gold carvings of the god Horus as a child sitting on a lotus flower being protected by cobras. Most of it was gold and had the owner’s name on the inside of the ring in hieroglyph form. They made a diadem, which is what is mainly seen on Muslims (the jewel in the forehead), which was called “A Star is Born” since it was star-shaped and made of gold. The Egyptians also made earrings made of gold and studs called “Jasper”, “Faience”, or “Glass Stubs”. The Egyptians wore a belt they called the “Lucky Belt”, which was commonly worn by those who wanted children since the belts had “Cowrie Shells” that represented the wanting of children.
This belt would have amulets attached to it, including fish to prevent drowning, beards or hair locks made of gold to represent youth, and Heh, the god of “millions of years” to symbolize long life, and had beads of carnelian, amethyst, lapis lazuli, and turquoise. This belt was made with electrum, a mixture of gold and sliver. The “Falcon Pectoral” was worn around the neck and it represented the god Re-Harakhty and was made by the style of cloisonnï¿½, which was metal formed with faience, glass, or gems. One of the talons of this symbol holds a sheen symbol, which represented eternity. A non-common type of jewelry was the “Gift of a King”, which is pretty self-explanatory; this was only given to those who served the civilization immensely, mainly tossed by the king, down to his/her nobles. The rings are pretty much the same, they had three types: a steatite gold ring that had a scarab, a steatite gold ring with no scarab, or a plain silver ring. To adorn the body, they would use wooden combs, hairpins, tweezers, shavers, and perfume.
They would also put eye paint on, which was stored by containers and put on by applicators and Craftsman’s masterpiece, which stored face cream to get rid of the wrinkles. They had floral spoons that had pink-stained ivory representing a bunch of flowers. The Egyptians, in order to enhance the symbolic form of fertility, produced green eye paint using the galena, a circular plain that was used to gather crushed minerals. Looking much like the galena, the Egyptians used mirrors that were made with polished metal reflective surfaces. The women were the ones who created all this beautiful jewelry and garments. Likewise, in today’s society, women were better than men when it came to fashion.
Most of the garments made, however, were made with a linen cloth, but using this type of material left the wearer a lot more comfortable, letting them move easier and giving them a nice breeze, which made a great deal of importance because they live in a desert. Wool and cotton were also being used, although the wool would be warm, it would be used because the oils in it would repel any water touching it, while cotton was light, but not as light as linen. In modern society, people want to be comfortable yet fashionable, and mainly use scissors and a needle to weave the fabrics together, just like in those ancient times. With these tools and fabrics, the women would create clothing for people, depending on the climate and their social status. Tattoos were well known throughout ancient times, in which most everyone had a tattoo.
They would put tattoos of gods or any other religious belief on their bodies, such as some people put on tattoos of a cross. Wigs and hairpieces were also very popular back in those times. They would be made of human hair and were complimented well with hairpieces such as a short fine-tooth comb, hairpin, or a small bronze hair curler. Because they had no soap, they would use oils to beautify and soften their skin, which also blocked off excess sunlight and prevented ailments that occurred because of dried skin.
The Egyptians were a big fan of perfumes; they used three methods to extract the scent, they are: 1) enfleurage, which was basically soaking a well-scented flower or fruit in fat, 2) maceration, which was the same as enfleurage, except it was heated up to 65 degrees Celsius when dipped into the fat, and 3) extract the essence the way winemakers extract the fruit, pulverizing them. They wore eye makeup, commonly known today as eyeliner and such, which was also used back then to mask the skin surrounding the eye with black paint. As noticed, most of the eyeliner used today is black, just like the most popular eye makeup from those ancient times. Green was also used, but the basic idea was to look beautiful, which is the basis for fashion.
Likewise, the Egyptian way of architecture greatly affected the architecture we have in modern society. The Egyptians would use mud-dried bricks to form their buildings and just about everything else. Since they did live in the desert, and the bricks were water with dirt, they dried up fast and were heavy. However, the Great Pyramids were different; they were made of Tura limestone casing on the outside and had limestone cores, which were not found in Egypt. Many people may think that the pyramids are just triangles made with bricks, but that is incorrect. The pyramids were actually hollow, leaving enough space for burial chambers. “Here is how it works: the very tip of the pyramid was made of capstones, the rest of the outer layer was made of Tura limestone casings, except the bottom of the Pyramid which was made of limestone and weighed Tons, then towards the middle, the pyramid had limestone core, then inside of the limestone cores were the chambers to reduce the weight from above, the King’s Chamber, the Grand Gallery, the Abandoned Burial Chamber, a Granite Seal, the entrance covered by casing, Desert Bedrock, and lastly came the Burial Chamber, one right after the other just like it was written; beside the pyramid would lie a Mortuary temple to make sacrifices and a causeway connecting the pyramid to the temple to the Nile Valley” (Hart 20-21).
The Pyramids were mainly used to conserve energy. The shape and style of the Pyramids made them excellent energy conservers. The Egyptians also used the Pyramids for burials, according to David Rosalie. The King’s Chambers in the Pyramids were only used for the Pharaohs, while the other Burial Chambers were used for the civilians. The Egyptians knew how to make perfect squares all because of one magical number, Phi. Phi, the golden number, was used to make just about everything in ancient civilization. This number calculated is 1.61803399…, and was created and used by the Egyptians throughout their history.
Phi was also called the Divine Proportion since the Egyptians believed it was created by the gods. Today, Phi is still used as stepping-stones in creating anything that has an edge, meaning squares, rectangles, triangles, etc. The Ancient Egyptian way of architecture, like the Sphinx, helped society see what it means to make a landmark of some sort to represent an important person’s life. For example, the Egyptians made Tombs with specific hieroglyphs to honor the passed-away Pharaoh as we have memorials for past Presidents. Since people in today’s society strive to be perfect, they use the Egyptian styles to try and create that perfect world, but with all the technology, they still cannot find out a way to create Phi in what they build.
Egyptian culture also has had a significant amount of influence on today’s society. Back then, since water was so scarce in Egypt (seeing as it is a desert), the government banned the building of dams and had control over who gets rainwater and who does not. Well, by 5000 BCE, the farmers started thinking and came up with a plan on how to fully use the rainfall and the Nile River to their advantage, thus creating the world’s first Irrigation System, which has been modified and enhanced for the farms of today. They also invented a way to use canal water on their crops by attaching a long pole balanced on a horizontal wooden beam, with one side in the canal and the other in the crops. Another form, and a more common one at that, is using a Hoe to loosen the soil to be able to plant seeds and water them effectively (Cooney). Egyptian religion and mythology has some similarities with modern religion (like Greek and Roman religions) in which they support more than just one god. In Egyptian religion, they have a separate god for everything, just like the Ancient Greek times, where they have the almighty god, Atum, down to the Frog goddess Heqet.
The gods were represented with some sort of animal parts, whether it be falcon, frog, or boar, which reflects upon how sacred animals are, which is still seen as in some religions (some religions, like Hindu, ban the eating or killing of certain animals). As we all know, priests have a connection with some sort of a god, and follow their rules and regulations while doing the everyday job of spreading the word of that god, which is what ancient Egyptian priests did; they would do and follow all that their Pharaoh commanded (seeing as Pharaohs were seen as gods). We cannot forget one of the most commonly used ancient Egyptian tools, the calendar. “The Egyptian calendar had three main sections: 1) The type of day (favorable or unfavorable), 2) A mythological event which may make a particular day more favorable or unfavorable, and 3) A prescribed behavior associated with that day” (Minnesota State University). Though we do not use number 2 or 3, we still, in a way, use the first sections, the favorable or unfavorable day.
This is basically reading one’s horoscope to see the outcome of some events, like if someone should not eat a certain food or if someone should not talk to a certain person. Marriage in the ancient times were no different from today; they were seen as a sacred bond within the bride and groom, and were brought together with the help of a priest. Like in today’s society, the groom would have most of the power, wealth, and land (not trying to sound sexist), and kept their last names while the bride changed theirs. One of the biggest influences over our society is the medical treatment found back then. The Egyptians would do spiritual healing, which is used by priests today, and do surgeries and autopsies to figure out a patient’s unexpected death. Picking herbs and using the Mortar and Pestle, a commonly used tool for medicine, was being used to smash together the herbs to create medicine.
They also used mineral compounds to heal injuries or fractured bones, such as using yeast to heal digestive disorders and ulcers. The astronomy from those ancient times has affected the clock from today. Though the Egyptians were not so interested in astronomy, they still used it to tell time. Because space was and still is a vast realm, the Egyptians could only count to 36-star groups, known as decans. The decans were used to tell time, and since the universe is so big, they could only count up to twelve, thus why we have a twelve-hour day. The Egyptian calendar has 360 days, instead of 365, but technically speaking it does have 365, since their “New Years” was celebrated in the first five days of the year, not being included in the overall day count of their calendar. As we all know, pharaohs were the kings back then, both in politics and religion. The pharaoh was basically the president of Egypt, in which they had control over almost every issue that happened throughout the land.
They had the basic powers of today’s presidents, ranging from military commands to dealing with legal disputes within the civilization. The ancient form of writing, hieroglyphs, was the basis for writing in modern times. Back then, the Egyptians would use symbols for letters, such as a falcon for the letter A. Through this writing, many stories were told, mainly of a fallen pharaoh. Mining and smelting have also left a significant mark on contemporary society.
The Egyptians began to combine completely different metals to create new, malleable metals to construct better buildings and tools. Miners were miserable, seeing as they had to be all day using their mining picks to break out pieces of metal, which is still seen today. Though this is very common, social status is also seen throughout ancient and modern times. Back then, the pharaoh would wear the most fashionable and obviously expensive clothing, while the lower classes would wear less colorful clothing (Braines 105).
This, sort of, shows how social status has effected the modern world, whereas the rich class has all the latest fashion and fashionable jewelry and clothing. Ancient games have left a rather minor mark on contemporary society, but a mark nonetheless. There is evidence of Egyptian board games that used an almost dice-like tool to determine action. The sports played back then are still being played now, with hickey being one of the biggest ones. The hockey sticks were made up of palm trees and the puck was made up of stuffed papyrus in between two pieces of leather.
Though this might be seen as funny, the Egyptians founded beer-making with the help of a god, Osiris. They also introduced winemaking by squeezing the fruits and placing a pot under the whole of a giant bucket-like barrel, in which the juice would drip into the pot. Wine and beer was only drank for celebrating purposes, mainly for religious reasons, and was rarely used as a meal beverage. The ancient way of bread making is very similar to how it is done now.
The women back then would ground wheat into flour, then further, brutally that is, pounded to fine grain, at which they either added an extra ingredient to enhance the flavor of the bread (like raisins or honey) or they would put it straight into their clay ovens and let it cook.
The bread was part of the Egyptian balanced diet, which is in modern balanced diets as well, and was also used for religious purposes. In ancient times, it was used to represent the importance of a stable diet, in modern times it is symbolic of Jesus Christ’s body. Not all religions practice this, but religions such as Catholicism does; they eat the bread and drink the wine, which represents Jesus Christ’s blood.
From what has been happening in society and all the discoveries being made about Ancient Civilizations, society, in the future that is, will be even more affected by the Egyptian ways than it is now. The Egyptians, with their wacky lifestyles, presented the world with materials and artifacts that have never been created. They truly were the stepping-stones of modern society.
They have been working on life-changing, so to say, tools that will always be used and will be constantly worked upon to upgrade them. Their ways of art, design, architecture, and culture were amazing, thus effecting modern art, design, architecture, and culture. As the years pass by, modern society will keep being affected by societies of the past.
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Hart, George, Peter Hayman. Ancient Egypt. London: New York : DK, 2004.
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