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The Splendor of

Ancient Egypt

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Queen Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Tutankhamen, Ramses II . . . resplendent in elaborate headdresses and ornate neckwear glistening with precious gems and bathed in gold are the images we summon when picturing ancient Egypt. Egypt’s royal rulers led lives awash in luxury and opulence.
Most of our knowledge about them comes from their burial places, which contained their most treasured possessions. The structures themselves, like the Pyramids of Giza, the last remaining of the Seven Wonders of the World, exemplify Egyptian architecture at its height. They are studies in exactness and perfection of construction and are also part of our collective idea of what represents the splendor of Ancient Egypt the most.

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Our perception of the lives the ancient Egyptian rulers lived originates from the reliefs discovered on the walls of these structures. Shown facing front in static positions with only one eye visible, the images often depict the life of the deceased. The Pharoah, because of his revered status, is always the largest figure. His many slaves, as well as his animals are also portrayed, but on a smaller scale, in keeping with their social status.

Because of the depictions of the pharaohs and their queens in busts and reliefs, we also associate jewels and precious metals with ancient Egypt. The most familiar examples of the use of gold and gem stones for the period are the funeral mask of Tutankhamun and his coffins, of which there were three.

The funeral mask is made of two sheets of gold hammered together and is inlaid with lapis lazuli, obsidian, and turquoise as well as glass and other precious stones. For the ancient Egyptians, gold was the color of the sun and the god Ra and represented eternal life. The colors of the gem stones were also significant: red stood for blood, power and vitality; green stood for fertility, lush vegetation, joy, and rebirth in the afterlife; light blue stood for primordial waters and the daytime sky; and dark blue stood for the all-embracing and protecting night sky, according to the Rock&Gem website. The first two of his coffins were made of wood painted gold. The third was solid gold. For the Pharaohs, death was accompanied by the splendor they were familiar with in life.

Another symbol of the splendor of Ancient Egypt is the majestic Nile River. Overflowing its banks annually between May and September, the Nile River turned the Nile Valley into a fertile floodplain. Due to this occurrence, agriculture flourished. The fertile black soil it created was perfect for growing wheat, barley, beans, lentils, root vegetables, and other agricultural riches, which provided ancient Egypt with its wealth.

Fed by the mighty Nile River, which blessed the soil with abundant natural hydration; rich in gold and other minerals; and accessible to Middle Eastern countries rich in precious gems, Ancient Egypt was ideally suited to become a country of wealth and splendor. The lives of its people benefited from it, while its rulers had its resources fashioned into amazing works of art that have become gifts to the modern world as reminders of its splendor.

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