World History 1: Egypt

World History 1: Egypt

Ready, Set, EXPLORE! Use this guide to lead students on an exploration of ancient Egyptian culture!

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Collection:
Egyptian Art
Culture/Region:
Egypt
Subject Area:
Fine Arts, History and Social Science
Activity Type:
Resource Set

World History 1: Egypt

Image Gallery

Tomb Relief
Wooden palette with Three Brushes
Statue of Seated Scribe: Sema-Tawy-Tefnakht (upper section)
Statue of Senkamanisken, King of Kush
Boat Model
Coffin and Mummy of Tjeby

Use the on-site version of this resource to guide students through the museum's Egyptian Art Gallery: World History 1: Egypt Gallery Tour

Tomb Relief

Tomb Relief

2475–2195 BC , Egyptian

Medium: limestone, pigments

Accession ID: 55.6.2

This work of art is a limestone raised relief (a sculpture in which the figures project slightly from the background). Much of the original paint can still be seen on the surface of the relief.

...

This work of art is a limestone raised relief (a sculpture in which the figures project slightly from the background). Much of the original paint can still be seen on the surface of the relief.

It took several artisans to make an Egyptian relief. The first artisan made a preliminary drawing using red paint and a brush. Next, an artisan carved away the background to form the raised imagery. Once the limestone was carved, the artisan coated the relief with a thin layer of whitewash, a mixture of glue and whiting (chalk). The whitewash filled in holes, smoothed the surface, and provided a white background that brightened the colors in the relief.

This relief was made during the Old Kingdom during the great age of pyramid building. Many of the tombs made in this period are decorated with scenes of daily life, such as the one we see here.

The main figure in this scene is probably the nobleman named Methethy, whose tomb was located at Saqqara, a large cemetery near ancient Memphis.

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Wooden palette with Three Brushes

Wooden palette with Three Brushes

1539–1070 BC , Egyptian

Medium: wood, reed brushes, polychrome

Accession ID: 55.8.11a-d

Ancient Egyptians wrote with brushes, not pens, that scribes made by cutting short, tender rush stems at an angle and then chewing the cut end to separate individual fibers. The brushes were kept i ...

Ancient Egyptians wrote with brushes, not pens, that scribes made by cutting short, tender rush stems at an angle and then chewing the cut end to separate individual fibers. The brushes were kept in a palette that also held cakes of black and red ink. To use his ink, the scribe added water to the colored cakes with his brush.

Reddish, yellow, and brown pigments (raw colored material) came from naturally occurring minerals such as ochre (hydrated iron oxide). Black pigment came from lamp black (soot) and various forms of carbon black from charcoal.

The raw pigments were mixed with a relatively colorless substance called a binder, which made the pigment thicker and gummy. Possible binders included beeswax, a mixture of gelatin and glue, gum (made from sap of the acacia tree), and egg whites.

The Egyptians called their writing medu-netjer, or "Words of God". The word hieroglyph comes from the ancient Greek meaning “sacred carving.”

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Statue of Seated Scribe: Sema-Tawy-Tefnakht (upper section)

Statue of Seated Scribe: Sema-Tawy-Tefnakht (upper section)

664–610 BC , Egyptian

Medium: alabaster

Accession ID: 51.19.4

This alabaster sculpture is of a scribe named Sema-tawy tefnakht. The hieroglyphs in the cartouches on the scribe’s shoulders tell us the ruler’s name and title, Psamtik I who was a Pharaoh. ...

This alabaster sculpture is of a scribe named Sema-tawy tefnakht. The hieroglyphs in the cartouches on the scribe’s shoulders tell us the ruler’s name and title, Psamtik I who was a Pharaoh. This scribe must have been quite important since alabaster was rare in ancient Egypt. Egyptians considered it precious and made relatively few statues on this scale. Semy-tawy-tefnakht is shown with a papyrus scroll, the most common writing surface for Egyptian scribes, stretched across his lap.

The role of the Egyptian ruler was to mediate between gods and humans and to maintain ma’at, the balance between order and chaos, in both his kingdom and the universe. The kings of ancient Egypt are usually called pharaohs (from pr-aa, “the great house”), although the Egyptians only began using this term from the middle of Dynasty 18 (around 1400 BCE).

Pharaohs were absolute rulers who were considered the embodiment of the falcon-headed god Horus. When gods were shown with animal heads—or in the form of an animal, the Egyptians were not practicing animal worship. They were illustrating the characteristics of the gods.

 

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Statue of Senkamanisken, King of Kush

Statue of Senkamanisken, King of Kush

643–623 BC , Kushite (Nubian)

Medium: gray-black granite

Accession ID: 53.30.2

At times in the long history of Egypt, the land was ruled by non-Egyptians. One group of rulers who often vied with Egyptian rulers for control of the Nile valley were the kings of Kush, an ancien ...

At times in the long history of Egypt, the land was ruled by non-Egyptians. One group of rulers who often vied with Egyptian rulers for control of the Nile valley were the kings of Kush, an ancient African empire directly south of Egypt in what is now the Sudan. Kushites ruled all or part of Egypt during Dynasty 25 (760–656 BCE). Even after their expulsion Kushite rulers were portrayed with the same artistic conventions used to portray Egyptian pharaohs.

The inscriptions on the back pillar of this statue identify this figure as Senkamanisken, King of Kush. Gold or silver plating decorated the figure’s kilt and jewelry.

Egypt is sometimes called “the gift of the Nile,” because the fertile Nile Valley could produce large quantities of grain and other crops. Egyptians were also successful traders—and during many intervals, they controlled the gold supplies in Kush. These resources made Egypt a rich prize for foreign powers.

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Boat Model

Boat Model

2010–1961 BC , Egyptian

Medium: wood coated with plaster, painted

Accession ID: 53.30.3

The large number of boat models reflects the Nile’s importance in Egyptian life: the river was Egypt’s main road and an important source of food (fish and waterfowl). Boats were also important ...

The large number of boat models reflects the Nile’s importance in Egyptian life: the river was Egypt’s main road and an important source of food (fish and waterfowl). Boats were also important in funerary rituals and myths. A burial usually included two or more boat models, at least one rigged for sailing (south, upstream on the Nile) and another for rowing (north, downstream). This model comes from the tomb of Djehutynakht, which contained fifty-five boat models, probably the largest group found in any Middle Kingdom tomb.

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Coffin and Mummy of Tjeby

Coffin and Mummy of Tjeby

ca. 2051–2030 BC , Egyptian

Medium: painted wood with linen-wrapped mummy

Accession ID: 53.30.1

Mummification arose out of the Egyptian belief that the deceased must be physically preserved in order for them to enjoy the afterlife. Egyptians developed a ritualized process by which a body was ...

Mummification arose out of the Egyptian belief that the deceased must be physically preserved in order for them to enjoy the afterlife. Egyptians developed a ritualized process by which a body was first preserved and then wrapped to create a mummy. Although mummification differed over time and from place to place, the general process involved removing all internal organs (except the heart, which they believed was the seat of consciousness) and drying the body out. After that, several layers of 18 linens were used for wrapping the body, with protective amulets placed between them. Once the mummification process was complete, religious ceremonies (such as the Opening of the Mouth) were performed. Religious texts (including the Book of the Dead) were placed with the body to aid the deceased in the afterlife.

Tjeby lies on his left side facing outwards. Ancient Egyptians believed that his eyes might look through the set of painted eyes on the coffin, which were in the form of wedjet eye, or Eye of Horus. These eyes are a symbol often used to offer protection. It was also thought that they allowed Tjeby to see into the world and receive the life giving rays of the sun. The inscription gives prayers for the afterlife as well as his name and his title: “the Count and Sealbearer of the King of Lower Egypt.”

 

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Additional Resources

Gallery Preview: Ancient: Egyptian

Before your visit to VMFA, introduce your students to the galleries. Let them explore the space and imagine what they can find there! ...

Activity Type: Distance Learning, Gallery Preview

Collection: Ancient Art

Culture/Region: Egypt

Grade Level: Adult, College, Early Childhood, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Grades K-2

Egypt: Interactive Exploration

Who were the ancient Egyptians? Explore objects from ancient Egypt to discover how the Egyptians lived and what they believed. ...

Activity Type: Art in Depth

Collection: Ancient Art

Culture/Region: Egypt

Subject Area: Critical Thinking, Fine Arts, History and Social Science, Visual Arts

Grade Level: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

Ancient Writing

As early civilizations developed, societies became more complicated. Record keeping and communication demanded something beyond symbols and pictures to represent the s ...

Activity Type: Art in Depth

Collection: Ancient Art, East Asian Art, Egyptian Art, Pre-Columbian Art

Culture/Region: America, China, Egypt

Subject Area: History and Social Science, Science, Visual Arts

Grade Level: Grades 3-5

Ancient Egyptian Culture

Learn all about Egyptian land, religion, writing, trade, and of course mummies! ...

Activity Type: Art in Depth

Collection: African Art, Ancient Art, Egyptian Art

Culture/Region: Africa, Egypt

Subject Area: History and Social Science, Visual Arts

Grade Level: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8

Gallery Guide: Ancient Egyptian Culture

Welcome to Ancient Egypt at VMFA! Have fun using this guide in the galleries to help you explore the collection further! ...

Activity Type: Gallery Guides & Hunts

Collection: African Art, Ancient Art, Egyptian Art

Culture/Region: Africa, Egypt

Subject Area: Fine Arts, History and Social Science, Science

Grade Level: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8

Teacher-Directed Gallery Tours: World History 1: Egypt

Ready, Set, EXPLORE! This teacher-directed gallery tour takes students on a fun-filled, interactive trip through VMFA’s ancient Egyptian galleries. ...

Activity Type: Gallery Guides & Hunts

Collection: Egyptian Art

Culture/Region: Egypt

Subject Area: Fine Arts, History and Social Science

Grade Level: Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

Trans-Regional Exchange

Use this resource set to explore how art can illustrate various ways in which technologies, forms, images, symbols, beliefs and concepts are adopted, adapted, and/or ...

Activity Type: Resource Set

Collection: Ancient Art, East Asian Art, Egyptian Art, South Asian Art

Culture/Region: China, East Asia, Egypt, Greece, India, Japan, Rome, South Asia

Subject Area: Fine Arts, History and Social Science, Visual Arts

Grade Level: Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12