Ancient Egypt -- School-Age

Ancient Egypt

Egyptian Cat

If You Should Meet A Crocodile

If you should meet a crocodile,
Don't take a stick and poke him;
Ignore the welcome in his smile,
Be careful not to stroke him.
For as he sleeps upon the Nile,
He thinner gets and thinner;
And whene'er you meet a crocodile
He's ready for his dinner.

The Nile-The Gift of the Nile



The Nile is the world's longest river. Egypt is basically a desert, part of the great Sahara Desert. However, near the Nile River, the land is very moist and fertile. Every year, the snow in the mountains of East Africa would melt, sending a torrent of water that would overflow the banks of the Nile. When it flooded each year, the river left behind a layer of rich, dark mud on the fields. This made the soil richer and made farming easier.

The Nile River
The Nile River

The Nile River was the center of Egyptian life. The Egyptian people lived on the fertile lands along the Nile. A Greek traveler called this area “the gift of the Nile.”

Ancient Egypt

Natural borders protected Ancient Egypt from invaders. The land beyond the Nile River Valley is a desert, to attack Egypt the invaders would have to go through all the deserts to reach Egypt. The Mediterranean Sea was a good protection against attacks on Egypt. Not many people ventured into the sea before 1500B.C.E., so the Mediterranean Sea formed a natural border. Egypt was not invaded by the sea until Napoleon in the nineteenth century.

There were 3 classes in Egyptian society: upper, middle, and lower. It also had slaves. Usually only the upper-class boys could go to school. Some middle-class and lower-class boys learned carpentry or pottery making, but most became farmers like their fathers. The girls learned skills from their mothers. The Egyptians worshipped many gods, and the king, called the pharaoh, was considered a living god on earth.

The Old Kingdom

There were 3 periods of importance in Ancient Egypt's history:


The Old Kingdom(about 2700-2200 B.C.E)
The rival kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt were united by a king named Menes, who established his capital at Memphis.

During the Old Kingdom Egyptian culture and commerce flourished, and the great pyramids were built.

After a period of decay, Egypt entered the First Intermediate Period, a time of strife, instability and famine.

Sphinx and Pyramids in Egypt.
Sphinx and Pyramids in Egypt.

Middle Kingdom

Middle Kingdom(about 2050 to 1800 BCE.)
Mentuhotep II is considered the founder of the Middle Kingdom. Mentuhotep II ruled Upper Egypt from the city of Thebes. He defeated the last of the rulers who ruled Lower Egypt, and re-unified all of Egypt. With the establishment of the Middle Kingdom, with its capital at Thebes, Egypt grew wealthier and had more trade with other countries.

Then weak rulers allowed the country to pass under the rule of foreign nomads, known as the Hyksos.

Ruins at Medinet Abou, Thebes, Egypt
Ruins at Medinet Abou, Thebes, Egypt

New Kingdom

The New Kingdom(about 1600 to 1100 BCE)
The New Kingdom was established and Ancient Egypt became a strong power and built its empire.

Pyramid building was pretty much abandoned in favor of secret tombs that were not as obvious to tomb robbers.

Instead, the pharaohs directed their building projects towards temples and monuments to themselves, such as Abu Simbel built by Ramsess II and the Temple of Karnak, which was continuously built up for centuries.

These monuments and discoveries such as the finding of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 makes this one of the most well known periods of Pharaonic Egyptian history.

Decorated pillars of the temple at Karnac, Thebes, Egypt. Coloured lithograph by Louis Haghe after David Roberts
Decorated pillars of the temple at
Karnac, Thebes, Egypt.

Egypt came increasingly under foreign domination, with periods of rule by Libya, Sudan, Assyria, Nubia, and Persia. Following a brief reestablishment of native power in 405 BCE., Egypt fell without a struggle to Alexander the Great in 332 BCE.

After Alexander's death Egypt was inherited by his general, Ptolemy, who founded the dynasty of Ptolemies and under whom the new city of Alexandria. The Ptolemies maintained a formidable empire for more than two centuries until, weakened by internal dynastic disputes, Egypt fell to Rome in 30 BCE.

Christianity was readily accepted in Egypt, which became part of the Byzantine Empire about 395 CE. With the Arab conquest (639-42) Egypt became an integral part of the Muslim world.


Ancient Egypt was ruled by pharaohs, whom the Egyptians believed were both a god and a monarch. Egypt was ruled by many pharaohs, but a few stand out.


Nefertiti, Queen of Egypt

Akhenaton was a monotheistic pharaoh who ruled with his queen, Nefertiti. Nefertiti supported her husband's religious reforms, changing to worship of Aten, the sun god. Akhenaten and Nefrititi forbade their subjects to worship any other gods but Aten. They built great statues to Aten and ordered that statues honoring any other god be destroyed.

Most Egyptians did not take the faith of their leaders, and after their death, statues of Aten were destroyed.

Head of young King Tutankhamun emerging from a lotus flower (Cairo Museum)
Head of young King
Tutankhamun emerging
from a lotus flower
[Cairo Museum]

Tutankhamun became pharaoh when he was 9 years old and he died of a head injury when he was 18 years old. King Tut's tomb remained intact and buried by rock chips until it was discovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter.

Cleopatra VII
Cleopatra VII
Seven Egyptian queens were known as Cleopatra, but the most famous was the last; Cleopatra VII. Cleopatra was of Greek heritage and culture, one of the Ptolemy line set on the throne of Egypt after the conquest of Alexander the Great. She had great intelligence and charisma, and she used both to further Egypt's political aims.

Ancient Egyptians Greatest Achievements

Some of the Ancient Egyptians greatest achievements were:

The great pyramids
The invention of hieroglyphics
The creation of a calendar with 365 days - 12 months of 30 days each, plus five extra days at the end of the year.
The invention of paper made from papyrus.
The creation of a written history.

Egyption Tablet


A sundial was found on the floor of a workman's hut in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, the burial place of rulers from Egypt's New Kingdom period.

Ancient Egyptian Sundial
Ancient Egyptian Sundial
Photo credit: University of Basel

Make a sundial from a paper plate.(easy

Making a Sun Clock
Lesson with pictures, explanation of sundials, and project.

The Rosetta Stone

The ancient Egyptians were a great mystery until scientist deciphered hieroglyphics. In 1799 a troop of French soldiers found a stone near the city of Rosetta with hieroglyphic and Greek inscriptions.

We can read hieroglyphics today because of the Rosetta Stone and French archaeologists Jean Champollion.

Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone

Before Champollion, many archeologists made attempts to decipher hieroglyphic symbols, but failed due to the lack of knowledge of Semitic and oriental languages. Jean Champollion spent more than 20 years of work translating the Egyptian writing into Greek.

Jean Champollion made it possible to understand hieroglyphics, and unlocked many of the mysteries of ancient Egyptian civilization.


The Ancient Egyptian Alphabet

Write Like an Egyptian
This site will transpose English to Hieroglyphic. See your name in hieroglyphs.

Egyptian Hieroglyphs
Print brief lesson exercises that will help students with how hieroglyphics work.(pdf) Pair with "Making Your Own Scribe's Equipment" that is on the same page.

Ancient Egyptian Tall Tales

Things to Do

Cats in Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians held cats held in the high esteem. Cat were associated with goddesses. When a cat died it would be mummified and buried along with provisions such as milk, mice and rats.

Sites to See

Cleopatra: A Multimedia Guide to the Ancient World

Ancient Egypt-British Museum
Information on all things Egyptian.

>Ancient Egypt
Learn about historical sites and interesting facts on Ancient Egypt.

Teacher's Guide The Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt. Excellent background history guide on Ancient Egypt


Scale Model of the Great Pyramid
Print and build your own model of the Great Pyramid

Virtually explore the Pyrimids.

Mummification Project
Do a hands-on mummification project with apples.

Clickable Mummy
Click on different parts of the Mummy to learn about that part.

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