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tombs Origin of Heiroglyphics

Ancient Egypt conjures up thoughts of a great civilization, one very advanced for its time.  The Ancient Egyptians invented all different forms of literature, including poetry and short stories, and they were extremely advanced as far as art, medicine, science, and religion went.    One of the more mysterious aspects to Ancient Egyptian civilization was their use of hieroglyphics.  Very few people to this day can understand the complex language. The origin of these hieroglyphics seems to also to be misunderstood by many people. Some think that since the Egyptians were such a close, rigid society that they invented the form of writing called hieroglyphics, but that is simply not true. The origin of using pictures to represent things can be traced all the way back to caveman times, but the main influence for the Egyptians came from the land of Sumer.
In fact, the beginning of Egyptian civilization was very similar to that of the Sumerians.  By 500 b.c., farming settlements were established all along the Nile River (Warburton, 69).  Civilization in Egypt brought problems similar to those that arose in Sumer, but it was the growing government bureaucracy, not business, that created the need for writing, and the eventual development of hieroglyphics.
Because the Nile flooded every year, the Egyptian farmers had begun to build dikes to keep the floodwaters out of towns, basins to capture and hold the water after the floods receded, and irrigation canals to distribute the water throughout the fields (Warburton, 70).  Those projects required a very organized effort among every one of the farmers, and a strong central government and bureaucracy developed to manage and control this effort.  Eventually, this bureaucracy, including the king, the upper-class, and the ever powerful priests in charge, became a huge, rigid network that managed everyones life. By 3100 b.c., when the Sumerians had invented their picture writing, it had become impossible to run that network without an accurate record-keeping system (Warburton, 74).
For a long time before then, the Egyptians had been trading gold and linen with many other countries from throughout the middle east. In exchange, they got timber, gems, copper, and perfume (World Book Encyclopedia, 224).  While trading in the land of Sumer, the Ancient Egyptian traders must have noticed how helpful a written language was and how it could help their governments bureaucracy function much more smoothly. Then, they brought back the idea back to Egypt, where it was quickly and openly accepted.
The Egyptians, however, did not acknowledge the borrowing from Sumerian culture.  Instead, they believed that writing had been invented by their god of learning, Thoth, so they called it words of the gods (Warburton, 70).  And since written words came from the gods, they had magical powers. By carving a persons name on a tomb or monument, the Egyptians believed that they were helping to keep that person alive if they had passed on. Similarly, by erasing a persons name from the inscriptions would make the person disappear.  Words were so powerful that putting a written list of objects in a tomb was the same as putting the objects in themselves.  Since the Egyptians believed that a persons life was bound up in his name, the Egyptian Kings often had five names, the most important being the throne and birth names (Harris, 18).    
Egyptians developed this gift from the gods into their own unique writing system, using the pictograms they borrowed from the Sumerians but drawing them in a very different style. When the Egyptians first started writing, they used simple pictures to represent objects, just as the Sumerians had. In combination, these pictures could also narrate an event.
Egyptians, like Sumerians, must have quickly realized the limitations of writing with only pictograms. Their population and business was growing rapidly, requiring an even more accurate record-keeping system. Also, the power of the kings was growing and so was their desire to glorify themselves, especially on the massive tombs they had built.  They could not  use pictograms to write The King triumphed over his enemies in a mighty victory (Helfman, 42).  The priests, who at the time, were the only ones who could read and write, responded by developing ideograms and then ... more

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Epic of Gilgamesh1




.  Mesopotamia, current day Iraq, derived its name from words meaning, “the land between the rivers,” which refers to the Tigris and Euphrates.  This land was inhabited during the fourth millennium B.C.E. and throughout time transcended into political and military organizations.  The significance of these cultures revolved around important warrior figures and their impact on society. The most important figure that will be discussed is the protagonist from The Epic of Gilgamesh.  Many consider it to be the greatest literary composition written in cuneiform Akkadian around 2150 BC.   This epic portrays the life of the great warrior, Gilgamesh.  It chronicles how his victories, both militaristic and internal, ultimately determined his superiority.  This relates to the ancient Mesopotamian society in many ways, including the role of warriors and the dual nature of Gilgamesh.
It is evident from the beginning of the Epic of Gilgamesh how vital of a role warrior’s played in ancient Mesopotamian society.  Warriors were considered top of the social hierarchy.  All other authoritative figures were considered subordinate.  Uruk’s inhabitants deemed Gilgamesh as their superior: “There is nobody among the kings of teeming humanity who can compare with him…Belet-ili designed the shape of his body, made his form perfect…In Uruk the Sheepfold he would walk about, show himself superior, his head held high like a wild bull.” 2 Gilgamesh epitomizes the ideal hero in the eyes of his society through admirable physical strength, bodily perfection, and bravery.  This admiration directly pertains to ancient Mesopotamia and the earliest Sumerian governments.  For instance, “When crises arose, assemblies yielded their power to individuals who possessed full authority during the period of emergency.”3 Back then, it was considered common knowledge that early governments based their decisions for the good of the entire community.  Gilgamesh demonstrates these same tactics when he finds his community in danger.  For example, Gilgamesh seized the Bull of Heaven, which came down from the skies, in order to protect his cherished citizens. 4  Protection of the city is Gilgamesh’s main objective.   He states, “I shall face unknown opposition, I shall ride along an unknown road.” 5  Here, Gilgamesh seeks out to Pine Forest where he slays Humbaba, in order to exterminate evil and safeguard his city.  
Sumerian cities also faced external tribulations because of their wealth and virtually defenseless entrances o their land.  Because the land and location was so flat and vulnerable the cities built defensive walls and organized military forces.6 Gilgamesh built a very similar structure.  The wall of Uruk was an amazing barrier that sheltered every square mile of land.  The citizens of Uruk claimed the wall to be “the pure treasury.” 7  It becomes evident in Mesopotamian culture as well as with Gilgamesh that major defense mechanisms are needed in order to maintain security. When a city –state gains structure the next step is to become proactively aggressive; therefore, conquering and punishing other cities.  For example, “External threats came later to Egypt than to Mesopotamia, but the invasion of the Hyksos prompted the pharaohs to seize control of regions that might pose future threats.” 8  In addition, Gilgamesh displays these same ideas when adventuring into the Pine Forest.  Because its citizens adored Mesopotamia’s physical landscape, they would protect their land at all costs.
Gilgamesh’s image and qualities depict those of an ideal man. He controls a great deal of power and status, for he is believed to be two-thirds divine and one-third human.  He also possesses power through his kingship.  Gilgamesh displays a great amount of hubris.  Priding himself with greatness he states, “Gilgamesh is finest among the young males!  Gilgamesh is proudest among the males” 9 He is not only spiritually content, but also physically appealing.  He represents the ideal man through wealth, handsomeness, and power. These traits were also important of the Egyptian pharaohs.  Because the city valued their leader to such a great extent, they built massive pyramids as royal tombs. They also believed that heroes were gods living on earth.10   This helps comprehend the importance of Gilgamesh’s part divinity, part human character.  Hammurabi of the Babylonian empire proclaimed that the gods named him “to promote the welfare of the people…to cause justice to prevail in the land, to destroy wicked and evil, ... more

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