Ancient Egypt Video Transcript
I have been teaching a long time.
I have found that a lot of my students look forward to the Ancient Egyptian art period. What makes us so intrigued by the Ancient Egyptians?
Is it our own macabre curiosity in how obsessed Ancient Egyptians were about the afterlife? Is it simply how interesting their belief system is to us?
We know so much about the Ancient Egyptians because of what they left behind… and they left behind so many artifacts due to their beliefs in the afterlife.
They believed that everything they created had a purpose for the important people moving on to the afterlife. Death was just a ‘pause’ in a person’s existence.
Of all of the ancient civilizations we study in Unit 3, Ancient Egypt is the longest civilization we see.
(please read the rest of the slide: I pretty much repeat what is written)
The Egyptians thrived, not because of change, but because they didn’t.
Artists had rules they had to follow: a style we are all familiar with because it doesn’t change. Artists did not deviate from these rules.
I have added many links to the “Virtual Tour” in Unit 3 for Ancient Egypt, if you would like to learn more about their funerary practices.
Another rule that the Ancient Egyptian artists were required to follow was the “Canon of Proportion”, or how they measured and set up the human body. They used the same measurement every time. They would take the width of the wrist and set up a grid based off of that width. Granted, the grid would grow and shrink based on who they were depicting. Gods/goddesses/pharaohs were always depicted large, servants and others smaller than the most important person in the picture. Children were depicted as ‘little adults’… since the proportions didn’t change, just the size of the person.
You would also see the ‘miniature adults’ in sculpture. A sculptural rule Ancient Egyptian artists had to follow was to paint a man with dark skin and a woman with light. That’s how you would know their gender.
The stance was always compact. No arms, legs, fingers, etc. would be able to ‘portrude’ (come out) from the body. This is because…
… the spirit of that person depicted (or Ka) could ‘possess’ the sculpture once they passed on. You didn’t want a vengeful spirit coming to get you for knocking off a finger.
One thing Ancient Egypt and Ancient Mesopotamia has in common: their rulers wanted everyone to know how powerful they were. So, the pharaohs built everything EXTRA large… to show that power. The most familiar we know of are the pyramids and Sphinx at Giza.
There was a small period of time, when Queen Nefertiti was in rule, when artistic conventions became a little more relaxed. The sculptures were not so ‘compact’, the stances not so rigid, and even a break from the age-old “frontalism” can be seen. (People really do have two eyes!) Things are not so geometric, much more organic during Queen Nefertiti’s time.
As a ruler, Nefertiti was a rebel.
The artist who created Nefertiti’s bust was given so much freedom to create her actual likeness, modern scientists have been able to create a computer-generated picture of this thousands-year old queen.
Just as modern rulers and authority figures change and, thus, rules change, King Tut moved everything back to the more conservative and strict rules for representation return.
We see this conservatism for several hundreds of years. Ramses II was pretty much the last pharaoh with the means to create colossal buildings. Because of warfare with Mesopotamia, they simply didn’t have the resources anymore.
How does one squeeze thousands of years into nine minutes? Well, I had to because the Internet won’t let me download longer videos! Please be sure to use the “Enhanced” student guides when going through Lesson 3.03 and 3.04 to prepare yourself for the Cradle of Life quiz. If you have questions, please Raise Your Hand in Unit 3.