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Introduction to Ancient Egypt

Teacher Guide by John Gillis

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our World History Category!

Student Activities for Ancient Egypt Include:

Ancient Egypt holds a special place in the annals of world history. The grand architecture, sophisticated religion, and, of course, mummified pharaohs create an aura of intrigue and mystery. Perhaps most impressive is Ancient Egypt’s longevity. Until Alexander the Great conquered the region in 332 BCE, Egypt had maintained a remarkably stable political system for nearly 3000 years!

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Preface

Ancient Egypt was the original great power of the Mediterranean. The predictable annual flooding of the Nile River made agriculture possible, providing a sustainable source of food for the people. They had a dynastic rule of Pharaohs who were seen as divine heads of the theocratic government to lead the people. People had different roles in the state, such as priest or scribe, which allowed some to focus on the development of trade, arts, religion, and science, rather than on mere subsistence. The Egyptians made many technological advances and economic policies that made their civilization strong. They constructed palaces, tombs, and other great buildings by moving stone on wooden sleds and on ramps. They established trade routes over land and sea to trade in natural resources, such as iron, clay, and grain, and manufactured items like papyrus, textiles, and other goods.

Egyptians worshiped a pantheon of gods and had a rich religious life that they believed extended beyond death. Many beautiful works of art and great feats of engineering were done in honor of the life after death. Ancient Egypt created a great deal of amazing art, from wall paintings, to sarcophagi, to giant pyramids, for both decoration and veneration. The arid desert climate and closed tombs helped to preserve artifacts from the early civilization. In addition to written histories, much of what we know about the ancient Egyptians comes from such artifacts.

This teacher guide includes five activities, focusing primarily on different aspects of Ancient Egypt (3100 BCE - 332 BCE). In addition, some attention is given to the Ptolemaic, Roman, and Byzantine eras. These activities focus on helping students understand the characteristics of Ancient Egyptian society. Students will gain insight into the elements of Egyptian society that made it so successful. The activities are designed so students can demonstrate an in-depth understanding of Ancient Egypt with storyboards.

Essential Questions for Introduction to Ancient Egypt

  1. How did humans construct a civilization in Ancient Egypt? What role did the Nile River play in the development of this civilization?
  2. What was Ancient Egyptian religion like? How was it connected to the geography of the Nile River Valley?
  3. Why did Ancient Egyptians mummify their dead? Why did the construct pyramids? What methods were used to construct pyramids? Who built them?
  4. Who was King Tut? Why has he become so famous?
  5. What role did Imhotep, Cleopatra, Ramses II, and Hatshepsut play in the development of Ancient Egypt?

Ancient Egypt Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Creating a P.E.R.S.I.A.N Guide

The Ancient Egyptians had a highly sophisticated society that they maintained for 3000 years. In this activity, students will try to figure out how this degree of success was reached by researching the political, economic, religious, social, intellectual, and artistic characteristics of Ancient Egypt. In addition, they will explore the impact of geography on the development of Egyptian civilization.

Students should create a Storyboard acronym chart using the P.E.R.S.I.A.(N.) model. This activity is a great way to organize large sections of textbook information.


Example P.E.R.S.I.A.N. for Ancient Egypt

PPolitical Pharaohs were the focus of Egyptian politics. They were considered gods in a human form. The Egyptian state was unified (with a few interruptions) for 3000 years.
EEconomic Ancient Egyptians were heavily involved in long distance trade in the Mediterranean, Africa, and the Middle East. This resulted in a cultural exchange as well.
RReligion Ancient Egypt was a theocracy in which the Pharaohs were god-kings. The religion was polytheistic with a focus on the afterlife.
SSocial Ancient Egypt had a sophisticated social hierarchy. Slaves, craftsmen, merchants, scribes, farmers, soldiers, and government officials were all governed by strict social and legal structures.
I
A
Intellectual
Arts
Sophisticated writing, architecture, and art were all features of Egyptian civilization.
NNear / Geography The Nile flooded predictably each year allowing stable agriculture to develop. In addition, Egypt's location made it less vulnerable to external enemies.


Extended Activity

Students could select one of their characteristics and describe why it made the most significant contribution to the longevity of Ancient Egypt in a Frayer Model. Students could also rate their characteristics in order from least to most important.

Intro to Ancient Egypt - P.E.R.S.I.A.N.

Example

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Why did Ancient Egyptians use Mummification and Build Pyramids?

Two of the most enduring aspects of Ancient Egypt are the Pyramids and the practice of mummification. Many students are not aware of why the Egyptians developed these two practices. In this activity, students will create a storyboard to describe these iconic traditions. Using a spider map or grid storyboard with four cells, students should provide research that answers the following questions:

  • Why did Egyptians create mummies?
  • Why did the Egyptians build pyramids?
  • How did Egyptians create mummies?
  • How did the Egyptians build pyramids?

Adjust the complexity of questions to the level of your students. Other questions might include:


  • Besides the mummified body, what else was put into Pharoahs’ pyramids?
  • How do we know about pyramids?
  • What is the process of mummification?
  • Who performed the mummification?
  • How long did it take to build a pyramid?
  • How were ordinary citizens’ bodies treated differently from Pharoahs’ bodies?

The Afterlife: Mummies and Pyramids

Why did Egyptians create mummies?

Ancient Egyptians believed that the physical body would be important in the next life. Mummification allowed the body to stay intact so the soul could return to it.


Why did Egyptians create pyramids?

Because Egyptians believed that their Pharaohs ruled even after their deaths, their tombs were elaborate structures. Old Kingdom Egypt was a time of intense pyramid building.


How did Egyptians create mummies?

The Egyptians used natron (a naturally occurring salt mixture) to dehydrate the body. Oils, resins, and bitumen (asphalt) were used to preserve the body.


How did Egyptians build pyramids?

Pyramid builders were mostly peasants who worked for the state when the Nile was in its annual flood. Limestone was the main building material, with some blocks weighing 15 tons.



Extended Activity

Students could be assigned specific pyramids to research. (There are well over 100!) Students could also deconstruct and annotate burial tombs in a storyboard format.


Intro to Ancient Egypt - Mummies and Pyramids

Example

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Important Figures of Ancient Egypt Graphic Organizer

Three thousand years of Ancient Egyptian history is a lot to absorb. Rather than trying to put together a timeline that covers such a vast era, it is useful to isolate a few important individuals, and research their impact on the development of Ancient Egypt. In this activity students will research some Ancient Egyptians who made significant contributions to the success of their civilization.

Using a Spider Map students should answer the question: Which individuals had a significant impact on the development of Ancient Egypt?

Some great choices for this activity include:

  • Ramses III
  • Nefertiti
  • Thutmose III
  • Tutankhamen
  • Khufu

Who had a significant impact on the development of Ancient Egypt?

Ramses II

Ramses II is often identified as the greatest Pharaoh in Egyptian history. He was a prolific builder of cities and monuments, including Abu Simbel, which honored his wife Nefertari. He also expanded the Egyptian empire to its greatest extent.


Hatshepsut

Often considered the first "great" woman in history, Hatshepsut ruled Egypt for over 20 years. She enriched Egypt through the establishment of many trade routes.


Cleopatra VII

Cleopatra is recognized as the last Pharaoh of Greek-controlled Egypt. She committed suicide by asp bite after her husband, Mark Antony, was driven to suicide by a great defeat in battle.


Imhotep

Imhotep was one of the first recorded doctors, architects, and engineers in history. He held 10 titles, ranging from chief sculptor to chancellor to the king.



Extended Activity

This activity has a number of possible extensions. Students could make a second Spider Map and focus only on important women in ancient Egypt. Alternatively, students could also focus on a single concept throughout Egyptian history, e.g. empire building, architecture, religious development.

Intro to Ancient Egypt - Important Figures of Ancient Egypt

Example

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Who was King Tut?

Perhaps the most “famous” of all Ancient Egyptians is King Tut or Tutankhamun (also spelled Tutankhamen). This young Pharaoh has become synonymous with Ancient Egypt since his nearly intact tomb was discovered in the early 20th century. In this activity, students will be asked to look beyond the stunning artifacts and focus on the intriguing backstory to Tutankhamun.

Students create a storyboard timeline that tells the story of Tutankhamun's father, Akhenaten, and Nefertiti, Akhenaten’s queen. The timeline should include the political and religious turmoil that Tutankhamun was born into, and should conclude with the 20th century discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.


Example Tutankamun Timeline


1351 BCE

Akenaten and Nefertiti Rule as Equals

Akhenaten and his chief wife, Nefertiti, were a royal power couple. Ancient art depicts Nefertiti in ways that make it clear that she ruled alongside Akhenaten.
1346 BCE

Religious Reform

Akhenaten and Nefertiti attempted to replace the existing polytheistic religion with a monotheistic worship of Aten, god of the sun. They destroyed many temples in the process.
1344 BCE

Tutankhamun is Born

Akhenaten has a son. He names him "Living Image of Aten". This is further evidence of Nefertiti and Akhenaten's commitment to their new monotheistic religion.
1334 BCE

Tutankhamun Rules for Ten Years

Akhenaten's son became Pharoah at the age of nine or ten. His name was changed to Tutankhamun, to honor the old gods that his father tried to erase.
1922 CE

Tut's Tomb is Discovered

In 1922, Howard Carter and his crew discovered the nearly untouched tomb of Tutankhamun. The world became enthralled with the world of Ancient Egypt.

Extended Activity

A logical extension of this activity would be to create a traditional storyboard that examines Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. Have students think about the impact Howard's discovery had on archaeology and public interest. Teaching King Tut & ancient Egypt for kids is so fun with storyboards!

Intro to Ancient Egypt - King Tut Bio

Example

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•   (English) Introduction to Ancient Egypt   •   (Español) Introducción al Antiguo Egipto   •   (Français) Introduction à L'Égypte Ancienne   •   (Deutsch) Einführung in das Alte Ägypten   •   (Italiana) Introduzione a Egitto   •   (Nederlands) Inleiding tot het Oude Egypte   •   (Português) Introdução ao Egito Antigo   •   (עברית) מבוא מצרים העתיקה   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) مقدمة في مصر القديمة   •   (हिन्दी) प्राचीन मिस्र का परिचय   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Введение в Древний Египет   •   (Dansk) Introduktion til det Gamle Egypten   •   (Svenska) Introduktion Till Forntida Egypten   •   (Suomi) Johdatus Muinainen Egypti   •   (Norsk) Innføring i Antikkens Egypt   •   (Türkçe) Eski Mısır'a Giriş   •   (Polski) Wprowadzenie do Starożytnego Egiptu   •   (Româna) Introducere în Egiptul Antic   •   (Ceština) Úvod do Starověkého Egypta   •   (Slovenský) Úvod do Starovekého Egypta   •   (Magyar) Bevezetés az Ókori Egyiptom   •   (Hrvatski) Uvod u Drevni Egipat   •   (български) Въведение в Древния Египет   •   (Lietuvos) Įvadas į Senovės Egipto   •   (Slovenščina) Uvod v Starem Egiptu   •   (Latvijas) Ievads Senās Ēģiptes   •   (eesti) Sissejuhatus Vana-Egiptuse