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Egypt Before the Pharaohs: The Scorpion King and the Folowers of Horus the Hawk God

There are two ancient Egypts: the Egypt of the Pharaohs and the Egypt of prehistory before the formation of the world's first nation-state. The earliest name the people along the Nile gave to their new nation-state was "Tawy" or the two lands (Upper and Lower lands along the Nile). While we know much about the long history and culture of this nation from the massive pyramids of the legendary autocrats like Kofu, temples they built, and the gold treasures they buried with the dead like the boy-king Tutankhamen, the period that led these people to unite must be extracted from much more meager archaeological remains.

This course will relate the interesting human stories of the people who changed the study of prehistoric (predynastic) Egypt from a race to recover pretty museum specimens to the modern scientific methods of archaeology. The scientific approach has allowed us to better understand the cultural processes of the humans in the origin of civilization and the state, the beginnings of agriculture and animal domestication, and the evolution of a system of values and beliefs before the time of the Pharaohs.

Two major factors drove much of the evolution: changing climate and beliefs in what happens beyond death. It is possible to see how these factors impacted the evolution of the nation-state from the first Proto Kings (including Scorpion) to the pyramid builders. Perhaps these lessons gleaned from the past can be instructive to modern societies facing an uncertain future.

Ralph Allen has served as a professor of Chemistry and Associate Vice President for Research at the University of Virginia. He has also authored numerous scientific papers on the analysis of archeological materials from Egypt, Scandinavia, and North America.

There are no scheduled sessions at this time. Sign up to be notified when this course is available.

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