The incredible length of Egypt’s civilisation

The link below will take you to an article showing 23 “mind-blowing facts that will destroy your understanding of time”.  The author requests shares, so I’m doing just that.

Two of the facts relate to ancient Egypt and help to demonstrate just what an incredibly long passage of time the Egyptian civilisation can claim.

UnknownFirst, Cleopatra lived closer in time to the building of Pizza Hut than the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Cleopatra ruled as the last Pharaoh at around 30BC, before Egypt fell to the Roman Empire.  The Great Pyramid was already approximately 2,500 years old, having been built for the pharaoh Khufu in the Old Kingdom of dynastic Egypt in circa 2560 BC.

UnknownThe first Pizza Hut opened in 1958, approximately 500 years closer in time to Cleopatra than Khufu’s pyramid.

I can’t help but wonder if Cleopatra’s knowledge and understanding of the reign of her Old Kingdom predecessor was much as ours is of her: coloured by myth and legend, and the passage of thousands of years.

Broadly contemporary with Cleopatra was the first century Romano-Jewish scholar and writer Josephus. As far as we know his work contains the only reference to the earlier Egyptian historian and priest, Manetho, who wrote his fabled Aegyptiaca some 300 years before Cleopatra ascended to the throne.  It gave a history and chronology of the pharaohs.  Whether it shed any more light on the historical facts of the dynasties that pre-dated Cleopatra’s Ptolomaic ancestry than Shakespeare did on Cleopatra’s own story is a matter for debate.

tm9The other fascinating fact is that the first pyramids were built while the woolly mammoth still roamed the earth.  A small population of mammoths survived until circa 1650 BC, by which time Egypt’s empire was well established, and the pyramids were already about a thousand years old.

I’s bind-bending stuff : how the Egyptian civilisation spans what we might consider almost prehistory, right up to the Roman Empire whose influence can still be felt in Britain today.

Perhaps this explains why ancient Egypt is such a rich source of inspiration for writers of fiction such as myself.  With a history spanning something like three thousand years, with so many famous names, and with so much gold, how can we help but be fascinated by its mystery and romance?  And with the inevitable gaps in our historical knowledge after such an immense passage of time, how tempting it is to try to fill in the blanks.

That’s what my fictional series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt aims to do.  In each story, I take an ancient mystery and weave a story around it, letting my imagination put the flesh on the bones of what we know from archaeology and historical research.

Here is the source article, which got me thinking about Egypt’s incredibly long history :

Fiona Deal – author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, available in paperback or to download from Amazon and all major ebook retailers.


What sparked my enduring fascination with Egypt?



img230Ok, so here I am aged 16  with the ram-headed sphinxes at Karnak.  It’s October 1983.  I’m on my half-term break.  I’m in Egypt with my parents and younger brother, on the cheap, courtesy of my dad working for an airline and qualifying for concessionary travel.

Cute red pixie shoes, huh?  It took me almost thirty years to actually start writing adventure stories about the land of the pharaohs.  Yet the fascination was sparked back then.  Why?

Perhaps something in the light quality?  It’s a soft pink in Egypt – you can kind of see it in the sky in the photo as it fades to the distance.  I think this has something to do with the quantities of sand and dust in the atmosphere, and so little rain.  Whatever, it makes for some of the most spectacular sunsets on earth.  And a filmy haze over everything that’s like looking at everything in soft-focus.  There’s something very romantic about light quality I think.

Then there’s the immense SCALE of everything.  Standing on the giza plateau and craning up at the great pyramid.  Likewise in Karnak, dwarfed by the columns in the Hypostyle Hall.  How did they do it without modern equipment and engineering?  Was it spacemen?  As a teenager, this was an intriguing thought!

And, of course, the history.  Stepping into the thick, stifling atmosphere of a centuries-old tomb that looks as if the artisans laid down their paint-pots just yesterday.  Learning from the guide that they got light into the depths of their ancient sepulchres while they were carving and decorating them by reflecting the sun from great sheets of electrum at the tomb entrance.  True?  Possibly – not sure if it was really electrum !  But the guides demonstrated it ably enough with a metal biscuit tin.

Standing inside Tutankhamun’s tomb … gawping at the sarcophagus that still contained the remains of the boy king …  Trying unsuccessfully to grapple with the unimaginable period of time – thirty-or-so centuries – that he’d been there.

Or perhaps it was the weird and wonderful stories about the pharaohs and their queens themselves.  Did Ramses II REALLY have more than two hundred children, some by his own daughters?  It was a thought to make me squirm – standing alongside my own father listening to the guide.  Were brothers and sisters REALLY married to each other?  I remember looking at my fourteen year old brother and thinking ‘ugh’.

So somehow, it’s all larger than life, a little bit Hollywood, and desperately mysterious and intriguing.  Nowhere like it on earth !  It reached out and grabbed me.  More than thirty years later it shows no sign of letting go.