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Discovery Tour: Ancient Egypt is an educational mode for Assassin's Creed: Origins.

The mode was released as a downloadable add-on on 20 February 2018 and is available for free to those who own the base game, or for purchase as a stand-alone version on PC. In it, players are to free roam the game's map of ancient Egypt and learn about the kingdom's history through a series of guided tours.[1]

Contents

Tours

Egypt

The Major Regions of Egypt

Learn about the major regions of Egypt.

The Nile, Egypt / 2004

Life in ancient Egypt was concentrated along the shores of the Nile, and divided into two regions.

Lower Egypt (north) was situated on the Nile Delta near the Mediterranean, and Upper Egypt was at the south reaching into Africa.

Due to its proximity to the Mediterranean, temperatures in Lower Egypt were less extreme than in Upper Egypt.

Relief of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II and the Goddess Hathor

Until 3100 BCE and the unification of Egypt, each region had its own pharaoh and crown.

Lower Egypt's crown was red, and marked with symbols of papyrus and bees.

Upper Egypt's crown was white with symbols of lotus and sedge grass.

Temple of Ptah, Memphis

Both regions had competing major cities, most notably Memphis in Lower Egypt, and Thebes in Upper Egypt.

There were different religious cults in both regions, each worshipping their own major gods.

Perfume burner, composite, with stand

Many of the temples were designed in such a way as to represent the two regions, and ceremonies often incorporated Upper and Lower Egypt in their rituals.

Bringer of Life, The Nile River

Learn about the river Nile and it's importance to the development of ancient Egyptian civilization.

The Nile River

The ancient Egyptians called the dark fertile soil of the Nile "the black lands," and the surrounding desert was referred to as "the red lands."

The dramatic difference of productive land opposed to barren desert had a deep influence on cultural ideology, mythology and religion.

The Nile

The Nile determined much of Egyptian civilization. For example, the seasonal cycle of the Nile was so consistent that ancient Egyptians created their calendar around it.

The flood season, or Akhet, was when the departing floodwaters left arable soil for crops. It was followed by the growing and harvesting seasons known as Peret and Shemu.

These regular seasons along with abundant wildlife and rich soil meant that Egypt's denizens were able to nourish themselves, and their country’s strength in trade.

Memphis

The river Nile, flowing from the south to the north, neatly traversed through both Upper and Lower Egpyt.

All of Egypt's major cities were built along this narrow ribbon of life.

Protected by mountain ranges and deserts which acted as natural barriers to enemies, and sustained by the Nile's plants and wildlife, Egyptian civilization enjoyed economic and cultural prosperity for over 4000 years.

The Nile, Egypt

Both ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks referred to the Nile as "the river" in their respective languages.

Stretching a distance of over 6700 kilometers, the Nile is one of the longest rivers in the world. It flows south to north, spanning eleven countries.

The river Nile originates in the region of the great subequatorial lakes, including one of the largest in the world, Lake Victoria near Tanzania.

The Nile

The river flows through African equatorial forests, swamps, volcanic lands, steppes and deserts, splitting apart for a while, and picking up various sediments from each region and carrying them all the way to Egypt.

Its main artery, known as the White Nile, rejoins with the Blue Nile in Khartoum. This is where it weaves through rich deposits of silt and nutrients, carrying them along in its wake.

View of the second cataract, from Nubia

The Nile crosses six cataracts from the south to the north, creating natural obstacles between the various sections of the river.

The cataracts are long zones of about 100 kilometers where the bubbling and rapidly swirling waters advance tumultuously amid enormous heaps of rocks and benches of hard stone.

View of the first cataract, from Philae

It is after crossing Nubia and the first cataract that the river officially returns to Egypt, In Aswan.

There are still a thousand kilometers before it reaches Cairo and the Delta, bringing life to those living on its shores, before it eventually empties into the Mediterranean Sea.

The Nile, Egypt

Ancient Egyptian irrigation and water use was centered around the Nile. However, they also had access to streams and rivers, as well as several large lakes.

The Delta, situated at the north end of the Nile also known as Lower Egypt, is a large irrigated area where the river splits into several tributaries.

Menna and Family Hunting in the Marshes, Tomb of Menna

The Delta had several major brackish coastal lakes, bodies of water separated from the sea by thin strips of land.

A mix of deep to shallow waters, salt swamps and sand plains, these lakes were refuge to a wealth of species, as well as water and land plants.

The occasional bandit could also be found, sheltering within the denser reeds, waiting for the unwary traveler.

Deserts of Egypt

Learn about the deserts which cover 94% of Egypt.

Wadi Al-Hitan (The Valley of Whales), by Véronique Dauge

Reaching out on either side of the lush Nile are the harsh arid Western Desert and the mountainous Eastern Desert. They cover nearly 94% of Egypt.

Each of these parent deserts have their own microclimate, and contain several smaller deserts with a distinct fauna and flora.

Whale fossils were discovered within the depths of the Sahara. Known as the Valley of the Whales, this location is evidence of the seas which once covered the area.

The White Desert in the northeast of the Sahara owes its name to its limestone soil contrasting with the yellow sand. The wind has eroded the rocks of the White Desert into stone mushrooms, the most famous of which is referred to as the Finger of God.

DTAE Desert.png
The Great Sand Sea is a large unbroken desert that reaches out through western Egypt and eastern Libya. It is home to a unique geological formation known as Libyan silica glass. The pale yellowish-green material ranges from pebble-sized fragments to glass rocks the size of rough boulders.

The Qattara Depression

Learn about the Qattara Depression, in north-western Egypt.

Dust Storm in Egypt

The Qattara Depression is located in the northwest part of Egypt.

Reaching 18,000 square kilometers, the basin is 133 meters below sea level and covered with salt.

It is the second lowest point in Africa, after the Afar Depression.

The climate is very arid, with average temperatures reaching 36 degrees Celsius. The famous Siwa Oasis is located on the protected southwestern region. Today, the Qattara Depression is utilized for oil exploration.

Siwa

Learn about the geography and importance of the oasis of Siwa.

Aerial view of Siwa

The Siwa Oasis is in the Western Desert of Egypt.

Geographically, the Siwan Oasis is located in a depression 20 meters below sea level. Its natural springs and warm climates aided in the bountiful production of date trees.

Though clearly influenced to some degree by Egyptian and African culture, the area's isolation resulted in a unique society and language.

While they worshipped the same deities, Siwan temple architecture differed from traditional Egyptian temples.

General View of the Siwa Oasis

Old Kingdom Egyptians referred to the Oasis as cauldron, due to its unique geographical structure.

Oases were crucial for nomadic tribes and carvans. Without them, there was no chance of survival in an otherwise harsh landscape.

As such, oases quickly became hubs for trade, as well as areas of political control.

The Nile, Egypt

Because of the dry climate there is very little rainfall to sustain the oases. Instead, underground rivers flood the natural basins.

Since many oases have a north-south orientation parallel to the Nile, some geologists suggest they were once tributaries of the mighty river.

There is evidence that some ancient Egyptians attempted to create some oases.

Dust Storm in Egypt

The Libyan oases are the best known, as they are geographically and culturally linked to the Nile Valley and the Delta.

These western oases have a distinct geology from the other regions of Egypt.

The most famous and important oases are Kharga, Dakhla, Farafra, Baharia and Siwa.

Siwa Oasis, Qesm Siwah, Matrouh Governorate, Egypt

The Spring of the Sun is one of the many thermal sources in Siwa with the particularity that Cleopatra would have bathed in this one, giving it its name.

The presence of the source beneath was attested already by Herodotus during the 5th century BCE, when the oasis was called Ammoneion by the Greeks of Cyrene.

Zeus Ammon on a throne

Oracles predicted the future, delivered omens that could be more or less obscure, and offered divine guidance.

The Siwan Oracle was considered of the three greatest of the ancient world, alongside the oracles of Delphi and Dodoni.

Because of the Greek colonies in Cyrenaica, the temple associated Zeus with the worship of Amun.

Alexander the Great as Pharaoh, Karnak, Temple of Amon, by Jean Binot

It is no wonder that Alexander the Great made the perilous journey to Siwa in order to consult the oracle, emulating the actions of mythical heroes such as Hercules and Perseus.

This action earned the approval of the oracle, who validated his claim as Pharaoh of Egypt.

He was confirmed as the son of Ammon, conferring upon him the most legitimate claim to date of all Egypt's foreign invaders.

Oracle of Siwa

The powerful and the rich would send gifts or travel great distances in order to ensure their good fortune by gaining the blessing of the Oracle of Siwa. Every successful blessing only increased the soothsayer's prestige.

Runner Eubotas, a famous citizen of Cyrene, consulted the Oracle in order to win the 93rd Olympic games race in 408 BCE. He did, enhancing the standing of the Siwan Oracle in the process.

Colossal statue of Amun protecting King Taharqa

(Behind the scenes)

The temple of the Oracle of Amun was built in the 6th Century BCE, by Pharaoh Amasis.

In the game, its entrance is guarded by ram-headed sphinxes, the animal representing Amun. They were inspired by a similar statuary located at the British Museum.

Another option would have a Greek-influenced representation of Zeus-Ammon: a human-headed sphinx with horns. This representation of Zeus-Ammon was very popular in Siwa.

The Faiyum

Learn more about the geography and importance of the Faiyum.

Tool. From Egypt, Fayum, along the road between the Fayum and the Giza pyramids

The Faiyum Oasis is an enormous basin in the Western Desert that formed from the Nile's overflow. As such, it is not considered a true oasis, though it gives its name to the region, which covers Lake Moeris.

The oasis harbors some of the oldest archaeological artifacts of the region, indicating that the area has been inhabited by hunters and gatherers since the Neolithic period.

Lake Moeris

The Faiyum Oasis drains into Lake Moeris, which was a large freshwater lake but at some time became a saltwater lake.

In the 12th Dynasty, ancient Egyptiaqns redirected the water flow with a damn and dug a supply canal using the lake as their reservoir.

Irrigation enabled them to continue growing crops of figs, grapes and olives year round.

Medecine House: nilotic scene, pygmy hunt

Reed boats, feluccas, triremes and kerkouros were the most commonly found craft within the land-locked waters of Egypt.

They were used for various purposes, ranging from daily fishing, trade, warfare and travel, to the ferrying of massive stone blocks used to build the great monuments of Egypt.

Hawara labyrinth

The most impressive pyramids of ancient Egypt date from the Old Kingdom, and can be found on the sites of Giza, Saqqara and Dahshur.

However, one particularly famous pyramid of the time is located elsewhere. During the Middle Kingdom, some pharaohs chose the Faiyum as their resting place. One such ruler was Amenemhat III.

His pyramid left a mark on the imagination of antique chroniclers. They referred to it as the Labyrinth, mostly due to the vast mortuary temple complex at the foot of the pyramid. Herodotus mentioned that he had visited 12 courts and over 3000 of its chambers. But he was also well known for being prone to hyperbole.

Faiyum, Situation plan of the Labyrinth and its pyramids, by Lepsius, Mercier & Loeillot

(Behind the scenes)

Amenemhat's pyramid was built with a brick core and covered with stone slabs, designed to be impenetrable. The burial chamber, made out of a single block of sandsone, is unique in its design.

Richard Lepsius and Flinders Petrie both explored the pyramid site, measuring 385m by 158m, and identified as the location of the Labyrinth.

Their research conditions were difficult, as most of the site had been submerged by the nearby canal. Furthermore, the stones from the complex and the outer casing of the pyramid had been quarried away long ago.

Krokodilopolis

Founded during the 5th Dynasty, the site was popular during the 12th Dynasty, under the name of Shedet.

During the Ptolemaic era, the metropolis was named Krokodilopolis by the Greeks, in honor of the crocodile god Sobek.

During the Greco-Roman era, the cleruchs, soldiers of the Ptolemies, settled there after their military service and expanded the irrigation systems. Irrigation and water distribution tripled the arable land and turned the city into a lush and rich area. 27 000 inhabitants lived its precinct at its height.

Stele of Aamerout worshipping the crocodile god Sobek

The region's main cult was that of Sobek of Shedet, a divinity assocaited with water and fertility, both very important to an area that depended on irrigation.

Many local villagers had the title "Town of Sobek" added to their official designations.

During festivals, ancient Egyptians recited hymns to Sobek, asking for his divine intervention.

Greek settlers, and later Romans, would help the Temple of Sobek's economy to flourish by adopting the local embalming mortuary rites. Their sarcophagi were beautifully painted, and adorned with amazingly realistic portraits.

Krokodilopolis pond

Very similar to the cult of the Apis Bull in Memphis, a living crocodile was worshipped within the predicinct of Krokodilopolis's main temple.

Known as Sobek to the Egyptians, and Soukhos to the Greeks, it was reported by Strabo that priests fed it with meat, wine and honeyed milk.

They covered its body with jewel and gold. After its death, it was embalmed and placed within the Crocodiles' Grotto, alongside thousands of other mummified crocodiles.

The City of Memphis

Learn about the city of Memphis and its place through various periods of ancient Egyptian history.

Figures of various gods

Throughout all ancient Egyptian periods, cities had one thing in common. They were situated along the Nile's shores.

Cities were often designated for government or for worship. Major cities had several temples dedicated to numerous gods and goddesses.

Egyptians referred to the organization of their cities as a sepal, or later by the Persian term, nome. There were twenty sepat in Lower Egypt and twenty-two in Upper Egypt.

The capital city of ancient Egypt changed many times over the periods.

Khonsou temple, Euergetes gate, Karnak

One of the largest was Memphis, Located in Lower Egypt. It was a key center for religious temples, including their most important deity, Ptah, god of creation.

Thebes, located in Upper Egypt, competed with Memphis and featured as both a political and a religious center. Two important temples, Luxor and Karnak, were built there.

A minor capital of the Saite dynasty was the city of Sais. This was the last native Egyptian capital of Egypt.

Memphis

During the 3rd Dynasty, under Pharaoh Djoser, Memphis became the first religious and administrative capital of Egypt.

Even when the political capital of Egypt decentralized itself, pharaohs were crowned in this sacred city in order to legitimize their ascension to the throne, up to and including, Alexander the Great.

Though little remains today save ruins south of Cairo, we can guess at the structure of the city, which stretched up to 5 kilometers in length and 2 kilometers in width.

Cult Image of the God Ptah

Memphis was also referred to as "the city with the hundred doors" or "the white walls". These names were in reference to the wall which surrounded the city.

Under the protection of Ptah, god of craftsmen, the city was a thriving religious and economic hub.

Rediscovering Egypt

Learn about the beginnings of modern archaeology.

Saqqarah / 19th century

In the 19th century, the increased intensity of tourism and excavation, as well as the outflow of antiquities to other countries, threatened Egypt's archaeological heritage.

Egyptians took part in this destruction by ransacking sites for artifacts to sell, quarrying stones from ancient monuments and removing sebakh, ancient mud bricks, to reuse for their own purposes.

François Auguste Ferdinand Mariette, Egyptologist

A major step in conserving Egypt's heritage was taken in 1858, when the Viceroy of Egypt created the Antiquities Service.

Supported by a team of foreign scholars, Auguste Mariette exerted an iron grip on the Service. he carried out his work across Egypt and into Nubia, intervening on almost every major site.

Aware of the necessity of keeping unearthed artifacts in Egypt, Mariette requested a museum be created for that purpose in 1858. This museum was the ancestor of the Egyptian Museum.

Portrait of Gaston Maspero

Gaston Maspero, Mariette's successor expanded and reorganized the Antiquities Service, and instigated laws regulating the export of artifacts.

French scholars ran the Service until it passed into Egyptian hands in the 1950s.

As of the mid-19th century, Egyptology was fast becoming a recognized discipline within both private institutions and learned societies.

Archaeologist Jean Claude Golvin in June 2002

A French architect, archaeologist and former research, Jean-Claude Golvin now specializes in the artistic reconstruction of ancient cities and monuments.

To date, he has created more than 800 drawings, which include three volumes focusing on the reconstitution of ancient Egypt.

His work is exquisitely detailed, and can be found in books and museums around the world.

City of Krokodilopolis

(Behind the scenes)

The team was thrilled to collaborate with Jean-Claude Golvin in order to recreate Egypt for the game.

In the 19 exclusive watercolors he created for the team, Golvin used scientific data as the base and then extrapolated to provide a full interpretation of various locations and monuments in ancient Egypt.

Both early sketches and full rendered images were then used by the team as references while building the world of Assassin's Creed Origins.

Although ancient Egypt's rich religious culture and its mortuary monuments continue to be investigated, the modern discipline of Egyptology has shifted focus. Rather than single-minded retrieving impressive artifacts, Egyptologists today focus instead on creasing the body of knowledge. In the past, excavations took place in the field, and while that is still the case today, much of the work on Egyptology now takes place in libraries and archives.

Today, archaeology in Egypt relies on an interdisciplinary approach where traditional Egyptologists are helped by a wide spectrum of scientists from other disciplines and new, non-invasive, techniques. GPS data, satellite imaging and ground-penetrating radar allow archaeologists to gain a sense of what lies underneath the ground before excavating.

Natron

Learn about the uses of natron, and how it was mined and farmed in ancient Egypt.

Bag of Natron from Tutankhamun's Embalming Cache

Natron is a colorless salt that was used by ancient Egyptians for food preservation, cleansing products and glassmaking. It was also used in the mummification process.

Mummy of a woman, 3rd century BCE

During the ceremonial embalmment ritual, the priests packed the body in natron in order to remove all of the moisture.

Once the body was thoroughly desiccated, they could begin the wrapping.

Natron Lakes

Natron was mined in Wadi Natron. The main mining methods involved either cutting slices out of the lakebed when it was dry, or raking through mineral-saturated water to gather the mineral salts during the floods.

Natron mines

(Behind the Scenes)

Both techniques are still used today, and inspired the team in their recreation of the mines located in the mountains northwest of Memphis.

Fauna of Ancient Egypt

Learn about the fauna of ancient Egypt.

Eyeshadow palette, decoraed with hyenas or lycaon from the Neolithic Period

Both domesticated and wild animals were features in ancient Egyptian bas reliefs as early as the 1st Dynasty.

While the variety of wildlife served as a reliable food source, it also influenced both culture and mythology.

Gazelle figurine from the 18th Dynasty

Egypt's terrain allowed for a diverse range of animals, including panthers, rhinoceroses, elephants and many variations of antelopes.

Figure of a hippopotamus, nicknamed "William" dating from the 12 Dynasty

The Nile was home to many species of fish, along with hippopotami and crocodiles.

Wood and bronze statuette of Ibis from the Ptolemaic Era

The wide variety of birds that populated the river banks, from raptors and waterfowl to songbirds, were all catalogued within Egyptian hieroglyphic signs.

Encounters with reptiles and insects, such as cobras, scorpions and scarabs, influenced hieroglyphs and art.

Artist's sketch of a pharaoh spearing a lion from the 20th Dynasty

While all animals had sacred meanings, lions in particular represented power and royalty to ancient Egyptians. They were so prized by pharaohs that they were hunted to extinction within Egypt.

Flora of Ancient Egypt

Learn about the flora of ancient Egypt.

Sennedjem and Ilneferti in the Fields of Iaru, painting from the 19th Dynasty

The climate and unique geography of the Nile Delta offered a wide variety of plant species.

Many of these plants served as sustenance for ancient Egyptians, and as crops for trade.

The Nile's consistent seasons allowed Egypt to sustain itself for centuries.

Crafting of papyrus boasts: relief from Niuserrer's chamber of the seasons from the 5th Dynasty

Possibly the most useful of the plants was the papyrus. This tall sedge plant grew in abundance along the water's edge of the Nile.

Commontly known for its use as paper, the ancient Egyptians found many other functions for it, including rope, sandals and mats.

Papyriform boats made from the plant are seen in paintings and reliefs, and were used in ritualistic ceremonies.

Relief: Hand clutching an Olive Branch, from the 18th Dynasty

There were many types of trees along the river Nile, such as the date palm, carob and tamarisk.

The earliest fruit tree cultivated was the fig tree, followed by apple, pomegranate and eventually olive trees during the era of the New Kingdom.

Mango cultivation was the result of a late import from Asia during the Middle Ages.

Neskashouty, Scribe, Counter of Grain in the Granary of Divine Offerings of Amun, dating from the 21st Dynasty

Some trees were associated with gods, such as the acacia with Horus.

The divinities Thoth and Seshat were depicted inscribing the reign of the king into a persea tree.

The sycamore was connected with the goddess Iset, patron of the Ritual of Life.

Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Learn about hieroglyphs, how they evolved through time, and what they can teach us anbout ancient Egyptian culture.

Hieroglyphics were used as sacred writing, appearing on monuments, statues and sacred papyrus texts. The earliest symbols that resemble hieroglyphs were on pottery dating back to 4000 BCE. This stylized form of signs and drawings was the only writing used from its ancient origins to the end of pharaonic history. Ancient Egyptians referred to hieroglyphs as the Writing of the Gods.

Considered a difficult language, it was intended for pharaohs, nobility and priests, and meant to be used in ceremonies, within tombs and for government records. Since few Egyptians were able to read the ancient hieroglyphs, the mythological aura around the language was persistent even in their own culture.

Agricultural Scenes, Tomb of Nahkt

The structure of hieroglyphs offers insight into Egyptian culture, not just in what the translations say, but in the structure of the symnbols themselves.

They were found on tomb walls, on sarcophagi, on statues and on pottery, and were meticulously recorded in countless ancient papyri.

In many temples, priests would perform rituals and daily offerings. These were accompanied by hieroglyphs used as spells. In tomb paintings, the hieroglyphs are represented with formulas to recite. These spoken words were meant to be spells which would allow the deceased to benefit from the offerings for all eternity. Spells and offerings were also written for the living, to enhance medicines and cure illnesses.

The most famous of ancient Egyptian documents is the Book of the Dead. Written in hieroglyphs and hieratic texts, it depicts important spells and rituals. These spells were intended to ensure a smooth transition from life to death, and allow the deceased to safely navigate the perils of the afterlife.

Even after it was deciphered, the reading of hieroglyphics remained difficult at times due to the many directions in which they can be read. Depending on the orientation of the signs, hieroglyphics can be read left to right, right to left, horizontally or vertically, though never bottom to top.

A clue on which way to read is to first notice which direction the figurative signs are facing. If a pictogram is looking to the right then the reader is meant to start from the right and read towards the figure. Column text on a papyrus begins from the right, then goes top to bottom for each column.

Text written on tomb walls resembles the structure of a page from a comic book. The text can be placed in front, behind or above the character, and its symbols looks in the same direcftion as the character. Another clue is that the name of a god, or hieroglyphs meaning gods or kings, are always written before the descriptive text.

Compared to alphabetical languages, Egyptian hieroglyphs have more symbols. Confronted with the absence of vowels, the Egyptians invented a category of signs. When placed at the end of words, these signs help inform its meaning. For instance, a drawing of a lion will refer to a lion, and also relate to the abstract concept of a lion as something dangerous or powerful.

Middle Egyptian hieroglyphs contained a little more than 700 signs. By the end of the Greco-Roman period there was 10 000 signs. Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner created a list classifying common hierogylphic signs and their variants.

Ancient Egyptian languages have many similarities with Asian and African languages. They have evolved in similar ways to the various forms of written Egyptian. These languages belong to the Chamito-Semitic group. There were five clear evolutions in the Egyptian language, each with their own distinctive structure. These languages are known as Old Egyptian, Middle Egyptian, Late Egyptian, Demotic and Coptic. Coptic is the only living language that allows linguists to define the vowel structure and to distinguish different dialects.

(Behind the Scenes) While hierogylphs and hieratic script give us an idea as to how the ancient Egyptian language was structured and written, the way it was spoken is still up for debate. The team opted for English as the spoken language, with the characters using ancient Egyptian and Greek words and accents. The language that is spoken in the background by the crowds is largely based on Sir Alan Gardiner's Egyptian Grammar. To help resurrect a dead language, we consulted Egyptologists and dialogue coaches to establish our target sound, and cast actors with Arabic, Hebraic and African backgrounds to bring the game to life.

After Alexander the Great's arrival in Egypt and the establishment of his reign, Greek became the language used by the governing bodies. The inability to read hieroglyphs caused resentment among the Greek population. It's from this tension that the Rosetta Stone was created. The spread of Christianity ended pharaonic culture and resulted in the destruction of its pagan monuments. This also marked the end of hieroglyphic writing and understanding.

Jean-François Champollion

Learn how the hieroglyphs were identified and deciphered.

The long-desired fulffiled knowledge occult alphabets, attributed to Ibn Wahshiyya

Between the 5th century CE and the Renaissance, knowledge of hieroglyphs was entirely lost.

Many enthusiasts tackled the challenge of deciphering the language, with little success. Some groundwork was made with various researchers identifying names and some grammatical structure, and confirming that cartouches were markers for royal names.

They were still missing a critical piece of information that would eventually be revealed thanks to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone.

Rosetta Stone / Ptolemaic Era

The Rosetta Stone was found in 1799 by Bouchard, a soldier in Napoleon's army.

The stela dates from 196 BCE. Written in ancient Egyptian and Greek with three scripts: hieroglyphics, demotic and Greek alphabet.

Following the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801, the English took possession of the stone. It has been at the British Museum since 1802, and remains the most-visited object of the museum to date.

Portrait of Jean-François Champollion, Egyptologist

The first translation was of the Greek section only, in 1803. It detailed a decree of Pharaoh Ptolemy V, reminding the citizens that their pharaoh had led Egypt to prosperity.

It was fully translated twenty years after by Jean-François Champollion, who was working with a facsimile.

"La Grammaire egyptienne" Autograph manuscript by Champollion

Through his studies of the Stone, Champollion was able to make a critical observation that would unlock the whole mystery. That hieroglyphics were not only ideograms but also phonograms.

Hieroglyphs consist of phonetic glyphs, single characters and logograms. Essentially, they are a combination of phoneties, alphabet and fullwords which in total form a language.

Foundation plague from the Serapeum in Alexandria, showing the Greek and Egyptian inscriptions

While studying the stone, Champollion realized that there was a difference in the number of hieroglyphic characters in relation to the number of Greek characters for the same word. This led him to believe that hieroglyphs must have phonetic characteristics.

This was the first step to unlocking the Rosetta Stone's secrets.

Inscription fragment of Ptolemy I's cartouches

To prove this theory, Champollion began identifying Egyptian rulers' names, and then compared their phonetic pronunciation to the Greek version.

For example, Kheops had been the Greek name given by ancient chroniclers to the owner of the Great Pyramid, Khufu.

Temple of Iset, Island of Philae / circa 1880

The next step for Champollion was to confirm that his approach was verifiable, by using the Philae obelisk as an additional reference.

Engraved in the obelisk are two inscriptions in Egyptian hieroglyphs and Greek. Once he confirmed the names of Ptolemy and Cleopatra within these texts, and confirmed the same phonetic patterns as on the Rosetta stone, Champollion knew he was on the right track.

"La Grammaire égyptienne" Autograph manuscript by Champollion

Champollion had already mastered several ancient languages when he took on deciphering the Rosetta Stone. He used his knowledge of Coptic to identify the solar disk hieroglyph on the obelisk as the phonetic translation of Ra.

Further translation only strengthened his conclusion. Egyptian hieroglyphs encompassed the alphabet in both phonetics and determinative ways, which means that the symbol represents the word itself.

The Founding of Cyrene

Learn about the city of Cyrene.

Map of the world by Eratosthenes of Cyrene, circa 240 BCE

Cyrenaica stretches across the coast of northwest Africa. It was known as Pentopolis in antiquity, a reference to the five main cities that formed the Greek colonies.

Built on a lush plateau of the Green Mountains in what is present day Libya, a colony of Greek settlers formed the city in 630 BCE.

Cyrene's population quickly grew, spreading out across the terraces of the plateau, making it the first and largest of the five colonies.

Arcesilaus II, king of Cyrene, supervising the weighing and storage of silphium.

The city of Cyrene was founded by Battos Aristottle, guided by the Oracle of Delphi.

Overcrowded and suffering from drought, Battos's home island of Thera could not sustain its citizens. Battos consulted the oracle who told them to journey to the North African coast in search of arable land.

A series of kings reigned over the city in the first two centuries. However, rebellion eventually ended the monarchy and henceforth, the city was governed by the aristocracy.

Agora of Cyrene

The key features of Cyrene were temples dedicated to gods: Apollo, Demeter and Zeus alongside Ptolemaic gods such as Iset and Serapis.

A large agora defined the city center, and on the western edge, the famed Acropolis was built.

A fortification wall was added around the harbor at the end of the 2nd century CE. As the city grew, more buildings were constructed beyond the walls.

Two-faced bust, likely Aristippus of Cyrene and his daughter, Arete

Under Roman influence Cyrene became an economic powerhouse, rising in status throughout the Mediterranean.

Cyrene's school of medicine rivaled all others except for that of the Greek city Cos.

Some of the great minds in ancient math, astronomy and geography were born or established in the various schools of the city, which included an institute of philosophy founded by Aristippos, a pupil of Socrates.

Statue of a draped woman, acephalous

From 115 to 117 CE there was a revolt in the Jewish quarter that greatly damaged the city of Cyrene.

Over time, a succession of battles, poor management of its silphium crop and earthquakes eventually took their toll on the city.

It was completely abandoned in 365 CE.

Apollonia

The nearby port of Apollonia was an ideal location with its natural cove, sheltered by two islands and rocky inlets.

Along with a lighthouse, the port was later equipped with quays and warehouses to accommodate the increased shipping traffic.

Apollonia Ruins On Landscape Against Cloudy Sky

With its success as a commercial trading port, Apollonia surpassed Cyrene to eventually become the capital of the Pentapolis.

A number of earthquakes gradually shifted the city causing many of its original structures to sink. Some of its ruins can still be seen underwater.

The Agora & Thermal Baths

Learn about the communal public spaces of Cyrene and their function within the city.

Cyrene Agora / 2016 / Jean-Claude Golvin

Cyrene's agora was the public market place and political hub of the city.

Its central courtyard was open to the sky, while market stalls and shops ran along the sides, some neatly tucked away under long roofed colonnades.

As in other Greek cities, the agora included a central hearth, known as a Prytaneum. This place served as Cyrene's official embassy where guests were welcomed to the city.

Prow Monument, Archaeological Site of Cyrene (Libya) / 2003

(Behind the scenes)

An unamed statue representing naval victories was the centerpiece of the agora.

The statue's female figure likely represents Nike, the goddess of victory.

It was likely very similar to the Victory of Samothrace, which current resides in the Louvre Museum and served as a reference for the team.

Possible Tomb of Battos, Archaeological Site of Cyrene (Libya) / 2003

The Cyrene agora also displayed many temples and monuments celebrating its founding king Battos, and the city gods.

There were two altars associated with the temple of Apollo, and a marble statue base dedicated to the goddess Libya.

The civic buildings included a law court, complete with an archive library that would have housed legal documents and other papers essential to the city's governance. Traces of fire damage to the building's remains indicate that it was possibly destroyed during the rebellion of the Jewish community in 115 BCE.

Hadrian's Baths, Sanctuary of Apollo [Detail] / 2016 / Jean-Claude Golvin

Public baths were common in Roman and Greek cities, and Cyrene held true to this tradition.

Two thermal baths, from different eras, were discovered among the ruins.

And inscription at the entrance of one of the baths is presumed to be attributed to the ower. It dates the building to the Hellenistic period.

Mosaic of the Nile / 1st Century

Mosaics were originally created for practical reasons: the need to waterproof floors.

Imported by Greeks in Egypt and Cyrenaica, the designs represented either scenes from daily life, marine fauna or mythological figures.

In addition to traditional Greek motifs, they also integrated concepts specific to Egyptian culture, such as the nelumbo.

Venus Anadyomene [Excavated at the Baths] / 2nd century BCE

The Cyrene baths were fitted into an underground tomb dated somewhere between the 8th and 6th century BCE.

Bath-seats were carved directly in the rock, allowing for more comfortable ablutions.

As with many of the public buildings, the thermal baths were elaborately decorated. Statues such as Aphrodite, and Eros the archer, were discovered within.

The frigidarium, a pool of cold water, was the first room visitors entered. It was followed by the tepidarium or tepid water area, and then the hot water room, called the caldarium. Water for the thermal baths was sourced from a natural spring. Burning stones were deposited into the water to create steam as required. The flowing water of the spring ended in a cistern and fountain referred to as the Aqua Augusta.

(Behind the Scenes) Later Roman baths were built under Emperor Trajan, and then restored under Hadrian. After the earthquake of 365 CE, they were replaced by baths of Byzantine design, with stones from the old thermal baths used in the reconstruction. The team relied on documentation describing the baths built under Trajan in order to create the location available in the game.

The Temple of Zeus in Cyrene

Learn about the Temple of Zeus, in Cyrene.

Facing east towards the rising sun stands the temple dedicated to the cult of Zeus. It was built sometime in the 5th century BCE. Seventy meters long with forty-six Doric-style columns, the imposing structure was the largest Greek temple erected in Africa. It was only slightly larger than the Parthenon, and the Temple of Zeus in Olympia.

The exterior was designed with the decorative elements common to Doric architecture. The dimensions of the columns were different, giving visitors an impression of uniqueness when viewing each façade.

After the temple was destroyed during the Jewish rebellion, Emperor Hadrian had it reconstructed. He chose not to rebuild the outer portico, but did restore the new Corinthian columns in marble. The temple was later completed under Marcus Aurelius.

In the time of Augustus, a faithful but smaller imitation of the Olympian Zeus was used to be worshiped. Hadrian then installed a new 12-meter high statue matching the Zeus in Olympia. It was made of chiseled marble with the head, arms and feet carved in the round.

(Behind the Scenes) Archeologists confirm that there was a monumental statue of Zeus in this temple, though experts remain divided on whether it was one of Zeus, or one more specific to the cult of Zeus-Ammon. The team elected to place a statue of Zeus-Ammon in this location, knowing that Cyrene was central to the spread of this cult in the Greek Mediterranean area.

Important Monuments of Cyrene

Learn about the Sanctuary of Apollo & the Amphitheater of Cyrene.

The Sanctuary of Apollo sits on a prominent edge of the plateau of Cyrene, overlooking the Mediterranean sea. It coutd be accessed either by the road from Apollonia, via the necropolis or by the sacred way, coming from the agora of the city.

The abundance of temples and statues throughout the city reflect the various Greco-Roman and Egyptian cult influences over the centuries. Temples dedicated to Apollo, Cyrene and Zeus stood alongside those of Ptolemaic gods such as Serapis and Iset. Numerous fountains were decorated to represent other gods, including the city's namesake, Cyrene.

A vestibule known as a propylaeum marked its entrance and highlighted the fountain of Apollo. God of the sun and of protection, Apollo was an important deity to both Greeks and Romans. The sanctuary built in his honor was considered to be sacred.

The imposing temple was built on a natural cornice, stretching more than 200 meters in length and roughly 50 meters in width, and was surrounded by a vast Doric colonnade. Sections uncovered by archaeologists indicate restorations to the columns were made between 115-116 CE.

The altar was located in front of the temple. Both are estimated to be the same age, though restored at different times. Many bulls were sacrificed each year at the altar in honor of Apollo. The imprint in the stone of the ring used to strap the animals down is visible to this day.

(Behind the Scenes) Carved during the Roman era, the Apollo Citharede was discovered near the temple. It is considered an important archeological find. The statue of Apollo was in pieces when it was uncovered. Remarkably, most fragments were found and the restored statue is currently at the British Museum. The team extrapolated the statue's final look based on the current partial reconstruction, and placed it inside the temple to reflect the patron deity of the area.

The amphitheater of Cyrene is located on what is known as the Terrace of Myrtousa, next to the Sanctuary of Apollo. It was built on top of the old theater in the 2nd century. Originally used as a stage, the theater became an amphitheater once the taste for Roman gladiatorial entertainment reached the city.

Entrances were placed at both ends of the amphitheater. A wall replaced the first two rows of bleachers as protection from the array of wild animals in the ring. The tunnel used for the parade of beasts and gladiators circled the arena, unlike the Roman Colosseum's tunnel, which was beneath the amphitheater. The basement and corridors accommodated both the gladiators and the animals, and included lifts that raised the traps into the arena's center.

(Behind the Scenes) Since the original theater was close to the cliffside, the expansion didn't allow for a perfect circle. Instead, junctions of the semicircle formed the arena into an oval shape. This elliptical formation still ensured an excellent view from all angles. The team decided to create a perfectly round theater for technical reasons, and used the structure of the Roman Theater as their reference.

The Acropolis of Cyrene

Learn about the acropolis ward in the city of Cyrene.

Position and plan of Cyrene by Beechey & Walker, in Proceedings of the expedition to explore the northern coast of Africa / 1828

Located on the western edge of city, Cyrene's acropolis was smaller than the one in Athens, though its high vantage point provided protection for the city.

At its entrance was a single door, flanked by two towers. An inscription, Legible to this day, states that the walls and the citadel were restored in the time of Augustus.

Portrait of Berenice II, (found in Hermopolis Magna, Egypt) / 246 - 221 BCE

A number of statuettes have been excavated from the site, including one of Berenice, the daughter of Magus the king of Cyrene, and half-brother of Ptolemy II.

At the northeast tower, there is a sanctuary consisting of two small temples with a vestibule, and an altar believed to be that of Serapis and Iset.

When the temples were excavated, archaeologists found traces of fire damage; however there are no indications as to when this fire occured.

(Behind the Scenes) In the 20th century, a fortification was built above the ward, to defend against an invading army. It covered the ancient remains of nearby Roman houses entirely, and archaeologists have yet to fully excavate them.

The Gladiator Arena

Learn about gladiator arenas in the Roman Republic.

Lamp: Gladiators fighting / 1st Century

(Behind the Scenes)

While gladiators would not perform in Cyrene until tater in the Roman era, the team decided to include a gladiatorial arena for two reasons.

First, they believed it was important to portray this aspect of Roman life, and second, they felt it would add interesting gameplay possibilities.

Gladiators fighting / 4th Century

The first gladiators to enter the arena were prisoners of war.

It was a spectacle of violent clashes between men and against wild beasts that lasted nearly a thousand years.

Figurines of gladiators / Hellenistic Period

Eventually volunteers began to enter the ring. For status and money, many of the more skilled combatants increased the quality of the entertainment. Thus, the profession of gladiator came to be.

Bound by contract to the master of the gladiators, the fighters were fed, trained and guarded in barracks.

Helmet of a gladiator / 1st Century

Gladiators were separated into heavy and light armored fighters, each with their own set of specific armor and weapons.

Organizers often had two audience-favored factions face each other in combat.

Gladiators fighting / 4th Century

The events were highly organized. Fights were held with a background of music, and supervised by a referee.

Death, either in the course of combat or by decision, was not always the only way out for the loser.

Several were released due to their performance, and gained great notoriety as celebrities.

Major Exports of Cyrene

Learn about the major sources of economic weath for Cyrene.

Cypriote ring based juglet; [the inverted poppy shape] suggests that the jars once held opium, which is made from the sap. / 18th Dynasty

Cyrene's main source of economic wealth was in the cultivation and export of poppies and silphium.

Though the opium oil from the poppies was also an export, little is known about this crop.

Information about the cultivation of silphium, however, is more accessible to us.

Cyrene, Silver coin. Head of Ammon. (reverse) Silphium, c. 435-375 BCE / 1889

Silphium, with its yellow flower, was considered a gift from the sun god.

Grown solely in this region near the Mediterranean sea, silphium extract was exported at high prices and was so crucial to the wealth of Cyrenaica that it was depicted on their coins.

Vase of Aphrodite and Eros / Classical Antiquity

Silphium's roots produced a resin used by both the Greeks and Romans in medicines intended to cure cough, fever, indigestion and many other ailments. It was also used as a contraceptive.

In a compilation of culinary recipes from the 4th century BCE, the herb is mentioned in various recipes, including a flamingo dish.

Arcesilaus II, king of Cyrene, supervising the weighing and storage of silphium

High demand, overexploitation and possibly a shift in climate all contributed to the eventual extinction of silphium.

The last mention of it dates from the 4th century CE and to this day no traces of this plant have been identified.

Pyramids

The Origin of the Pyramid

Learn about early funerary monuments of ancient Egypt, and their evolution into the pyramidal structure we know so well today.

Heliopolis [Detail on Benben] / 2016 / Jean-Claude Golvin

The origin of the word “pyramid” is controversial. Most believe that it originates with the Greek word puramis, which referred to a bread of conical shape.

Life and death in ancient Egypt were modeled on the cycle of the sun. The perfect shape of the smooth-faced pyramid became associated with the metaphor of the pharaoh transformed into one of the sun's rays in death.

Pyramids represented the benben, the primordial mound of the Heliopolitan creation myth. These stories permeated every aspect of Egyptian life to a greater or lesser extent.

Mummified body / 3rd Millenium BCE / Museo Egizio, Turin, Italy

During the Predynastic period, the development of funerary practices was different depending on whether one was located in Lower Egypt or Upper Egypt.

Well before the pyramid, there was the burial pits.

It is on the site of Merimde Beni-Salame in Lower Egypt that we find the oldest funerary site, dating back to 5000 BCE.

Study of the tombs revealed that the bodies of the deceased were deposited in a shallow grave, in a fetal position. Though a few objects were recovered from these graves, they offered no insight as to the social class of those interred within.

Reconstruction of a man's tomb / Prehistory

In Upper Egypt, Predynastic practices are easier to study but reveal more complex funerary rites. They are divided into two cultural phases: Badarian and Nagada.

The Badarian phase ranged from 4400 BCE to 3800 BCE. Small necropolises were discovered on the outskirts of villages, revealing the emergence of a funerary cult.

The bodies of the deceased were lowered into an oval grave and covered with goat or gazelle skins. Items needed in everyday life were added atongside the body.

During the three Nagada periods, ranging from 4000 BCE to 3510 BCE, funerary practices evolved in complexity. The shape of tombs changed from oval to rectangular, mimicking the homes of the living. The size of the burials increased and funerary items became more stylized and numerous. Tombs gained complexity, with masonry, wooden veneers or raw bricks added to strengthen the structures. In time, socially stratified necropolises emerged. For example, in Hierakonpolis, the elite and commoners had separate necropolises.

A mastaba in Gizeh / 1997 / Jean-Claude Golvin

The term mastaba, meaning “massive bench” in dialectal Arabic, refers to a form of funerary architecture that was present in Egypt from the archaic period to the Middle Kingdom.

An evolution of the burial pit, mastabas were generally composed of two parts. À structure was built above the ground in the form of a massive rectangle with stepped walls, and a subterranean burial chamber was located underneath.

Smaller mastabas often surrounded the much larger tomb of the king. These generally held the remains of the king's relatives, and courtiers.

Model of the Tomb of Perneb / 5th Dynasty

The arrangement of the substructure of the mastaba evolved during the course of the Old Kingdom.

From the 5th dynasty onwards, mastabas often featured multi-roomed substructures, with sometimes up to 30 rooms. Also, the quantity and quality of decorated surfaces increased noticeably, as well as the number of statues found within.

West6 wall of the chapel of Kaemsenu with niches for Iretnub, Kaemsenu and Werdjedptah / 5th Dynasty

The 6th Dynasty would see art used to its utmost. The entire surface of a mastaba would be covered in scenes of daily life, illustrating the prosperity of those lucky enough to comfortably spend eternity near the pyramid of a pharaoh.

The best example of this type of mastaba is the tomb of Mereruka, in Saggara.

The Step Pyramid Complex of Djoser

Learn about the layout of the first stone monument erected by mandkind, the step pyramid complex of Djoser.

The step pyramid is at the center of an enclosed complex comprised of temples, models of palaces and artificial constructions all built for the afterlife of Pharaoh Djoser. The funeral complex itself covers 15 hectares and is located on the highest point of the Saqgara plateau. It's clear from the elaborate detail and scale of the complex that this was a technological marvel of its time. The only fragment of information regarding the design plans of the complex was discovered on a section of stone containing an architectural sketch of a vault.

The step pyramid is the first monument built of stone. Standing at 60 meters high, it was the tallest of its time. Built 4700 years ago, it was originally intended as a mastaba, which was a flat-roofed rectangular tomb. Its famous architect, Imhotep, may have felt this was too humble for the great Pharaoh Djoser, and began to add the steps.

The Step Pyramid complex is enclosed within a 1600-meter long wall that is 10 meters high. This large wall was made out of white limestone, and oriented along the north-south axis.

While there are fourteen doors, only its eastern door was intended to accommodate the living. The remaining false doors were built as portals for the king's ka to pass through. Along with false doorways, the walls were designed with bastions and steeples resembling a defensive wall. The positioning of these design elements suggest that they were related to the Heb Sed festival.

The only real entrance into the complex is at the end of a long narrow passageway. This enclosure has a stone canopy carved to resemble wooden logs. At the end of the passage is a large opening. Meant to resemble a doorway, it has carved doors and hinges that are permanently open and immovable.

The corridor is lined with twenty pairs of columns up to 6 meters high, built by stacking stone drums. The completed façade was made to resemble reed stalk bundles. Traces of red paint were found on the columns, along with black paint on the support walls. This would have had the effect of blending the walls into the shadows to give the red columns the illusion of standing on their own.

Chambers are located on either side of the columns, and are thought to be chapels representing the provinces of Upper and Lower Egypt. According to some Egyptologists, the arrangement of the rooms may be symbolic of jurisdiction and judgement.

Guarded by a line of carved snakes, this tomb is located at the southern end of the courtyard. The burial chamber is beneath it, down a 30-meter deep shaft. The low-ceilinged chamber resembles a mastaba, and is relatively intact compared to the later burial chamber. The tomb is made of pink granite, though there is evidence it was once polished limestone. Too small for a body, it is possible that the tomb was intended for the king's ka, or to hold the canopic jars containing the king's organs. Later traditions in burials would have the canopic jars in the same chamber as the body.

A polished limestone staircase leads west from the tomb to underground apartments. Some of these rooms were intended to accommodate the king and his family in the afterlite. Many large jars of pottery were found, including some that still had deposits of beer, milk and oil inside them. The false doorways are decorated with reliefs of the king taking part in rituals. In these reliefs he is seen carrying agricultural tools, running, and performing a ritual for the reanimation of the deceased.

The architect, Imhotep chose stone as a building material in order for the complex to last. Following the completion of the initial mastaba, Imhotep devised a burial of more ambitious dimensions. He set about stacking mastabas on top of each other. Evidence shows that the pyramid was enlarged twice by additional cuts into the steps, eventually reaching 62 meters in height, and 121 meters by 109 meters at its base.

A staircase allowing the pharaoh to enter the divine world was represented by a tiered pyramid, oblong in shape, completely enveloping the original mastaba. The pyramid itself is a solid structure. All of the chambers and tunneis are beneath the structure.

Pharaoh Djoser the Sacred was the founder of the 3rd Dynasty. He ruled for nineteen years. During his reign he was known as Horus Netjerykhet, "Divine of the Body." He was given the name Djoser several centuries after his death as a sign of respect, and he is regarded as one of the greatest pharaohs of Egypt. An apocrypha was drafted in his name during the Ptotemaic period, two thousand five hundred years after his death.

Djoser was associated with the sky god Horus in his human form. A plinth near the Step Pyramid is inscribed with his name and associated with Horus. He was the first to reside in Memphis, making it the central hub of government for the region. Djoser was known to have built many temples and monuments before the complex at Saqqara. The funerary complex was the first of its kind, and would mark Djoser's greatest architectural achievement.

The funerary complex was built to resemble Djoser's palace, with the stone carved to imitate mud brick, trees and reeds. Creating these details and softer textures in hard stone would have been a time-consuming, labor-intensive task. Much of the complex is designed to accommodate the Heb Sed festival, allowing the king the ability to affirm his rule even in the afterlife.

In the corner is a temple referred to as: T. This temple is among the most mysterious structures in the complex. Its outer façade is plain, while inside it is decorated with intricate djed pillars and carvings. It's possible that this place was intended to be where the ka of the king materialized, symbolically visiting the platform of the Heb Sed courtyard from the afterlife.

The Heb Sed festival enabled the pharaoh to maintain universal order, and renew godly powers. Through a series of trials and religious rites such as dance, offerings and visiting the sanctuaries of various deities, the ruler's vital force and divine nature was confirmed. The celebration was meant to represent the ruler's jubilee and would take place every 30 years, though the deadline was not always followed. The earliest known ritual dates from the 1st Dynasty.

Within the complex of Djoser, south-east of the pyramid, is a dedicated space for this essential ritual to be performed by the king even in the afterlife. The Heb Sed courtyard is lined with false chapels, and equipped with a platform featuring two staircases meant to represent Upper and Lower Egypt.

Located in the courtyard, the two pavilions are believed to represent the palaces of Upper and Lower Egypt. Rectangular in shape, the two replica structures face one another. Their façade is similar to the chapels of the Heb Sed ceremony, with column crowns carved to look Like falling leaves. Because Queen Hetephernebty and Princess Inetkaes' names were discovered on a stela near the pavilions, it is thought that these funerary chapels were intended for them.

Inside Djoser's Step Pyramid

Learn about Djoser's Step Pyramid and Imhotep's influence on the evolution of the pyramidal architecture.

Statuette of Imhotep / Late Period

The architect of the Step Pyramid, Imhotep, was a man of great importance to pharaoh Djoser, and ancient Egyptians in general.

The base of a statue of Djoser, discovered in 1926, celebrates Imhotep as a carpenter, sculptor, stone maker and chief of the seers.

Little is known of Imhotep's day-to-day life. While he is credited for writing medical texts, it is for his role as an architect that he is most famously known.

The Step Pyramid of Djoser / 2012

From the design of the pyramid to the elements within the complex itself, Imhotep set out to create something that would immortalize his king.

An architectural achievement, the Step Pyramid was made from stone blocks instead of mud-brick. It was the first time Egyptians built a monument of that height.

Imhotep explicitly intended for the stone to reflect natural materials.

The funerary complex of Djoser remained famous throughout the centuries and millennia, and its great architect Imhotep was deified by ancient Egyptians during the Late Period.

Vertical section, looking west..., in The Pyramids of GIzeh, from actualy survey and admeasurement, by J.S Perring (Detail) / 1839-1842

In addition to the central subterranean palace built for Djoser, eleven wells were dug. Each went to a depth of 33 meters, and connected with a horizontal gallery extending for about 20 meters.

The first five galleries were intended for members of the royal family.

Square of the pyramid..., in Reise zum Tempel des jupiter Ammon... by Heinrich Menu von Minutoli / 1824

Two passages lead underground and branch off in three directions to various magazine galleries.

This vast underground space accommodated sections for storage and ceremonial offerings.

One of the tunnels starting on the east side of the pyramid, contained 40 000 stone vessels, many of them belonging to the king's ancestors.

Pyramids of Saccara: Sections of apartments &c., in the Pyramids of Gizeh

The burial chamber of Djoser is located at the bottom of a 28-meter deep central shaft.

According to Egyptologist Jean-Philippe Lauer, the chamber was originally made from polished blocks of limestone, while its ceiling was decorated in five-pointed stars.

At some point however, the limestone blocks were replaced entirely by pink granite blocks, leaving behind only fragments of timestone blocks decorated with stars.

Pyramids of Saccara: Vertical section, looking west..., in The Pyramids of Gizeh

At the foot of the chamber are many tunnels going in all directions. This maze of tunnels, galleries and chambers stretches over 5 kilometers.

There are a number of dead ends and false doors. They may have been intended for the afterlife, rather than to fool thieves.

French Egyptologist Jean-Philippe Lauer on the site of Saqqara in 1939 / 1995

Unlike the great Pyramid of Giza or Menkaure, the pyramid of Djoser does not have any extra openings dug out by thieves.

There was no need for them. Because of the easy access into the tunnels and along the corridors, thieves had little trouble clearing out the temples once inside.

Itis unknown when the mummy of Djoser was stoten. All that remained was a left foot, found by French Egyptologist Jean-Philippe Lauer in 1934. This architect, who devoted his whole life to meticulously exploring the complex, believed it betonged to Djoser.

Encrustations, architectural elements, plague (Djoser Netjerikhet ?)

The pharaoh's apartments, also known as the blue chambers, are decorated with blue-green tiles meant to imitate the reed mating that covered the walls and windows of his palace.

The stone is carefully curved and painted to look like the rolled mats of open doorways and curtains.

There are two long rooms, running side by side along a north-south axis. The south room has false doors separated by stone panels, while the north room is a corridor which allows access to side chambers. Nearby chambers originally housed the pharaoh's treasures.

Pyramids of Saccara: Sections of apartments &c. in The Pyramids of Gizeh

The doorframes are made of fine limestone, and carved with the king's name.

As in the south tomb, reliefs are carved into the doorways. These reliefs show the king performing rituals, and visiting divine sanctuaries for all eternity.

Their interiors are fictive additions made by the team to add to the wonders of the tomb.

It is clear from the elaborate detail and scale of the complex that this funerary monument was a technological marvel of its time.

Sneferu's First Pyramid

Learn about Sneferu's Pyramid at Meidum.

With the long reign of Sneferu, the first king of the 4th Dynasty, the most brilliant and creative period began for the construction of funerary monuments in Egypt. Funerary monument design moved from the step pyramid to the smooth-faced pyramid, testament to the evolution of the practices of construction. The first attempt at this design was the pyramid of Meidum.

While Sneferu's monument started as a seven- stepped pyramid, it was later altered into an eight-stepped structure. The final phase of construction saw the steps filled out, and an outer casing applied to achieve a smooth surface.

The smooth dressing of the walls did not provide sufficient bonding however, and the outer casing did not rest on sound foundations. As a result, the bases of the four outer buttress walls gave way, causing the walls to slide down and collapse. While the Meidum pyramid was abandoned due to design flaws, it showcased other innovations that would impact all future pyramid designs.

Às well as the smooth sides, it was the first time a ceremonial pavement was built, Leading from the valley to the temple of the pyramid. Another innovation was that of the funerary chamber, which was no longer at the bottom of a well, but rather above ground level. This change signaled the beginning of the three-bedroom system.

The Bent Pyramid of Dahshur

Learn about the Bent Pyramid of Dahshur.

After the construction of the Meidum pyramid failed, Sneferu transferred his residence and the official necropolis to Dahshur. There he began construction on his second attempt at a funerary monument. The resulting structure, known as the Bent Pyramid, is the only one of its shape in Egypt.

Though the pyramid also proved unstable and was abandoned, it marked a technical and architectural breakthrough. Heralding an important design transition, the Bent Pyramid displays a shift from the step pyramid to a functional smooth-sided pyramid.

The Bent Pyramid was unique in having two separate entrances; one on the northern face and another on the western face. The chamber of this pyramid was too small for a human burial. It was probably meant for the burial of a statue designated to house the ka, the “vital spirit” of the deceased king.

With the Bent Pyramid, architects successfully experimented with a completely new idea: to build the pyramid with a core of huge stones settled on a progressive horizontal design. This way, each construction phase could be completed in a single stage, allowing the architect complete control over every design element. Unfortunately, these precautions did not prevent sagging or cracks in the interior rooms of the pyramid. Sneferu abandoned the monument, and began the construction of yet another pyramid.

The Red Pyramid of Dahshur

Learn about the Red Pyramid of Dahsur.

The Red Pyramid was built two kilometers to the north of the Bent Pyramid. It was so named due to the reddish limestone used in its construction. The Red Pyramid reached a height of 105 meters. While the ground level of the Red Pyramid is lower than that of the Bent Pyramid, its height is virtually the same. The task of making the pyramid a geometrical, true flat-face pyramid brought about yet another new design concept: the use of casing blocks.

The descending corridor of the pyramid, which opens to the north, arrives at ground level, where two almost identical spectacular chambers with high ceilings are aligned north to south, and connected by a short horizontal passage. In the south wall of the second chamber, accessed by a staircase, another corridor leads to the final chamber, which is built within the masonry of the pyramid itself, and aligned east to west.

The annexes of the Red Pyramid consist of a small funerary temple, Located to the east. A causeway presumably ran due east from the temple, but it has yet to be excavated.

The Red Pyramid was structurally sound, and once finished, marked a remarkable design milestone. Finally successful in his attempts to buitd himself a suitable funerary monument, Sneferu knew his future beyond death was assured.

Pyramids of the Middle Kingdom

Learn about the various funerary monuments of the Middle Kingdom.

During the Middle Kingdom era, the powerful rulers of the 12th dynasty resumed the tradition of elaborate pyramidal tombs. For example, Amenemhbat I built a funerary complex in Lisht, and Senwosret II selected the Illahoun site in the Faiyum. Amenemhat II and Sesostris III however, cast their favor towards Dahshur. Amenembhat III built a pyramid there as well before moving to Hawara in the Faiyum.

The plundering of tombs in troubled times prompted the architects of the Middle Kingdom to devise increasingly complicated means of security during construction. As such, while the architectural plans of the Hawara pyramid were simpler than the one at Dahshur, the means used to protect it from looters were much more elaborate. Beyond the use of blind passages and concealed trapdoors, the architects relied on a system of stone slabs which were slid into place at the end of construction. These massive stone stabs were meant to permanently block the passageways leading to the funerary chambers.

The kings of the 13th Dynasty began building their pyramids at Mazghouna, south of Dahshur, then moved on to Faiyum and Abydos. The kings of the 17th dynasty, however, satisfied themselves with crowning their cave tombs with small pyramids of raw brick. The kings of the 18th dynasty gave up the shape of the pyramid as a royal tomb entirely. They chose a mountain with a pyramidal shape in the Valley of Kings, and dug their graves there.

It was not until the Nubian pharaohs of the 25th dynasty that kings were once again buried under pyramidal tombs. In fact today, the area of ancient Nubia, modern Sudan, contains a record number of 220 known pyramids, to Egypt's 138. Despite their slow decline in use and quality, pyramids continued to fascinate all and sundry, up to the Roman era. They remain to this day a symbol of the religious dedication of the Pharaohs, and the grandeur of ancient Egypt.

An Overview of The Giza Necropolis

Learn about the plateau hosting most famous necropolis of ancient Egypt.

Pyramids of Gizeh / 1997 / Jean-Claude Golvin

The Giza plateau is located on the West Bank of the Nile, and was considered by ancient Egyptians as the domain of the dead.

The pyramidal complexes found there were built over the span of three generations, during the reign of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure.

Temple and Sphinx (detail) / 1997 / Jean-Claude Golvin

The Giza area, now famous for its three pyramidsm is part of a wider grouping of funerary complexes. Rulers from this period generally elected to be buried in the area.

The focal point of the entire region was the city of Memphis, chosen as the capital of Egypt at the beginning of the Old Kingdom.

Topographic Plan for a Part of the Memphis Necropolis (detail) / 19th Century

The placement of the Giza monuments and particularly that of the pyramids, followed a practical, yet strict alignment. First they focused on cardinal points, and then they accounted for the natural geology of the plateau.

The Riddles of the Sphinx

Learn about the Great Sphinx of Giza, and different changes the Sphinx endured through time.

Karnak. (Dromos) Alley with ram-headed sphinxes / 1st Dynasty

A sphinx was originally meant to be a personification of the king.

The human head, wearing pharaonic regalia, was fused with the body of a lion, thus sharing the qualities the powerful animal possessed. Namely its power, the swiftness of its attack, and its majestic authority.

By these very virtues, it was also considered a symbol of protection. Unsurprisingly, statues of sphinxes coutd be found along the dromos, protectors of the path taken by the gods to reach the temples.

Pyramids of Gizeh - Sphinx / 1997 / Jean-Claude Golvin

Over the centuries, enthusiasts and historians alike have wondered... Who built the Sphinx? For what purpose? And who does it represent?

These questions remain unanswered. Several theories do exist however, some more credible than others.

One theory supposes that Djedefre chose to pay homage to his father, Khufu, by building the Great Sphinx of Giza.

The stone temple on the eastern face of the Sphinx would have been added later on by his brother and successor, Khafre, in order to strengthen the divine worship of their father. It would be the first Egyptian temple oriented with the sun.

Royal Head (Didoufri), (also known as Djedefre) / 4th Dynasty

Another theory suggests that the Sphinx was built by Khafre, and was meant to represent him.

The arguments to support this hypothesis are based on the fact that the limestone beds used for the main work of the temple of the Sphinx are geographically and architecturally similar to the Valley Temple of Khafre.

Some believe that Khufu himself built the Sphinx, which was later finished under his successors, Djedefre and Khafre.

These arguments are based on the stylistics of the engraving, the typology of the nemes, and the absence of a beard at the time of construction.

Temple Sphinx / 1997 / Jean-Claude Golvin

While ancient Egypt, as a whole, leaves a rather monochrome vision of its monuments and statuary, it is vital to understand that in ancient times, absolutely everything was painted.

The sun eating away at the pigments of the colors, the sand, the climate and the implacable impact of time unfortunately destroyed the glorious colors of the Sphinx of Giza.

Documents from an Arab Egyptologist of the 12th century Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi, indicate that traces of red were still visible in his time.

Today, however, the only color that remains are traces of red close to the ears of the Sphinx, as well as hints of blue and yellow on the nemes, traditional colors for that type of headdress.

The pigments for the color red was manmade, obtained by mixing different products such as clay, quartz sand and very finely crushed hematite.

Guardian Figure (wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt) / circa 1919-1885 BCE

(Behind the Scenes)

Red had a strong symbolism in ancient Egypt. It was both the color of life and the color of death. It could represent the sands of the desert, or the brilliance of the sun. Red was also associated with the god Seth, vengeful and destructive.

The Egyptian word for red, dSr, is also the word which was used to signify the desert, or the royal crown of Lower Egypt.

In art, red was also the color used to paint the bodies of men, while the yellow was used for women.

It is possible that there were also color restoration efforts during the Saite Period about 600 years before Cleopatra's rule, as indicated by notes on the Inventory Stele, discovered in 1858 by Auguste Mariette.

Itis because of this that the Team made the decision to display it with its full range of colors, even though the Sphinx's colors would have likely faded by Cleopatra's time.

Side view of the Sphinx of Gizeh, Auguste Mariette papers / 1853

Dating from the 4th dynasty, approximately 2600-2500 BCE, the Great Sphinx of Giza is the oldest and largest sphinx that we know of.

Carved from a natural limestone outcrop, the Sphinx measures 19.8 meters in height, 73.2 meters in length and 14 meters in width.

Sphinx of Khafre, with the pyramid of Cheops on the horizon / circa 1919-1885 BCE

(Behind the Scenes)

In order to bring polish to the imposing monument, several blocks of limestone were added after the initial construction phase. Since then, there have been numerous attempts at preservation.

The polish present in the game integrates some aspects of modern restoration attempts. The team made this choice to present a more iconic version of the Sphinx of Giza to the player.

Today the Sphinx is called The Terrifying One. This appellation is translated from its Arabic name, Abu'l Hôl, which in turn was derived from Balhouba, in Coptic.

Gizeh: Sphinx / 19th Century

The Sphinx as a whole was carved in situ, from a natural stone promontory.

Its head was built in a limestone peak of the Mokattam plate, and the body was sculpted in the underlying rock layer where it is located.

The degradation of the Sphinx is due in particular to wind erosion and the different quality of limestone used in its construction. The level of sodium contained in the groundwater which abuts the stone is also a contributing factor.

Gizeh. Sphinx & Great Pyramid of Cheops / 1909

The natural bedrock is seen through the oblique natural strata of the Sphinx's body that are similar to the surrounding limestone.

"L'encyclopedie", Diderot & d'Alembert, tome 12 / 1762

Since Antiquity people have always believed there was a hidden tomb deep within the Sphinx.

It is thought that attempts to plunder the Sphinx began as far back as the First Intermediate Period.

Since then, numerous attempts to pierce the Sphinx's secrets have been carried out, leaving indelible scars upon the monument.

(Behind the Scenes) Twelve meters long and cut during pharaonic times, another entrance in the back of the Sphinx aroused curiosity. Although Thutmose IV attempted to seal it off, it was possibly reopened by treasure hunters. It was rediscovered by Howard Vyse, and mapped more recently by Mark Lehner. This entrance at the back of the Sphinx leads to different cavities of a few meters each, in directions going inside the statue's body and under the surface. The team has used this opportunity to extrapolate a little more.

While there have been no major discoveries pertaining to the Sphinx of Giza in recent years, theories and hypotheses continue to emerge. Without validation provided by archeological sources, however, they remain unsubstantiated.

Recumbent Anubis / circa 664-30 BCE

The first of the main theories as to the Sphinx of Giza's meaning posits that the sphinx was originally a massive representation of the god Anubis. lts principal arguments are that that the head of the sphinx is disproportionate compared to the size of its body.

The second theory believes that the representation of two sphinxes on the stela of Thumosis IV would indicate that another stone sphinx had existed on the site itself, possibly even in paired symmetry on the other side of the Nile.

However, neither of these theories can be verified in any way.

Montage of different versions of the sphinx during the development of the game / 2016 / Ubisoft

(Behind the Scenes)

Several scientific projects using new technologies have been put in place in the past decades.

The most important was led by Mark Lehner and his team, who specialize in the study and survey of the Giza plateau, including the Sphinx site. The mapping made it possible to see the materials used to construct the Sphinx, analyze the different layers of erosion, and figure out the most fragile areas to protect.

After a few attempts at giving the Sphinx artistic proportions, the team instead decided to use photogrammetry mapping to faithfulty reproduce the proportions of the Sphinx.

Sphinx of Amenhotep III, possibly from a Model of a Temple / circa 1390-1352 BCE

What the Sphinx of Giza represented during its construction, and how the sphinx was perceived by the Egyptians of the New Kingdom are two very different matters.

Originally a representation of the king imbued with the power of the lion, the sphinx was eventually viewed as a direct representation of the most divine.

It is theorized that kings of the New Kingdom believed that the Sphinx of Giza was the one who recognized and legitimized the ruler of Egypt.

Thus, despite the fact the Sphinx of Giza was partially buried under the sand during his reign, Amenhotep II knew that the monument was of great importance.

Scarab Inscribed with the Throne Name of Amenhotep II (featuring a shpinx) / circa 1427-1401 BCE

Amenhotep II built a second temple dedicated for the Sphinx-as-Horemakhet, to pay homage to Khufu and Khafre, his predecessors.

It became a common habit for this dynasty to spend time with their royal courts at the Sphinx. Its sanctuary became known as Setepet; The Chosen.

Ramses II, making an offering of incense and water to the Great Sphinx Harmakhis

Egyptologist Mark Lehner believed that Amenhotep Il built a statue of himself anchored between the paws of the Sphinx, likely to legitimize his reign, alongside a stela, found by Selim Hassan.

Many other pharaohs of this dynasty, such as Tutankhamun and Ramses II, also left marks of their passage in a similar fashion, sometimes even stripping the stones of nearby temples and pyramids to do so. Amenhotep II's son and successor, Thutmose IV, was a frequent offender.

Djizeh necropolis of Memphis - Sphinx & pyramids / 1851 - 1852

While sleeping between the Sphinx's paws, the future Thutmose IV saw in a dream the god Horemakhet proclaiming his coming accession on the throne of the Two Lands.

This was, of course, on the condition that he remove all of the sand covering the Sphinx, which stood guard as the personification of the god, and should thus never be engulfed by the sands of the desert.

Pyramids of Gizeh (Works of Mr Mariette. Stela at the base of the Sphinx, excavated by Mr Mariette; Dec 1852, Egypt, Gizeh) / 1854

The 15-ton dream stela built by Thutmose IV to commemorate his dream was discovered by an Italian Egyptologist, Giovanni Battista Caviglia in 1818, when he undertook the task of freeing the Sphinx from the sand which had, yet again, covered it.

Cavigilia was looking for an entrance into the structure of the Sphinx, but instead, he discovered an open-air chapel and stelas between the paws. Ashes from a ceremony were still present. Protected by sand, they quite possibly were from the last ceremonies in Roman times.

The Great Sphinx of Gizeh / 19th Century

That same year, Cavigilia discovered fragments of the Sphinx's beard that had probably been added during the New Kingdom.

If many of these pieces are held by museums in Cairo, a fragment is displayed at the British Museum, along with a piece of the uraeus that was on the Sphinx's headdress.

It is believed this fragment of beard was possibly kept in place thanks to the statue of Amenhotep II, which was supposed to be located under the head of the Sphinx.

Bonaparte Before the Sphinx, by Jean-Leon Gerome; circa 1868

A popular cultural Legend purports that the nose of the Sphinx of Giza was lost during the time of Napoleon Bonaparte, to the cannon fire of French soldiers in training.

However, engravings from before the time of that campaign already depicted the Sphinx without a nose, indicating that it had been removed before the French campaign.

The most plausible hypothesis is based on the research of the German historian Ulrich Haarmann. During the 1980s, Haarmann compiled medieval sources written by Arab authors. In doing so, he discovered that the sphinx was once perceived as a favorable omen, a deity supporting sediment-nurturing floods and crops. Around 1378, a Sufi by the name of Mohammed Sa'im al-Dahr could not stand this vision of the monument and in an iconoclastic act, broke the nose of the Sphinx. According to the texts, he was then hanged and burned between the legs of the Sphinx for his crime.

Khufu's Funerary Complex

The valley temple was the first architectural component encountered when one entered the funerary complex. Itwas considered the official entrance of the tomb, and mixed the structural components of both a temple and a portico. Khufu's valley temple shows evidence of a basalt pavement, letting us know where the portico portion of the structure was located. Such a partition is believed to symbolize both the subterranean and solar aspects of the afterlife.

Khufu's causeway ran from the floodplain up to the plateau, linking together the valley temple and the mortuary temple. A traditional causeway presented itself as a paved path, enclosed by walls and often roofed.

Fragments discovered by archeologists indicate that the walls in Khufu's causeway, one of the longest known to us, were decorated with carvings and possibly paint. Depictions show a great variety of themes: stars on the ceiling accompanied by scenes of battles on the walls. Other engravings depicted the creation of the complex by illustrating craftsmen at work.

The most impressive private cemeteries of Giza are located east and west of Khufu's pyramid. The eastern cemetery was reserved for members of the royal family, while the western cemetery was mostly set aside for various court dignitaries. In both areas, private tombs, also known as mastabas, were aligned and laid out methodically in streets and avenues. This arrangement was probably an attempt at recreating the king's court for the afterlife.

To the east of Khufu's pyramid reside three smaller constructions: the three Queens' Pyramids. A stoping passage led from the ground surface to a burial chamber, cut out of the bedrock and lined with masonry. If it seems quite certain that these monuments were intended for queens' burials, the identity of the original occupants is hard to assess.

The northernmost pyramid was most likely meant for Queen Hetepheres, who is believed to have been Khufu's mother. However, in 1925 her actual tomb was discovered nearby, by accident. It was hidden at the bottom of a deep masonry pit, in an underground chamber. Within the concealed chamber, Egyptologists discovered the most complete royal funerary equipment dating from the Old Kingdom... though her body was missing.

Within the vicinity of Khufu's pyramid, Egyptologists have uncovered seven boat-pits. The exact function of such boat-shaped pits remains unconfirmed, though one can easily conjecture that it was symbolic in nature. The boat-pits being located at the eastern side of the pyramid, at the precise spot where the resuscitated king was supposed to reappear, could constitute evidence to support such an assumption.

The two southern boat-pits, each covered by a roof of huge limestone slabs, were discovered in 1954 by Kamal al-Mallakh, an Egyptian Egyptologist. Only one of them had been opened. 1224 boat parts made of cedar wood were retrieved one by one, and patiently reassembled by the master restorer Ahmed Youssef. This process took 28 years. Youssef worked by following lines of mortice and tenon joints, and by stitching parts together with vegetable ropes, all in order to keep the design as authentic as possible.

The Greek term pyramidion refers to the capstone of a pyramid, or the tip of an obelisk. In ancient Egyptian, both components were called benben. This word was also used for a specific kind of food: a cone-shaped offering made of bread. The pyramidion was intended to be a miniature reproduction of the pyramid, making it equal to the monument itself in symbolic importance.

A few pyramidia have been retrieved from pyramidal complexes. The earliest, found in Dahshur, is undoubtedly a good example of Old Kingdom's pyramidia; it is made of limestone and has no inscriptions. Some engraved pyramidia were recovered from private funerary chapels. Their inscriptions all related to the solar symbolism of the benben.

(Behind the Scenes) The pyramidia of the pyramids of Giza were never recovered. The reconstitution you see in the game is fictive, incorporating a golden pyramidion bearing inscriptions relevant to Khufu.

The Secrets of the Great Pyramid

Built around 2550 BCE, the Great Pyramid of Giza is considered one of the most iconic structures of Egypt. It is the biggest of the pyramids, and the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing. The numbers associated to the Great Pyramid of Giza are impressive: a workforce of over 20 000 people, six million tons of stone, and twenty years of construction. lt was a massive undertaking for a pharaoh's tomb.

The construction of the Great Pyramid was also a display of power and opulence on the part of Khufu. Itis part of the pharaoh's vast funerary complex, which also includes two temples, three satellite pyramids, a causeway and a builders' necropolis. We can guess that the intent behind the construction of these monuments was Khufu's way of declaring himself one of the most powerful pharaohs to rule a unified Egypt.

New insights into engineering and ancient Egyptian culture are still being revealed over 4500 years later. For example, a recently unearthed papyrus offers a glimpse into the life of a tradesman at the time of the pyramid's construction. Also, a logbook belonging to a team leader during the building gives details on the craftsmen, their work schedules and the raw materials required.

It is interesting to note that by Cleopatra's time, the pyramid's celestial purpose, its construction and the function of its mysterious inner chambers was already unclear. Today, it is only through dedicated research that we have begun to grasp some of the Great Pyramid's mysteries.

The Egyptians had polished their design for centuries by the time work on the Great Pyramid began. Intended as a tomb for Khufu, the Great Pyramid's structural design has been considered to be nearly perfect by engineers and historians ever since.

Precisely oriented north-south to the four cardinal points of a compass, the length of each side of the Great Pyramid at its base was 230 meters, and its original height was 147 meters. The pyramid is a mere .05 percent error away from being a perfect square.

In order to achieve the shape of a true pyramid, the design required many considerations in the planning phases, as well as precision during execution. lt was especially critical that they control the angle of inclination on all sides at every stage of construction.

Materials for the Great Pyramid consisted of quarried limestone blocks, weighing between 2 to 15 tons each. The methods of moving these blocks into place is still debated by architects and Egyptologists. The precision of its design in an age with only soft metal tools, as well as the enormous scale of its construction, make the Great Pyramid one of the most impressive feats of human engineering.

It's estimated that it took between 600 000 and 2 million blocks of stone to build the Great Pyramid. Experts calculate it would have required men to move twelve blocks every hour around the clock for twenty years to place the 2.3 million stones the monument is made of.

While the interior chambers were built with red granite from Aswan, most of the pyramid was made from local limestone, weighing between 2 to 15 tons per block. There is debate on how the pyramid stones were moved into place. Recent research is exploring the idea that it was built around a large interior ramp.

The recently discovered logbook confirms that the high quality limestone of the outer casing was brought by boat across the Nile, from a quarry in Turah. Once complete, the smooth white polished stone of the Great Pyramid woutd've reflected the sunlight Like a beacon, earning it the name “The Horizon of Khufu".

Over the centuries, thieves and travelers attempted to access the Great Pyramid numerous times. Ancient writings describe details of its interior, proof that some made their way within, though who gained entrance first, and when, is unknown.

The main entrance of the Great Pyramid is located 17 meters above ground level. It faces north, likely in order to align with the North Star. Though the entrance passageway had been discovered in antiquity, any further access into the Great Pyramid was stopped by massive vertical slabs of rock. As such, present-day visitors to the pyramid must use the Robbers' Entrance.

(Behind the Scenes) The Robbers' Entrance is reported to have been opened in the 9th century by Caliph Al-Ma'mun. In search of treasure, the Caliph had his men dig their way inside the Great Pyramid. The most likely scenario is that they enlarged a corridor which had been created by tomb robbers during antiquity. As such, this is how the team can justify access to this wonder.

Attempts to gain entry to the Great Pyramid and uncover its potential secrets continued throughout the centuries. In the 19th century, the belief that another entry existed at the south side resulted in a hole being blasted into the pyramid's side, with no results for the damage that was done. While the search is still ongoing today to uncover more hidden rooms and passageways, conservation is the primary concern of all such efforts.

The Great Pyramid: Subterranean Chamber

From the original entrance of the Great Pyramid there is a passage leading to the subterranean chamber. lts walls were carved out of the existing rock of the plateau and then covered in a fine unmarked limestone. The descending passage has a steep 26-degree downward slope. Narrow and with a low ceiling, this pathway is long and challenging.

(Behind the Scenes) While the original passage was 145 meters long, the team reduced its length, and made it both wider and higher. The main focus of the work in reproducing the location was centered upon preserving the unique claustrophobic environment of the Great Pyramid, while still allowing for a smooth game navigation.

The well shaft was a 58-meter vertical passage that connected the descending corridor to the Grand Gallery above. An adjacent grotto may have originally been a small natural well in the bedrock that was enlarged during the tunneling. Whether the grotto was intended for another purpose is uncertain.

There is much speculation over the purpose of the well shaft. One theory is that the channel was cut or enlarged to supply air to workers in the descending passage. Another is that it was meant to provide an exit route once the work was done in the heart of the pyramid. Without the well shaft, workers would have been trapped inside forever when the Grand Gallery was sealed. The opening at the bottom of the well shaft was most likely sealed by exiting workers to camouflage the passageway.

There is a subterranean chamber at the end of the descending corridor, 30 meters below the Giza plateau's surface. Dug directly into the bedrock, the space is wide with a ceiling three meters in height. Its floors and walls are rough and uneven, indicating that it was never completed. At the south end of the room there is another narrow corridor, similar to the others, though it abruptly ends after roughly 20 meters.

(Behind the Scenes) The chamber also contains an 11-meter pit near the east side. It's unclear what this may have been used for. In the game, this well Leads to a fictive underground complex, containing key game-related mysteries.

The subterranean chamber's original purpose remains a mystery. One popular theory is that it was originally meant to be Khufu's burial chamber. But the pharaoh changed his mind, preferring to be buried higher up in the pyramid, which would explain the chamber's unfinished state.

The Great Pyramid of Giza: Upper Chambers

At the entrance of the ascending passage are three granite flagstones estimated to weigh up to 25 tons each. They were used to protect the Great Pyramid from thieves. Undaunted by the granite blocks, the thieves simply dug into the softer limestone around them, thus creating the Robbers' Entrance.

(Behind the Scenes) While in reality the Robbers' Entrance is one single cavity which leads to both passages, in the game, the team created individual accesses to either passage. As such, in the game, one entrance leads to the ascending passage, while another leads to the descending passage.

The ascending passageway of the Great Pyramid provides a direct path into the Grand Gallery, and is accessed 30 meters from the entrance along the descending corridor. Both corridors have similar dimensions and are designed with the same 26-degree incline.

The ascending corridor has smooth masonry on its walls, and the layout includes many trapezoidal stones. Bath the ftoor and ceiling of the passageway indicate that the passage was enlarged, possibly during or after the funeral, to allow workers room to move granite blocks meant to plug the corridor.

The Grand Gallery's purpose is still debated among experts. It may have been intended to align with the stars, act as a buffer to protect the King's Chamber or simply to facilitate the transport of the granite blocks used inside the pyramid. Access to the Queen's Chamber was at the beginning of the Grand Gallery.

Though this room is referred to as the Queen's Chamber, it is believed that there was no queen buried here. Based on their knowledge of earlier pyramids, Egyptologists believe it was more likely intended as the king's serdab, a chamber meant to contain the ka statue, which would in turn house the king's spirit.

Situated exactly within the pyramid's center, on the east-west axis of the pyramid, the chamber has a vaulted ceiling and measures 5.7 by 5.2 meters. In the eastern wall there is a niche, tucked away in a small corbelled archway, which may have originally held the ka statue. Behind this niche is another smaller hole, possibly dug out by thieves in search of further treasure.

In the 19th century, two shafts were found running through the north and south walls. They each run in a horizontal line for 2 meters before sloping upward, and both are closed off with limestone blocks fitted with copper handles. Whether they were intended as ventilation shafts for workers or a celestial connection for the pharaoh's spirit is unconfirmed.

A recent scan of the room indicated the presence of an unknown cavity hidden behind the north face of the walls over the descending corridor. Further investigation is still ongoing, to ascertain the nature of the anomaly so as to avoid risking damage to the monument.

Khufu's architects were possibly influenced by earlier rhomboidal pyramids when designing the Gallery. Itis the longest corbelled vault ever built, measuring 47 meters Long and 8.60 meters high. The walls were made to taper inward, allowing for better distribution of weight. As a result, the ceiling measures just over a meter wide at its highest point. Though this construction technique is present in other pyramids, few have the same precision and stability.

While the space is visually dramatic, the Gallery seemed to serve a practical function, though what exactly remains uncertain. Stilt, the wall design was undoubtedly meant to contribute to the stability of the structure, and its floor may have helped workers move the materials. A channel runs along the middle of the room. A movable floor originally rested in this central recess. The raised benches on either side are equipped with slots that may have been used to help position the granite blocking stones.

Atthe end of the Grand Gallery is the entrance to the antechamber leading to the King's Chamber. Directly above, there is another narrower horizontal passage that connects to the top of the King's Chamber, and allowed the workers access to the weight relief rooms.

The far end of the Grand Gallery leads to a small antechamber, with a portcullis preventing access to the King's Chamber. The portcullis was composed of three separate granite slabs. They were designed to be lowered into place, and seal the chamber after the burial of the king. The grooves dug out to hold the slabs in place are still clearly visible to this day. The elaborate locking system was composed of a series of grooves for the ropes and pulleys that dropped the stones into place, like the notches on a key.

(Behind the Scenes) For the purposes of the game, the team elected to remove the portcullis slabs in order to grant the player access to the King's Chamber. In reality, workers would've backed out of the room after the funeral, Lowering each slab into place behind them one at a time. Each of the three stones were smashed by looters centuries later, and evidence of their break-in is still evident.

The King's Chamber is built entirely out of red granite. The King's Chamber measures 5.8 meters in height. It has an imposing cover of five stacked levels above, with granite beams weighing 25 to 40 tons each. The uppermost Level is surmounted by a vault of stones, arranged in chevrons to bear the enormous structural load.

As in the Queen's Chamber, two shafts extend out from the room towards the north and south faces of the pyramid. They measure nearly 64 meters until they are blocked by copper-handled granite plugs. Some experts in the culture of the Old Kingdom believe that the shafts were thought to lead the king's soul to the stars, with the incarnation of the pharaoh as the god Ra represented by the northern well, and the god Horus by the southern well.

There is a granite sarcophagus at the west end of the room, but it is the concealed construction inscriptions left by workmen on the roof's stones which verify this as the resting place of Khufu. The sarcophagus was recorded as being empty when it was discovered, and its design indicates that there was once a lid in place. It's possible that this sarcophagus is only a cenotaph in memory of the Pharaoh, but was never actually meant to recieve the body.

Khufu's mummy was never found. It is hoped that as of yet undiscovered hidden rooms and shafts of the pyramid may provide an answer as to its location.

Jean-Pierre Houdin's Theories

(Behind the Scenes) The team wanted to provide players with a sense of exploration and discovery, particularly within the Great Pyramid. As such, a decision was made that the internal design of the monument in the game would reflect Jean-Pierre Houdin's theories. While the antechambers of the king's tomb have yet to be discovered, Houdin posits that this is merely due to a unique design placing the pharaoh's tomb at the center of the pyramid. The entire tour you are about to take was designed along Houdin's hypotheses.

(Behind the Scenes) While respecting Houdin's hypothesis as to the general layout of the antechambers, the team wanted the contents to enhance the game experience. In regular royal tombs the antechambers were filled with all the material goods needed by the pharaoh in the afterlife. To support the feelings of discovery and awe, the art team created a unique and fantastical treasure in this second antechamber.

(Behind the Scenes) Houdin theorized that the ascending corridor and the Great Gallery were used by the workers to haul hoist the heavy beams above the king's chamber. He called it the Service Circuit. The corridor you are in now was created by the team following Houdin's theory, and is referred to as the Noble Circuit. Itis through this corridor that the wooden sarcophagus containing the pharaoh's mummy would have been transported to its final resting chamber.

(Behind the Scenes) With this structure in mind, one can easily assume that the pyramid's entrance would have been connected to the two antechambers. Modern research has revealed that a cavity might be located behind the north face chevrons of the pyramid. As such, the team chose to create this area for the player to explore. Here is where Houdin believes that the priests and nobles would have exited the pyramid after the burial ceremony.

(Behind the Scenes) Many theories regarding the construction of the Great Pyramid rely on the usage of external ramps. However, Houdin believes an external ramp would have been too steep for the upper portion of the pyramid. This is why he posits that there were two ramps: an external ramp for about half of the height of the pyramid, which then became an internal ramp for the second half.

(Behind the Scenes) Houdin's theory states that this internal ramp followed the sides of the pyramid in an ascending spiral pattern. A notch discovered in the edge of the Great Pyramid known as Bob's Room seems to support this theory. Located at the corners of each edge of the pyramid, these large rooms would have allowed workers to turn the stone by 90 degrees, allowing them to continue the ascent. The team chose to create rooms such as this one, bringing Houdin's hypothesis to life.

(Behind the Scenes) This long corridor was the first section of the ascending internal ramp. Through it, the blocks used to build the Great Pyramid would have been carefully moved upward, and then turned at each edge of the pyramid in order to continue their ascent. Though the team only created the main ramp for the game, Houdin posits that this ramp had two levels, allowing workers to return safely to the bottom thanks to an additional corbelled upper section.

(Behind the Scenes) According to Houdin, the start of the inner ramp was located at the base of the southeastern face of the pyramid. This location would have been the junction point of the external and internal ramps. Below us, workers would have built the lower part of the pyramid with the external ramp, before eventually switching to the internal ramp for the middle and upper sections of the pyramid. At that time in the process, they could have reused the material of the external ramp to fill the center of the pyramid, hauling the stones in through the internal ramp.

Khafre's Funerary Complex

Since the very beginning of the 4th dynasty, mortuary temples were built adjacent to pyramids, on the eastern side. Such a location, facing the rising sun as well as the world of the living as a whole, held an important symbolic meaning, for it was within the mortuary temple that kings were revived through daily rituals.

In its standard form, a mortuary temple was divided into two parts: a front area which consisted of a vestibule and a courtyard, and an area in the back, where all sacred elements were located. The back of the temple incorporated several essential features, including an inner sanctuary with a false door, which allowed the soul of the pharaoh to travel between the world of the dead and the world of the living.

The largest of all such structures, Khafre's mortuary temple, was entirely built with megalithic blocks of limestone from a nearby quarry, and encased with granite. Parts of Khafre's mortuary temple, particularly the courtyard walls, are thought to have been decorated with splendid reliefs. However, not a single image of the king has been discovered inside the mortuary temple.

Khufu's direct successor, Djedefre, followed the custom which required each king to establish a new site for their funerary accommodation, and chose Abu Rawash as his last resting place. When the time came to build his own funerary complex, Khafre, also one of Khufu's sons and the successor to Djedefre, broke with tradition, and returned to Giza. Not only did Khafre thumb his nose at tradition, but he did so in a way which he hoped would allow him to overshadow his father's most important monument.

Though Khafre's pyramid is smaller than Khufu's, it was cunningly built on a more elevated bedrock layer than the Great Pyramid, making it appear higher than any other pyramid at Giza. Today, Khafre's pyramid is the only one among the three at Giza that still has the upper part of its limestone casing.

Considered a most sacred area, the Giza necropolis was strictly defined, both geographically and physically. An 8-meter thick Turah limestone wall completely surrounded the Great Pyramid. The only way inside would have been through the mortuary temple.

From the reign of Sneferu and onwards, the subsidiary pyramid became a common feature within the pyramidal complex. The function of the subsidiary pyramid however, smaller in size and in height than the royal tomb, remains unclear, though some believe that it was meant to house the ka of the pharaoh.

In mainstream media, the ka is often defined as the soul of the deceased. The truth is a bit more complicated. Within the ancient Egyptian funerary belief system, the ka was a component of a living person, which separated itself from the body at the time of death. It represented the deceased's vital essence. In order for the deceased to ascend to a new life, whether in this world or the next, the ka had to be embodied in a statue, and its existence maintained through offerings and rituals.

Within Khafre's subsidiary pyramid, a wooden box containing pieces of cedar was discovered by archaeologists. When reassembled, it turned out to be a shrine mounted on a sled. Just as with the solar barges found around Khufu's pyramid, it seems Khafre's shrine and sled were ritually disposed of after his funeral.

Menkaure's Funerary Complex

Sepulchral Chamber, Third Pyramid, by Howard-Vyse & Perring / 1840

The dimensions of Menkaure's pyramid are much less grandiose. However, unlike its predecessors, Menkaure's pyramid shows a great deal of complexity in its internal and external finish.

The outside was partially covered in red granite, while the internal walls were richly decorated. This latter innovation would not catch on until the end of the 5th dynasty, when pyramid texts began to adorn the walls.

Section Through Centre of Third Pyramid, by Howard-Vyse & Perring / 1840

Menkaure's pyramid contains two sloping passages, both located in the northern side of the structure.

The upper one was abandoned during the construction phase, whereas the lower one, slightly above the base of the monument, constitutes the real entrance.

The lower passage leads to a first room, which, for the first time since the reign of Djoser, is decorated with engraved false doors.

Seated Statue of King Menkaure

While Menkaure's pyramid complex was unfinished at the time of his death, it was hastily, and somewhat shabbily, completed by his successor, Shepseskaf.

Even so, this funerary structure marks a watershed in the history of this kind of monument. From then onwards, the pyramid shrank, whereas the mortuary temple expanded both in its quantitative and qualitative aspects.

Of particular note, it is within Menkaure's mortuary temple that one can find the heaviest block of limestone ever used for a pyramid complex, weighing in at over 200 tons.

Pyramid of Gizeh (detail)

Menkaure's causeway was completed in mud-brick by the king's successor, whereas the lower part was nothing more than a simple ramp.

As for the valley temple, it was built in two phases: the foundations were first laid out in limestone during Menkaure's reign, but the temple itself was completed in mud-brick afterwards.

As such, the valley temple was soon damaged and ended up being completely rebuilt during the 6th dynasty.

View of the Pyramids South of Third Pyramid, by Howard-Vyse & Perring / 1840

Three small structures referred to as Menkaure's Queens' Pyramids, were erected along the southern side of the main pyramid. One of them was a smooth-faced pyramid, while the other two were more basic step pyramids.

Itis difficult to assess whether the latter were designed as such or were left unfinished, with no casing to smooth out their surfaces.

Entrance to the 4th and 5th Pyramids (Queens), by Howard-Vyse & Perring / 1840

The easternmost pyramid was built with the traditional rooms and corridors found within a satellite pyramid meant to house the King's ka. However, a granite sarcophagus was found within, Leading to the conclusion that it was used as an actual tomb rather than as a symbolic cenotaph.

Drawing on these observations, some assume that this pyramid was first built as a satellite pyramid for the king's ka, before seeing its purpose change to that of a queen's tomb.

Which queen, however, remains a mystery.

Alexandria

The Greek Pharaohs

Learn about the founding of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.

Relief: Ptolemy VIII making an offering of maat to Amun

Pharaohs were considered divine incarnations of the gods. As an avatar of the gods living on earth, the pharaoh's role was to preserve fundamental values and universal harmony by removing chaos, isfet, and ensure that justice, maat, prevailed.

The pharaoh, by divine ancestry and through multiple offerings, was the bond that unites the world of men to the world of the gods and allows the maintenance of the cosmic order.

New presentation in July 2010, row of "dynastic portraits" in the corridor of Pan

The Ptolemaic dynasty reigned over Egypt from 305 BCE to 30 BCE.

The dynasty was called the Ptolemies of the Lagides in recognition of the founder of the Dynasty, Ptolemy Lagos, a Greek general and close friend of Alexander the Great.

While Macedonian, Ptolemy Lagos understood that to be accepted by the Egyptian people, he would have to adopt their traditions. Upon assuming the title of pharaoh he changed his name to Ptolemy I Soter, meaning "savior."

Battle of Issus between Alexander and Darius III

Born in 356 BCE, Alexander the Great went through a hasty education in the affairs of the kingdom before integrating into the Macedonian army, where he quickly rose through the ranks.

After his father's assassination in 336 BCE, which some believed was orchestrated by Alexander himself, he became king of Macedonia.

Ruler of a unified kingdom and leader of a large army, Alexander set his sights on conquest. Eager to reclaim Greek cities of Asia Minor, he took on the Persian forces, earning victory after victory.

Block with cartouche of Alexander the Great or his son Alexander IV of Macedon

Ever victorious, Alexander the Great marched on, laying siege to city after city, until he reached Egypt, where the Persians were defeated yet again.

Viewed as a liberator by the Egyptian people, Alexander decided to become pharaoh in blue form. He traveled to Thebes to make a sacrifice to Apis, then went to the oasis of Siwa, where he was proclaimed son of Ammon.

Officialy pharaoh of Egypt, Alexander spent much of the winter there, and founded the city of Alexandria.

Perhaps not coincidentally, being pharaoh allowed Alexander to spread propaganda to prepare further conquests. He resumed his military campaigns in 331 BCE.

Ptolemy I

On his deathbed in 323 BCE, Alexander the Great gifted the satrapy of Egypt to Ptolemy Lagos.

Perfectly aware of the value of Egypt, Ptolemy ensured not only the stability of the country's borders, but also its economic and military development. At the same time, he worked with the Egyptian elite to maintain the interal order of the country.

By 305 BCE, Ptolemy, well respected both in Egypt and in the Mediterranean, was at the head of the largest fleet of the Hellenistic world.

Ptolemy officially took the title of pharaoh of Egypt in January 304 BCE, on the anniversary of Alexander the Great's death.

Alexander's Tomb

Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BCE. His remains were placed first in a solid gold sarcophagus, and then within another.

The casket was carried in a an ornate custom wagon, glided and set with precious stones and pulled by sixty-four mules crowned in gold. The funeral procession was diverted to a grandiose temple in Alexandria built in the conqueror's honor, under the orders of Ptolemy I.

Augustus at the Tomb of Alexander

Julius Caesar visited Alexander's tomb at the capture of Alexandria, and the Roman Emperor Augustus reported placed flowers there.

However, though many powerful leaders claimed to have visited it, the tomb's location has gone missing from history.

Some accounts do state that the golden coffin was replaced by a glass sarcophagus, probably by Ptolemy X. It is also implied that Cleopatra may have plundered the tomb in a time of financial crisis.

Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt

Learn about Cleopatra, the last of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

Head of Cleopatra VII (69-30 BCE) / 1st century BCE

Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator ascended the throne in 51 BCE, at the age of eighteen. Though her early attempts to maintain power were often challenged, she eventually prevailed, and became the sole ruler of Egypt.

According to Plutarch, she was the only Ptolemaic pharaoh to speak the Egyptian language. Her intelligence, coupled with a good education and a great political mind, allowed her to make the alliances necessary to maintain the independence of Egypt while Rome was becoming a Mediterranean empire.

(Probably) Cleopatra VII / Greco-Roman Era

It is important to understand that Cleopatra's knowledge of Egyptian language and keen understanding of Egyptian language and keen understanding of the culture allowed her to make powerful ideological referents that resonated with ancient Egyptians.

By associating herself with the goddess Iset, the divine mother, great of magic and repository of divine essence, Cleopatra firmly established herself as the Protector of the Two Lands, and legitimized her place on the throne.

Mint: Tetradrachm of Ptolemy XIII / Ptolemaic Era

Upon his death in 51 BCE, Ptolemy XII Aulos bequeathed his kingdom to his daughter and eldest son: Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XIII.

As was custom, the siblings were married. The new pharaoh was 10 years old, his sister-wife 17.

The early years of their reign were not easy. Between 50 and 48 BCE, droughts and floods aggravated Egypt's problems. General Achillas and the royal advisor Potheinos kept intervening in the young rulers' political decisions, and eventually colluded to turn Ptolemy XIII against Cleopatra.

By 48 BCE, Cleopatra was in exile.

Pompey / Roman Empire Era

During Cleopatra's exile, the Roman empire was not without its own internal conflict. Caesar and Pompey were at war with one another, and after his defeat in 48 BCE, Pompey fled to Alexandria in the hope of finding refuge.

This turned out to be an unwise decision. Listening to his advisors, Ptolemy XIII elected to have Pompey assassinated, his head kept as a gift in the hopes of acquiring Caesar's favor.

This gambit backfired. Instead of earning approval, the murder of a Roman greatly angered Caesar.

Caesar Returns Cleopatra to the Egyptian Throne

Cleopatra, aware of Caesar's anger against Ptolemy for the murder of Pompey, decided to take advantage of the situation.

She returned to Egypt in secret, hoping to establish an alliance with one of the most powerful men of the time.

Outside of the legend where she had herself smuggled into his quarters in a carpet, what exactly happened during that fateful meeting remains a mystery. However, Caesar seemed to see a better ruler for Egypt in Cleopatra than in her young and too-easily influenced brother.

Invoking Ptolemy XII's will, Caesar attempted to mediate peace between the siblings.

Coin; Ruler: Cleopatra the Great / Reign of Cleopatra

Ptolemy XIII was enraged by the turn of events, and his advisors were none too happy to see Cleopatra return. Urged on by General Achillas and Potheinos, the young Pharaoh plotted against Caesar and Cleopatra, resulting in the siege of Alexandria in 47 BCE.

It was in March 47 BCE that Caesar defeated Ptolemy XIII's forces. The young pharaoh drowned in the Nile after having fled the battlefield.

With her opponents dead or powerless, Cleopatra married her other much younger brother, Ptolemy XIV, and finally claimed the throne of Egypt for good.

Denderah, Tentyris - Temple of Athor... Cleopatra & Caesarion / circa 1851

In June of 47 BCE, Cleopatra gave birth to a son, whom she called Caesarion. Caesar did not accept the boy as his heir, choosing instead his nephew, Octavian.

Nonetheless, on his return to Rome, Caesar invited the queen and her brother-husband to stay in the city. Her presence still drew much disapproval from the senate.

Always a strategist, Caesar left four legions in Egypt, and a man he trusted to direct Egyptian affairs, giving him control of the wheat supplies essential to Rome.

Cleopatra and her entourage remained in Rome until March 44 BCE, when Caesar was murdered.

Mark Antony at Cleopatra's Feast / Modern era

Caesar's most faithful ally, Mark Antony, often visited the queen of Egypt during his stay in Rome. Unlike most, he recognized the legitimacy of Caesarion, the natural son of Caesar.

Antony knew he would need the riches of Egypt, in order to fight OCtavian and claim the Roman Empire.

Cleopatra, in return, saw a powerful ally. In the winter of 41 BCE, she arranged a sumptuous tour of Egypt by boat, to show Antony the wealth of her country and the power she held as its ruler.

A romantic and political relationship followed. The Roman senate was once against most displeased. To calm spirits in Rome, Antony married Octavia, sister of Octavian.

Tetradrachm; Portrait of Queen Cleopatra VII (& Mark Antony) / Reign of Cleopatra

Despite his marriage to Octavia, Antony remained Cleopatra's lover, and she gave birth to their children.

Cleopatra increased her kingdom's territory, and started a political propaganda alongside her lover, in Egypt and beyond. She hoped to create a Ptolemaic federal empire, with Alexandria at its center.

Antony eventually repudiated his Roman wife for the Egyptian queen, much to the dismay of the Roman elite.

However, while Mark Antony focused on Egypt, Octavian carefully gained military and political ascendency over him in Rome.

(Probably) Head of Cleopatra VII / Ptolemaic Era

Octavian managed his own propaganda campaign, and succeeded. The Roman people hated Mark Antony and Cleopatra. To avoid the censure still inherent in attacking a fellow Roman, Octavian simply declared war against Egypt.

Rome's power still reigned supreme. The powerful Egyptian fleet, led by Cleopatra as well as Mark Antony's forces, were defeated in 31 BCE in Actium.

Octavian arrived in Egypt in 30 BCE, to formalize his victory.

Death of Cleopatra, by Louis-Marie Baader

The following events remain difficult to confirm, due to the many versions and legends around them.

It is believed that after hearing a rumur about Cleopatra's suicide, Mark Antony commited suicide himself. He was brought to the queen, as he slowly passed away.

Knowing that Octavian would have her chained and paraded through Rome in defeat, Cleopatra planned her own suicide.

She most likely killed herself with arsenic, though admittedly the version where she uses an asp to deliver a fatal bite may be considered more dramatic.

What happened to the body of Cleopatra is still a mystery...

The Siege of Alexandria

Learn about the siege of Alexandria, from Julius Caesar's perspective.

Civil War, by Julius Caesar (edition of 1574)

Among the collection of writings attributed to Julius Caesar are his descriptions of the siege of Alexandria, the "Gallic Wars" and the "Commentaries on the Civil War".

These archives contain information on different campaigns: the Wars of Alexandria, Africa and Spain. Each of them recount Caesar's military activity from 58 BCE to 45 BCE.

Though Caesar's documents remain a main source of information, it's important to note that the perspective is limited. It is necessary for other historical documents to be taken into consideration to provide a better understanding of events.

Alexandria Palace Cape Lochias

The siege of Alexandria closely relays the events of the Civil War that lead up to the event, and describes how Caesar was besieged in the palace of the Ptolemies.

other ancient authors have left equally valuable, and sometimes contradictory, information.

Death of Pompei

In the events leading up to the siege of Alexandria, Cleopatra VII and her brother were fighting over control of Egypt. Young king Ptolemy XIII's regent, Potheinos had firm control over the young pharaoh, and an oumaneuvered Cleopatra soon went into hiding.

This set the stage for Pompey's arrival in Alexandria. Having lost his battle against Caesar in 48 BCE, the Roman general turned to his allies the Egyptians for safe harbor.

But, on the advice of Potheinos, Ptolemy XIII had Pompey assassinated in the hopes of earning Caesar's favor.

Caesar in Alexandria

Upon his arrival in Alexandria, Caesar was presented with Pompey's head. The sight of a Roman murdered by Egyptians did not sit well with him.

Caesar made his displeasure clear, ordering the return of Cleopatra, and for the siblings to resolve their differences and resume their co-rule of Egypt, as per the will of their father.

Neither Potheinos nor Potlemy XIII wished to accede to this demand. While doing his best to ggravate Caesar, Potheinos secretly plotted against the Roman ruler, and sent word for Egyptian general Achillas to bring his 20 000 men to fight on his behalf.

While Potheinos plotted against Caesar, Cleoptra made a bold move.

Cleoptra meets Caesar

There are various descriptions of the encounter between Caesar and Cleopatra.

One report states that she snuck into the palace alone at night. Another account claims she was accompanied by an ally, and was brought inside the palace wrapped in a carpet bag.

Though exactly what happened at this fateful meeting is up for debate, what is known is that Cleopatra met with Caesar, and earned his approval.

Potheinos and Ptolemy XIII were most vexed with this turn of events.

Ptolemy / 2016 / Art by Martin Deschambault / Ubisoft

With Cleopatra finally present, Caesar chose to act as mediator between the silblings, in the hopes of a peaceful resolution.

It did not take long for things to sour. During a banquet given to celebrate the reconciliation, there was an assassination attempt on Caesar. It was the Roman leader's own barber who thwarted the attack.

Once it was revealed that the king's regent, Potheinos, had ordered the attack, Caesar had him executed. He then placed the young king under guard.

Ship entering in Alexandria / 2014 / Art by Martin Deschambault / Ubisoft

Caught within the palace with roughly 4000 troops and with the knowledge that the arrival of enemy forces was imminent, Caesar sent for help from Syria, Rhodes and Cilicia.

he ordered his men to dig a ditch around the palace and build a wall leading to the harbor. This would ensure Caesar's access to the sea.

When Egyptian general Achillas arrived in the city with 20 000 men, the battle for Alexandria began.

Siege of Alexandria / 2016 / Art by Natasha Tan / Ubisoft

With so few men at his disposal, Caesar could not risk a battle just yet. He sent ambassadors to Achillas, in the name of Ptolemy, to propose a truce.

Knowing that the orders did not come from the young king and angered by the pharaoh's imprisonment, Achillas had the messengers assassinated.

With Caesar confined within the palace, Achillas positioned his troops around the city. Skirmishes broke out throughout the streets of Alexandria, and went on for several days and nights.

Though they were outhumbered, Caesar's men were able to hold the enemy back. This prompted Achillas's next move: capture the Roman fleet stationed in the harbor.

Alexandria ship attack / 2016 / Art by Martin Deschambault / Ubisoft

Although the palace offered protection, Losing the port meant the end of help and supplies. Caesar knew he had to protect the fleet.

While he and his troops succeeded in regaining control of the port, he knew it would be impossible to sustain.

Caesar ordered the burning of the ships. With passage back to the palace closed off, he headed for the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Overview of Alexandria [Detail] / 1995 / Jean-Claude Golvin

Fighting their way through the Egyptian troops, Caesar and his men eventually reached Pharos island. There they took refuge within the lighthouse.

With easy access to the open sea, Caesar was able to send messages to his allies requesting reinforcements and more supplies.

The island fort also allowed him to control access to the harbor by relying on the chains used by the Egyptians to control ship traffic to and from Alexandria's docks.

Ship firing fire arrows / 2015 / Art by Martin Deschambault / Ubisoft

The exact chronology of events during the war in Alexandria remain imprecise. Conflicting accounts raise questions as to when, and even if, the Great Library of Alexandria was burned down at all.

One account states that during the fighting, docks and warehouses were burned and this was the fire that spread to the library.

In another account, when Achilias cut off the harbor, Caesar had to leave the safety of the palace to defend his ships. As the enemies battled across the port, their arsenals set ships ablaze and this destruction spread to the library.

Center of Alexandria / 2016 / Ubisoft

In either case, the Great Library was not completely destroyed. Experts point out that its location was too far from the harbor, and much later texts refer to the Great Library as being intact.

Warehouses near the harbor contained manuscript copies awaiting export, and itis more likely that these documents were destroyed, than the Great Library.

Gold Solidus of Theodosius I (379-95) / circa 379-395

The destruction of the Great Library may have been due to a number of fires over the ages. Its end was probably closer to the 4th century CE when the Christian Emperor Theodosius I ordered the closure of all pagan temples.

While some documents survived after being moved away, it remains unclear just what knowledge may have been lost.

Where there are accounts of Achillas being in control of the battle against Caesar, it appears that instead Cleopatra's sister, siding with her brother, had him killed and put her ally Ganymedes in his place. Ganymedes proved a valuable tactician for the Egyptian side. It was his idea to cut Caesar's access to the harbor thus trapping Caesar at the palace.

During the time of Ptolemy I, canals had been dug throughout Alexandria to provide fresh water. Ganymedes had his men take control of these canals. After isolating their own water supply, he had his men pour salt water into the canals and cisterns that lead to Caesar's camp.

Ship chase / 2015 / Art by Raphael Lacoste / Ubisoft

Panic erupted in Caesar's men. They wouldn't last long without fresh water. Recognizing that the porous limestone could help them, Caesar and his men dug wells to restore their water supply.

Days later, the 37th Legion, comprised of Pompey's soldiers, arrived by ship. Unable to come ashore due to the winds, Caesar risked going out to meet them on the peninsula, Cape Chersonese.

When the enemy learned Caesar's location, they rushed to intercept.

Despite an obvious advantage for the Alexandrians, Caesar, with a Rhodian ship full of skillful sailors, emerged victorious.

Alexandria ship attack sketch / 2016 / Art by Martin Deschambault / Ubisoft

With help from the allied ships, Caesar's victory enabled him to push the Egyptians back and secure the Lighthouse.

Gaining control of Pharos island sent the Alexandrians into the sea and swimming back to the city.

However, Caesar's fortification of the island didn't last long.

The enemy regrouped and were set to storm the island.

Panic-stricken, in spite of Caesar's encouragement, many of his men then fled their posts either by ship or jumping into the sea.

Julius Caesar / 2015 / Art by Vincent Gaigneux / Ubisoft

Caesar attempted to retreat, but Port Eunostos' harbor was overrun with enemy ships preventing escape.

Reportedly, Caesar gathered his papers and leapt overboard in an attempt to swim to an allied ship farther out.

Historian Cassius Dio claimed that Caesar would've drowned if he hadn't been able to remove his purple garment. Still, he managed to swim the distance and survive.

The Alexandrians recovered the cloak and used it as a trophy to commemorate the Roman debacle.

Unhappy with Ganymedes and wanting their king restored, the Alexandrians approached Caesar with a compromise. Caesar agreed to release Ptolemy XIII, after entreating him to spare the kingdom and remain loyal to Rome. Once freed, however, the king defied the agreement and continued the war.

Pelusium / 2016 / Jean-Claude Golvin

By this time, a faithful ally of Caesar's, Mithridates, arrived in Egypt, clashing with Ptolemy's troops at Pelusium.

Outnumbering the enemy, Mithridates secured the region between Pelusium and Alexandria.

Ptolemy, warned of Caesar's ally marching on Alexandria, sent his troops to prevent passage over the river.

Caesar defeats Ptolemy's forces / 2014 / Art by Martin Deschambault / Ubisoft

Mithridates warned Caesar in time, and the two groups confronted the armies of Ptolemy in the Delta.

In the Battle of the Nile, the Romans gained the upper hand, sending the Egyptians fleeing.

In the tumult and panic, King Ptolemy XIII drowned in the Nile.

Ptolemy Caesarion - Bas-relief of Kalabsha Temple (Talmis) / 1850

After the siege ended, Cleopatra VIl married her younger brother, Ptolemy XIV, enabling her to reign over Egypt until 30 BCE.

Under her rule, Alexandria settled into its position within the Roman Empire, and eventually surpassed Athens as one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire.

Julius Caesar remained in Egypt for a short time. He and Cleopatra would later have a son, named Caesarion.

Introduction to Alexandria

Learn about the city of Alexandria and the Canopic Way.

Battle of Issus between Alexander and Darius III

After conquering Egypt in 331 BCE, Alexander the Great decided to build a new city, which, as per his habit, he named after himself.

After his death, Alexandria quickly became the capital city of the Ptolemaic kingdom, and the most importantly city of the Greek world.

Overview of Alexandria / 1995 / Jean-Claude Golvin

The city was built between the Mediterranean sea and the Lake Mareotis, which resulted in Alexandria becoming a crucial cultural hub and trading center.

Alexandria Palace Cape Lochias / 2016 / Jean-Claude Golvin

Sumptuous buuildings could be seen wherever one turned their gaze: the royal palaces, the many temples, the gymnasium, lush public gardens, and large avenues.

Center of Alexandria / 2016 / Jean-Claude Golvin

With its incomparable beauty and advantageous geographic location, Alexandria attracted foreigners, intellectuals and traders.

One of the most cosmopolitan city of the ancient world, Alexandria supplanted even Athens as the most important Greek city in history.

Obelisk Paris Concorde / 2016 / Ubisoft

Egyptian obelisks were highly prized by Roman architects. While Roman design previously favored use of a single monument, Egyptian obelisks tended to come in pairs and were generally located at the entrance of temples.

Several ancient Egyptian obelisks are stillin existence today, though many are spread out across the world in locations such as Paris, Rome, New York and London.

All of this shows that Alexandria was significantly influenced by the rich past of Egypt.

Alexandria, Canopic road / 1995 / Jean-Claude Golvin

Alexandria had several main streets. lts most famous artery was the Canopic Way.

It was lined with sumptuous buildings, houses and temples and was roughly 8 kilometers in length.

This street was one of the most important shipping entrances to Alexandria, and often hosted processions and festivals.

Alexandria, Canopus / 2016 by Martin Deschambault / Ubisoft

The width of the street, 30 meters, was abnormally large even by Greek standards.

This is likely because Canopic Way was made in a short span of time and based on an urban plan, as opposed to being slowly built over time as was usual for the era.

The Canopic Way originated in the western cemeteries, skirted the gymnasium, and then exited the city to head east through massive doorways towards Kanopos. This structure was known as the Canopic Door.

Alexandria: Planning of the City

Learn about the design and layout of the city of Alexandria.

Battle of Issus between Alexander and Darius III

Alexander's plan to build his great city began with a verse from Homer's Odyssey.

"There is, in front of Egypt, in the sea with many swells, an island called Pharos."

Guided by these clues, Alexander the Great founded his future city at the western end of the Nile Delta.

(Delta of) The Nile, Egypt (and site of Alexandria) / 2004

Though Alexander considered this location ideal for his great city, it presented considerable challenges.

Too difficult to access during storms, the surrounding swamps threatened disease, and the limestone soil prevented the growth of healthy crops.

However, due to the influence of his mentor Aristotle, Alexander the Great recognized that the true value was its strategic emplacement.

Alexander knew that in controlling Pelusium to the east, Memphis to the south and his crowning glory, Alexandria to the west, he would create a triangular stronghold allowing him to control the entire Delta while giving him access to the Mediterranean.

Papyrus Marsh / 18th Dynasty

The great walls of Alexandria had a humble beginning. Lacking chalk to outline the future city's foundations, architects were forced to use flour instead.

Clouds of migrating birds swept down and ate the flour, erasing the plans. This prompted Alexander to seek guidance from the oracles, who reassured him that his future city was destined to feed a large population.

View of the Obelisk of Thutmosis III Seen from the Walls of Alexandria

Excavations led by Mahmoud bey El-Falaki in the 19th century revealed that the wall enclosure measured approximately 5.2 kilometers in length, and 2.2 kilometers in width. It was roughly 9 meters in height.

Description of Egypt, (View of Alexandria and the Roman Tower) / 19th Century

These formidable ancient walls would resist a number of attacks, including fending off the king of Syria in 169 BCE.

It wasn't until 295 CE that they eventually fell to Roman Emperor Diocletian, and this only after eight months of relentless assault.

Alexandria Center / 2016 / Jean-Claude Golvin

Alexandria's principle architect, Deinokrates, chose a Hippodamian grid plan.

The grid maximized functionality, with wide straight roads and canals running beneath them.

Alexander recognized the military value of the city's design. The wide parallel streets gave him optimal surveilance of the city while allowing the unobstructed flow of troops.

Overview of Alexandria / 1995 / Jean-Claude Golvin

A central corridor ran from the Mediterranean's north port down to Lake Mareotis to the south. This thoroughfare acted as an unobstructed link for commercial trade and travel between the two ports.

Many of the streets were bordered with grand buildings and parks, including the Canopic Street with its impressive gate bordering the eastern end.

Rhakotis / 2014 / Art by Martin Deschambault / Ubisoft

Alexandria was most likely built upon an already existing Egyptian village.

Upon its completion, the Egyptians reviled the city, refusing to call it by its founder's name. Instead, they called it Ra-qed, "the building." as a mark of disdain, which was later Hellenized into Rhakotis.

Despite this, the name Alexandria would remain.

Alexandria: A Commercial Hub

Learn about the major economical role of Alexandria during ancient times.

The ports of Alexandria were a major commercial hub, effectively connecting Egypt with the Mediterranean regions and beyond. À tremendous amount of materials and goods flowed through the city on a daily basis. The large port market was called the Emporion. It was there that the merchandise was traded by the ship owners, called naukleros.

Food and other artisan work streamed out of Egypt; ceramics, glass, golden rings and minted coinage. The local potters, using traditional Egyptian techniques, competed with those from abroad, and the textile industry flourished. What Egypt did not produce itself was acquired through trade using local resources such as wheat and papyrus. Most sought after was pine wood from Syria, iron and marble from the Greek islands, gold from Spain, and exotic fruits from Europe. All this commercial activity contributed to the already decadent wealth of the city.

The wood imported to Port Mareotis through Alexandria's seaward ports was used in the nearby shipyards, where most of Egypt's ships were built. Employing tens of thousands of ship builders, the shipyards contributed to establishing the Egyptian fleet as one of the mightiest of the era. Any wood not used in shipbuilding was further disseminated through Egypt for various purposes.

(Behind the scenes) The southern port of Lake Mareotis was the biggest in Alexandria. Save for a branch angling westward, the lake's size in the Ptolemaic era was roughly 40 to 50 kilometers, from north to south. Its waters were maintained by a steady runoff from the Nile. In addition to the lake, a man-made canal was created to assist in the transfer of goods from the city to the port using barges, though it is not represented in the game due to its size.

Banking was one of the most distinctive innovations brought by the Greeks to Egypt. The centerpiece of Alexandria's wealth was the royal systematisation of taxes on almost everything. Basic items such as salt, oil, beer, wheat and linen were heavily taxed. Às a result, the royal treasury of Alexandria was able to insure the economic stability of most of the administrative areas of Egypt.

By the late 12th century, the channel feeding the lake from the Nile silted up. Lake Mareotis lost its connection to the Mediterranean as well as most of its water, as the lake slowly evaporated to a fraction of its former size. In modern times Lake Mareotis is being kept alive through irrigation. However, only about 17% of its original size remains.

Alexandria, City of Celebration

Learn about the various forms of entertainment that existed in Alexandria.

Like most Greek cities, Alexandria offered multiple forms of entertainment. Most were related to cults, religious practices and the festivities surrounding those practices. Among those festivities, the most important ones were the dynastic celebrations instituted in honor of the deified Ptolemaic kings and queens. These celebrations could go on for many days and included sacrifices, offerings, processions and public banquets.

Games and competitions were organized whenever possible in Locations such as the stadium, the hippodreme and the gymnasium. The residents of Alexandria favored such events, where athletes, poets and musicians from Egypt and other cities of the Greek world competed.

(Behind the Scenes) Like all good Greek cities, Alexandria had a theater. The architecture of this structure is Roman in style. This is because the team duplicated a theater from Cyrene. Roman theaters were usually semicircular and built from scratch on a flat area with structures designed to enhance oration. Greek theaters were more oblong in shape, similar to a horseshoe and favored the slopes of natural hills to support their acoustics.

Atthe theater, one could witness the plays of contemporary, comic and tragic authors. The play you are witnessing below is Menander's Dyskolos, more commonly known as The Grouch, a late and popular entry in the Greek comedies.

Education in Alexandria

Learn how young Alexandrians were educated.

Bowl / 5th Century BCE

The education of young Alexandrians did not differ from the one generally dispensed elsewhere in Ancient Greece.

At the age of seven, the child was taken in charge by a tutor, who then became responsible for instilling an elementary education, as well as good moral principles.

Archaeological Site of Olympia (Greece) [gymnasium] / 2007

Teaching was generally done outside, in the open air. In the gymnasium, students were taught not only sports, but also topics such as rhetoric, philosophy, music and poetry - all things deemed essential to ones' education at the time.

Vase (kalpis) depicting a dance lesson / 5th Century BCE

(Behind the scenes)

Here, both boys and girls are shown attending a class given by one of the rhetoricians of the era.

The team made the choice to show both genders attending class within the context of the game world. Even though it is historically innacurate, the team felt it was not necessary to prioritize historical sexism over inclusive gameplay.

The Great Library of Alexandria

Discover the history of the greatest library in antiquity and learn about the great minds of the ancient world.

Alexandria Center (with library)

Near the district of royal palaces and within the Mouseion was the most famous library of all Antiquity.

The Library of Alexandria was built to house all of human knowledge.

At its pinnacle the library was believed to contain over 700,000 parchments.

Library of Celsus (Ephesus) / Roman Period

(Behind the scenes)

Throughout the centuries, fires and wars between Christianity and paganism destroyed the library, leaving nothing behind.

The loss of the building, and more importantly its vast collection, is immeasurable.

As no descriptions are available, the team's rendition of the Library of Alexandria was inspired by the visuals of the library of Celsus at Ephesus.

Library of Alexandria

While much of the collection was purchased at the government's expense, the library also obtained books through other means.

Any books owned by travelers coming through the city were seized to be copied for the library. The copy would then be returned to the owner and the original entered into the library's collection.

Plato's Academy mosaic

Alexandria offered unrivaled intellectual and cultural attractions. Eminent scholars from Athens, Rhodes and other Greek centers traveled to the city to learn and engage with other free thinkers.

Both the Mouseion and the Library were at the center of groundbreaking ideas, and creative expression.

Auditorium

The great minds of antiquity were usually well versed in many disciplines, which were often associated with specific schools of thoughts. The Peripatetics, the Stoics and the Cynics were among the most well-known schools of the time.

It is clear that Alexandria lived up to its fundamental role as a city for intellectuals, nurturing many great minds whose impact reverberates through our modern world.

Draped woman (Statuette found in Alexandra) / 3rd century BCE

Hypatia of Alexandria was a Greek mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and inventor.

Though born in Greece, she eventually migrated to Alexandria, like many great minds of the time. Itis there that she became the head of the Neoplatonist School of Alexandria.

From most accounts, she was highly respected by her fellow Alexandrians, both as a teacher and a philosopher.

With her death, the age of great ancient scientific discoveries came to an end.

Marble statue of a draped seated man (possibly Kallimachos) / 1st century BCE

Kaltimachos was born in Cyrene and educated in Athens. After his studies, he moved to Alexandria to work in the Great Library.

A poet and a critic, he strongly rejected the epic format of Homeric poems, and instead fervently supported a shorter, more judiciously formulated style of poetry.

His epigrams and elegiac poems were emulated by later poets. His work was extremely popular, second only to Homer's own works.

Euclid, founder of geometry, 300 BCE / 18th Century

It was in Alexandria that mathematician Euclid, the father of geometry, wrote The Elements, laying out the foundational work of what would become modern algebra and number theory.

Euclidean geometry would become one of the most influential systems in the evolution of mathematics.

Map of the world by Eratosthenes of Cyrene, circa 240 BCE / 1803

How do you calculate the circumference of the Earth? With a camel, two sticks and shadows cast by the sun.

This is what Eratosthenes of Cyrene, described in his principal work, Geography, while he was director of the Great Library of Alexandria.

He is credited for the invention of the armillary sphere, around 250 BCE.

Armillary sphere made by Jean-Baptiste Delure & Jean Pigeon, Dauphin's Chamber

The eartiest known and most complete armillary sphere of antiquity was the Meteoroskopion of Alexandria, with an imposing nine rings, compared to the three or four of most other astrolabes.

Known as the Zodiac Krikotoi amongst the Greeks, the Meteoroskopion was used to determine the location of celestial bodies around the Earth.

Every self-respecting astronomer of antiquity would have sought to use this tool to better understand the celestial movements.

The philosopher Pythagoras, shown teaching / 1463

Pythagoras of Samos was a well-known and respected philosopher and mathematician. He is best known for the Pythagorean theorem.

However, there is proof that the theorem existed in Babylonia and India long before Pythagoras was born, casting some doubts as to who exactly originated the theorem.

The Mouseion of Alexandria

Learn about the Mouseion of Alexandria and its function within the city.

The Mouseion was a sector of the city commissioned by Ptolemy |, to rival Athens' Academy as an institute of intellectual pursuit. Dedicated to the nine inspiring Muses, the Mouseion became a great center for philosophical and scientific enlightenment. It welcomed scholars from many kingdoms, inviting them to share knowledge in literature, science and geography.

The Mouseion was designed so that its buildings and grounds would accommodate free thinking, debate and presentation. Meeting spaces and theaters surrounded a main courtyard. Expansive gardens were filled with exotic plants that aided in the study and supply of herbs and medicines. A zoo offered the study of animal behavior and physiology. Also among the Mouseion's many star attractions was its astronomical observatory.

Herophilos was a physician who lived most of his life in Alexandria. He was able to perform the dissection of human cadavers on a large scale due to the permissiveness of the city in such matters. Among many other discoveries, he learned that the brain was central to the human nervous system. He also extensively mapped the blood system and measured the pulse with the aid of a water clock. It is reported that in his thirst to understand human anatomy, he performed 600 vivisection on five prisioners.

In order to be free to pursue their research, scholars were fed and housed at the Mouseion at the government's expense. This freedom provided Alexandria's scholars a meeting space for intellectual pursuits, and a haven for spiritual peace. Though nothing remains of the original Mouseion, it lives on as the legacy of our modern museums.

The Serapeion of Alexandria

Learn about the Serapeion of Alexandria and its function within the city.

Lageion & Serapeum [Detail] - During the Roman era / Jean-Claude Golvin

In a city of numerous magnificent attractions, the Serapeion was considered to be the most beautiful temple of Alexandria.

Located southwest of the city on a small hill known as the Acropolis, the sanctuary was constructed during the reign of Ptolemy III, upon foundations which had existed since the reign of Ptolemy I Soter.

Foundation plague from the Serapeum in Alexandria / 221-204 BC

Visitors of the Serapeion climbed a hundred steps to reach the courtyard.

Libraries were installed in the porticoes surrounding the square building, with its roof and columns adorned with gold and gilded bronze. Pharaohs were generous to the temple, as were several Roman emperors after Egypt's conquest.

An inner temple housed the statue of Serapis, dedicated to healing the sick.

Serapis bust with Kalathos from Alexandria, from the Serapeum / 2nd century BCE

Since the 26th dynasty, Greeks in Egypt had gradually integrated the Egyptian cult of the Apis bull to their own rituals.

With the establishment of the Ptolemaic dynasty, the cult of Apis was further integrated into Greek religion.

During his rule, Ptolemy I chose to merge Egyptian and Hellenic gods into a syncretic divinity named Serapis. This name was the result of the amalgamation of Osiris and Apis.

With this new deity, the Ptolemaic dynasty managed to accommodate similar belief sets for two different cultures, bringing about a new dynastic cult.

Pendant with a scene with Serapis, Isis, a snake and Harpocrates

Serapis was also associated to other deities, including Asclepius, a Greek god of healing.

It is possible that as with the Serapis temple of Kanopos, the sick would visit this sanctuary, sleeping there overnight in the hopes of being healed within its hallowed halls.

The Islands of Pharos

Learn about the Islands of Pharos, and the monuments located on the islands.

Alexandria - View from the Mediterranean Sea

The Heptastadion was a bridge-like causeway connecting the island of Pharos to mainland Alexandria.

Its name is based on the Greek terms of measurement: hepta meaning seven and stadion, which is a measure of length of roughly 180 meters.

Alexandria - Canopic Way (Detail on Hepstastadion

Since its construction would seperate the Grand Port to the east and the Port of Eunostos to the west, it was designed with channels at each end.

These openings allowed passage from one port to the other.

Map of Alexandria / 1575

Along with creating seperate harbors for the commercial and military shipping, the causeway served as a main aqueduct for the island's inhabitants.

Its presence also helped protect the island its ports from rough wind and sea currents.

At the end of antiquity, the Heptastadion disappeared under layers of slit and soil, which formed an important sedimentary deposit.

Alexandria and its environs. View of the Obelisk known as the Needle of Cleopatra & The Tower of the Romans

While the Serapeion was the most celebrated of the temples in Alexandria, many other temples were built within the city.

Most of these structures have been completely erased over time, and there is no way to discern how many existed.

However, research of ancient papyri offer tantalizing hints as to the possible location of at least some of the temples.

Statue of Fortuna / Vatican Museum, Rome

Both papyri and coins reveal evidence of many temples built for the gods.

Poseidon, the god of the sea, likely had an edifice in his honor west of this island, as well as on the main land.

This temple next to you is dedicated to Iset Pharia, the divine protector of the lighthouse. This location hosted annual celebrations in the month of April known as the Sacrum Pharia, in connection to the lighthouse.

In her incarnation as Iset Fortuna, the goddess carries a rudder and a cornucopia, both symbols of good luck for navigators.

Isis Pharia (divine protector of sailors)

Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was a source of great pride for the inhabitants of the city.

Construction began under Ptolemy I's reign and lasted fifteen years. It was completed during his son's rule.

Once completed the lighthouse was dedicated to the gods, for the salvation of those who sail the sea.

Alexandria - Lighthouse

Built on the island of Pharos, the stone structure was three tiers set on top of one another in a step formation.

The second floor consisted of an octagonal tower and the top floor was a cylindrical tower topped by a statue.

The interior provided space for staff rooms and a ramp, which allowed the transport of fuel to the upper floors.

Tower. Alexandria Lighthouse

Essential to safe navigation through the rifts and shallow waters, the Pharos was a functioning lighthouse, with a beam reported visibl 50 kilometers away.

It's unclear what kind of fuel was used, or how much. Any other details of how the light worked remain a mystery.

Alexandria currency under Hadrien. Lighthouse

For several centuries the Pharos was one of the highest monuments ever built by man. It measured roughly 110 meters in height, compared to the Pyramid of Giza which was 140 meters tall.

Gradually the structure was eroded by earthquakes, and then completely destroyed in 1480 CE when a fort was built over it.

Archaeological excavations on the seabed have uncovered many blocks from the ancient building.

The Paneion

Learn about the Paneion of Alexandria.

Pan, seated / Graeco-Roman Era

The Paneion was a temple built in honor of the god Pan, divinity of nature.

This Greek god, often represented as a half-man, half-goat with a beard, horns and goat's hooves, was considered the protector of shepherds and herds.

Plague: Temptation of Christ / 15th Century

Pan's attribute was his namesake musical instrument: the pan flute. His temples were usually located in caves and on high mountains, and were frequented by shepherds.

It is likely that Mediterranean cults adopted the imagery of Pan to symbolize the Christian devil.

To give proper honor to the god, Alexandrians built an artificial hill upon which they housed his temple, to compensate for the flat relief of the city. The artificial mound had the shape of a spinning top or a pine cone, which was accessed by a spiral staircase. The top had a panoramic view of the entire city. Only such heights would be fitting for a mountain god.

The Hippodrome of Alexandria

Learn about the events held at the hippodrome.

Lageion Serapeum / 2012 / Jean-Claude Golvin

The main hippodrome of the city was called the Lageion, in honor of Lagos, the ancestor of the Ptolemies.

Alexandrians were great lovers of horse racing. They were fascinated by the rivalry of these races, the agôn as it was said at that time, that every competition brought.

It was a struggle for glory.

Relief known as a campana: circus scenes, quadriga race / Roman Empire

The most important chariot race was the tethrippon. Using four horses, with the quickest harnessed to the front right, the charioteer would race for twelve laps, with sharp turns at either end of the hippodrome.

The victors were crowned with garlands of olive and received prize money, but the most sought-after reward was to be acelaimed by the works of poets such as Kallimachos and Pindar.

The winner of a chariot race / Pre-Classic Period

“Ye hymns that rule the lyre! What god, what hero, aye, and what man shall we loudly praise? Verily Zeus is the lord of Pisa; and Heracles established the Olympic festival, [...) while Thêrôn must be proclaimed by reason of his victorious chariot with its four horses, Thêrôn who is just in his regard for guests, and who is the bulwark of Acragas, the choicest flower of an auspicious line of sires, whose city towers on high, (...) bringing wealth and glory to crown their native merits.”

Daily Life

Osiris, The First Mummy

Understand the significance of the mummies for ancient Egyptians.

The oldest mummies recovered date from the Old Kingdom, though Egyptologists believe that mummification was in use much earlier than that. At first, the body was mummified through environmental desiccation, by leveraging the dryness of the environment and the heat of the climate. Earty experimentations in mummification were conducted with the use of resin made from tree sap. Strips of linen were only used on some superficial parts of the epidermis of the hands, or jaw.

Ideologically, the will to preserve the body is not explained in any way until 3600 BCE. This is when the Egyptian belief that the body housed the soul was finally documented for modern Egyptologists to eventually decipher. Itwas not until the arrival of the myth of Osiris in the Egyptian religion, around the 5th Dynasty, that mummification was thoroughly conceptualized. The practice was thereafter grounded in both a mythological and ideological point of view.

Osiris was mainly known as the god of the dead, and the god of resurrection. The most well-known genesis myth concerning Osiris is that of his dismemberment.

It is Plutarch who gives the most simplified and complete summary of the story. Within Egyptian mythology, Osiris represented the first king to rule Egypt. Jealous of his power, his brother Seth attempted to usurp his throne. After several unsuccessful attempts, Seth succeeded in killing his brother by dismembering him, and scattering the pieces of his body all over Egypt. Iset, the Great of Magic, traveled all over Egypt in search of the pieces of her husband's body. After a long search, she recovered all the pieces, save for his manhood, as it was eaten by a fish.

Iset then reassembled the body of her husband by binding it together with strips of linen. Aided by her sister Nephthys, another powerful magician, they gave Osiris the breath of life. This not only brought him back from the dead, but also allowed him to recover his virility long enough to impregnate Iset, thus insuring his succession before, once more, dying. Thus, Horus was born.

The ritual used to bring Osiris back to life essentially depicts how he became the first mummy. It is why, on the sarcophagi of kings, we often find Iset and Nephthys represented as the magicians who restore life to the deceased.

Mummies of Ancient Egypt

Learn about the process of mummification in Ancient Egypt.

The mummification process used by Ancient Egyptians was highly ceremonialin nature. The different types of mummification took into account the social Level and richness of the deceased, and even included animals. The most expensive was that reserved for the pharaoh and the royal family, as well as some of the wealthiest members of the court.

The first step was cleaning. Once bodies arrived at the mummification site, they were placed on inclined tables while the bodily fluids drained away. They were then cleaned by priests, until they were deemed ready for the purification process.

The purification of the body began with a libation from sacred water. The priests then fumigated the body with terebinth resin. After the ritual cleansing, priests used oils, spices and all kinds of essences to further purify the body of the deceased. Finally, all body hair was meticulously removed.

Once the body was properly purified, embalmers removed the organs, following very specific procedures. First, the brain was extracted by inserting a spoon through the nostril to break the ethmoid bone. Then, using a spatula, the pieces of the brain were removed as thoroughly as possible. What matter remained was extracted after a process of liquification achieved through the use of a caustic liquid. The cranial box, once emptied, was rinsed and disinfected with palm wine, and then stuffed with strips of linen cloth and liquefied resin.

After taking care of the brain, embalmers made an incision on the left flank and carefully set aside the viscera. The inside of the body was also rinsed with palm wine. Then, the embalmers filled the belly with pure myrrh, cinnamon and other perfumes and sewed it shut. The removed viscera were washed in palm wine, and packed in crushed herbs before being placed in canopic jars.

Canopic jars were placed close to the sarcophagus, or kept in a chest nearby. At first, the viscera were wrapped in tissue and placed in the vases. As the ritual requirements became more elaborate, ointments, spices and even water and natron were added to the process.

Towards the middle of the New Kingdom, canopic jars assumed the appearance of the four sons of Horus. They were known as the protectors of the viscera. These protectors had their own guardians, each a goddess of the dead. Imsety, the human-headed god, protected the liver, and was protected by the goddess Iset. Hapi, the baboon-headed god, protected the lungs, and was protected by the goddess Nephthys. Duamutef, the jackal-headed god, protected the stomach, and was protected by the goddess Neith. And finally Kebehsenuef, the falcon-headed god, protected the intestines, and was protected by the goddess Selket.

Natron is a naturally occurring mineral found in evaporite. These sedimentary rocks are made up of mineral salts, and were generally mined from lakebeds in Egypt.

Embalmers used natron as a desiccant, to dry the flesh and stop the corpse's putrefaction process. Once the body was cleansed and eviscerated, the deceased was covered in natron for about forty days. Once desiccated, the body was prepared to be wrapped in strips of linen.

Once the body was fully desiccated by the natron treatment, embalmers oiled, painted, and sometimes even added hair extensions or a wig. They often used a henna-based antiseptic preparation to give the body a more colorful and lively appearance, while preparing it to resist molds and fungi.

Next came the phase which gave mummies their most well-known appearance: the wrapping. Originally, each part of the body was wrapped separately. Men had their arms crossed on their chests, while women had the right arm folded over their breasts, and the left arm stretched along the body. However, techniques evolved over time. Eventually the body as a whole was wrapped with limbs alongside the body, and increasingly sophisticated and different techniques of weaving flax bands were developed.

In addition to the jewelry and amulets arranged on the skin of the deceased, amulets were also carefully inserted into the weaving of the linen strips. Each amulet was linked to a myth or to an ideological belief related to rebirth.

Masks were an important part of a mummy's finery. Early wooden funeral coverings were very expensive, however, and soon replaced by masks created through a technique known as cartonnage. Masks fashioned with this method were created by laying several layers of linen or papyrus pulp on a base made of mud or straw. Cartonnage was used for more than funerary masks. Ornaments and the animal coffins of the Late Period were also made in such a fashion.

Cartonnage evolved to cover the entire body of the mummy during the 22nd Dynasty. The mummies were placed on a board inside a rigid envelope of cartonnage, which was laced at the back with a string. Extremely cost effective and visually pleasing, this technique was very popular through all layers of the society.

Cartonnage envelopes were usually covered with inscriptions and polychrome decorations specifying the names and titles of the deceased, scenes depicting daily life, or decorations specific to the funerary world. This was a true gift for Egyptologists eager to study the funerary rites of the ancient Egyptians.

Once the mummy was properly wrapped and adorned, the embalmers proceeded with the ceremony of the Opening of the Mouth. A vital step of the funerary process, this ceremony was meant to bring back to life the deceased themselves, or an object representing the deceased.

There were no less than seventy-five different stages for the Opening of the Mouth. It required the application of the same coils, ointments, spices, and perfumes used during the mummification process. Make-up was sometimes part of the process as well.

The last stage of this long ritual was the act of touching the mouth with the adze to symbolically allow the breath of life to infuse an inert body. Its performance was reserved for a very specific set of people: priests who wore the mask of the god Anubis, a close relative of the family or by the heir to the throne.

The Importance of Mummies

Understand the importance of mummies for ancient Egyptians.

The first hieroglyph for embalmer appeared in pyramid texts of the Old Kingdom. It is likely that embalming was a trade that progressed alongside the evolution of ancient Egyptian funeral practices. While we still know nothing of how embalming came to be a profession, we do know that embalmers had a hierarchy, and that each embalmer specialized in a specific phase of the mummification process.

The mummification techniques were jealously guarded by embalmers from generation to generation. Despite their efforts, Herodotus and Diodorus discovered their methods in late Antiquity, but historians were sceptical about the validity of the texts. It remained a mystery until two teams of modern medico-legal scientists confirmed the process in 1994, and again in 2011.

The ouabet, meaning the pure place, was where the embalmers mummified the bodies of the deceased. Until the end of the Middle Kingdom, it was located in tents at the edges of the city due to the smell of decomposition. In the New Kingdom, however, the ouabet was located within the city limits, though stillin open-air spaces. In the same way that the practices and techniques of mummification evolved, so possibly did consideration towards embalmers within ancient Egyptian society.

The pharaoh had access to the most elaborate of mummification rituals. The richer citizens of Egypt also enjoyed complex embalming options, though none of them allowed for the removal of the brain or viscera. After purifying the body, embalmers injected a liquid through the rectum, sealed it, and allowed the mixture to settle. They then plunged the body into natron for up to forty days. Once the body was dried the seal was removed, and the entrails flowed out with the injected liquid, leaving the skin and bones of the deceased to be wrapped in linen and returned to the family for burial.

The least costly embalming option was for the embalmers to simply inject a product called surmaia, and immerse the body in the natron for up to forty days before handing it over to the family. For all those who could not afford any embalming process, desert burials offered a pauper's alternative to preserve the bodies of the dead.

Egyptian civilization has always appealed to Westerners, even before the Greek and Roman invasions. As early as the Middle Ages, mummies discovered by travelers were often sent back to Europe. Curio cabinets dating from the 16th and 17th centuries usually included pharaonic artifacts in their collections.

The Egyptomania phenomenon was heralded by Napoleon Bonaparte's Egyptian campaign, which lasted from 1798 to 1802. The following years were marked by a resurgence of interest from rich enthusiasts and scholars, who exposed Egypt to the general populace. Many research societies focusing on Egyptology were founded during those years.

By 1868, mass tourism began in Egypt, under the aegis of the Cook agency. The rich would indulge in Leisure trips to Egypt, and bring back mummies. Upon their return, they would organize evenings that consisted of unpacking mummies, and removing strips of linen and amulets layer by layer. These were considered the shining cultural events of the season. The Egyptian collections of many a museum were founded as a consequence of this mass pillaging.

Thanks to those dubious parties, the fantasy of a mummy coming back to life seeking revenge on its defilers was born. The mummy malediction myth has remained steady in popular culture ever since, particularly in written media and cinema.

Amulets & Rituals

Understand how magic and religion was an essential aspect of ancient Egyptian life.

Ancient Egyptians believed the world was a chaotic place, filled with supernatural forces. They knew that art and words gave life and power to things. Carved with images from hieroglyphs or in the shapes of gods, amulets were highly personal objects that warded off dangers and disease while attracting success. Some amulets were temporary, intended to solve a specific problem, while others were meant to be worn forever into the afterlife.

Priests would infuse amulets with magical energy during religious ceremonies, imbuing them with protective magic to safeguard against supernatural powers. The wealthiest of Egyptians could obtain a divinely ordained pendant, in which was hidden a magic formula inscribed on a piece of papyrus. It would act as a unique spell tailored to the owner.

Religion was so important to ancient Egyptians that it permeated every aspect of their daily lives. Since water was the source of life and had the symbolism of purifying the body and the soul, all daily routines began with ablutions. Personal prayers to the gods were sometimes written or spoken, with family prayers passed down through generations.

There was a complete calendar of each of the religious days, both good and bad, illustrating the appropriate daily rituals. Along with wine, milk and ointments, offerings to the gods consisted of small amulets to life-size statues and family shrines. During the Greco-Roman period offerings to the gods consisted of mummified animals. Cats for Bastet, dogs for Anubis, and birds for Thoth.

Deemed messengers of the gods, oracles offered guidance and judgment for all Egyptians, regardless of status. Crucial advice was offered on everything from day-to-day farming management to a pharaoh's decision on whether to start a war. Oracles were often used to decide legal issues. If the accused refused the judgment of the god, another god could be consulted in hopes of a more favorable reply.

Itwas oracles that guided the Greek sailor Battos to the coast of Libya where he founded a colony known as Cyrene. During Alexander the Great's campaign to conquer Persia, he consulted the oracle at the temple of Ammon within the oasis of Siwa, and was subsequently ordained a divine being.

Temples & Rituals of Ancient Egypt

Learn about the importance of the pharaoh and of the priests in ancient rituals, and understand the influence of temples in ancient Egyptian society.

During rituals and festivals, the god was carried on a solar barge between the areas of a temple, or the temples of different cities. Funerary carvings and paintings covering thousands of years as well as the Book of the Dead, depict the same ship and oar design. Solar barges have been uncovered near or within several pharaohs' tombs. They were intended to carry the pharaoh into the afterlife.

Ancient Egyptians believed that Ra, the sun god, traveled the skies in a boat known as the solar barge. The solar barge was believed to cross over to mythological lands.

The god Ra believed mankind was conspiring against him. He ordered Sekhmet, the lion-headed war goddess, to kill all humans. To his chagrin, Ra quickly realized that with all humans gone there would be no one left to worship him. In order to stop the rampaging Sekhmet, beer was brewed and dyed red with pomegranate juice to resemble blood. Sekhmet drank every drop of the brew she could find, eventually passing out drunk. When she awoke, she was calmer, and her lion visage had changed into Bastet. The Festival of Drunkenness was celebrated in honor of that myth.

Unlike the daily rituals that took place in the temple and were performed by priests, festivals allowed the entire population of the city to participate. Festivals helped mark the passing of the seasons in the agricultural calendar. In reflecting the cycles of life, festivals offered a sense of consistency and structure for the regular citizens, thus reinforcing the sense of order that pharaohs were to provide for the citizens of Egypt as part of their godly duties.

The importance of these festivals is demonstrated by their longevity. Records show that Osiris festivals occurred for more than 2000 years. Some festivals served to reinforce state control, and promote the king's reign. Both the Opet and Sed jubilee festivals were specifically intended to celebrate the renewal of the king's power.

The temple hierarchy consisted of high priests, several types of priests, scribes and servants. The high priest was known as the prophet. Some divinities had up to four prophets, and they were the ones to perform the most advanced and complex rituals.

Egyptian priests were not confined to solely religious tasks, and in fact had crucial roles in Egypt's administration, most of which served to reaffirm the pharaoh as the proper vessel for the gods. Their focus within the temple was centered on the proper conduct of daily divine rituals, rather than as custodians of dogma or the indoctrination of individuals.

Scribes were custodians of the sacred sciences. Some priests were associated with the funeral rites and were considered the group with medical knowledge. The servants of the ka were low-ranking priests who carried food and offerings in funerary rituals. Lector priests were distinguished by their ability to read, and their main duty was to recite specialized religious texts in both temple and funerary rituals.

Priests and all the officials who served the temple worked only three months a year, with each period separated by a quarter of inactivity, at least within the temple compund. Each outgoing group handed over the temple and their tools to the newcomers. Only the high priesthood remained in permanent office within the temple.

(Behind the Scenes) The most sacred part of the temple was referred to as djesr djesru, the “holy of holies.” The most sacred inner sanctuary was where the shrine to the temple deity was located. Only priests were allowed within. Offerings were given, and rituals unseen by even the pharaoh were performed. While the team chose to allow any character access to this space in some game temples, normally it was reserved for priests alone.

Pharaohs and their priests often chose the site of these sacred temples because of some mythological connection, or an alignament with the cardinal points and certain stars. Once selected, a foundation ritual was performed. The pharaoh was required to complete 10 steps in the ritual, which required a mix of offerings as well as specific construction techniques. Once the temple was complete, construction of the chamber containing the shrine, or naos, began.

The naos was where the god statue stood. The representation of the deity was usually in stone or wood and decorated with gold, silver and precious stones. Smaller temples had only one naos, while larger complexes such as the temple of Karnak had many chambers to honor gods such as Amun, Ptah, and Osiris. Each statue was believed to be a receptacle for the presence or essence of the god's ka, enabling it to take a physical form. Through the statue, the god came to the shrine to eat, drink, and communicate with the pharaoh, or with the priests standing in for the pharaoh.

Temples And Priests

Learn about the influence of temples in Egyptian societym and the role of the pharaoh and priests in ancient rituals.

From its foundation, the city of Memphis favored worship of the god Ptah. The main temple of Ptah was known as Hut-ka-Ptah, meaning palace of the ka of Ptah. The name of the temple, translated into Greek as Aegyptos, would eventually evolve into the modern name: Egypt.

Temples were the center of religious, political and economic life in ancient Egypt. These sacred places were viewed as the literal home of the gods and goddesses. As such, every aspect of them required care and reverence, all of which was accomplished through elaborate ritual.

Located in the center of Memphis, the temple of Ptah was the most prominent and imposing building in the city. The long walkway leading toward the temple, known as the dromos, was guarded by rows of sphinxes. The entire sacred area was designed to keep the statue of the god protected deep within the sacred enclosures that surrounded it.

The dromos opened into a courtyard, with a surrounding portico graced with columns carved to resemble palm trees. During special festivals the general population was allowed to enter this location, but under no circumstances would they be allowed into the sacred spaces beyond the courtyard.

The Memphis Alabaster Sphinx was discovered in 1912, almost completely buried in water and sand. Eight meters in height and weighing in at roughly 90 tons, it is still mounted on its original pedestal. Though it is called the Alabaster Sphinx, it was in fact carved from common calcite rock, which is similar in appearance and texture to alabaster.

Erosion has destroyed the original engravings, making it difficult to determine when it was created. Egyptologists believe that its facial likeness resembles Amenhotep Il, and so it could have been sculpted somewhere between 1700 and 1400 BCE. Itis believed that this monument once stood outside of the temple of Ptah, and was integrated into subsequent extensions to the complex.

The size of the imposing sculpture reflects the importance it had to the temple during the New Kingdom. This sphinx is one of the few remaining artifacts from the ruins of Memphis to survive.

In Egyptian culture some animals were associated with gods, while others were considered to be Living gods. The Apis bull was believed to be a divine entity. The earliest mention of the Apis bullin ancient Egypt goes back as far as the 1st Egyptian dynasty.

Originally the symbol of fertility, the Apis bull was linked to the god Ra, with the image of the sun carried between its horns. Later it was associated with Osiris, the ruler of the underworld, thus becoming the funerary divinity Osorapis. During the 18th Dynasty in Memphis, the Apis bull's association with the city's deity earned it the title “Herald of Ptah." The Apis bull was so revered that even Alexander the Great, upon his arrival in Memphis, gave honor to Apis.

The Apis buil lived with its harem in a sacred barn located in an enclosure in the temple of Ptah. Each bull bore twenty-nine signs representative of it's divinity. Among them, the bull had an eagle-shaped mark on its back, a double tail hair and a scarab-shaped mark under the tongue. The signs were intended to correspond with the lunar cycle. After its death, Egyptians would search for its reincarnated form among the livestock.

Like other living divinities, the mortal incarnation of the Apis bull was prayed to, and when it died, it was given a luxurious funeral which included mummification. Until the reign of Ramses II, the Apis bulls were buried in individual graves in Saqgara. During the 26th dynasty, the bodies of the bulls were buried in enormous stone vats in the underground corridors of the Serapeum of Memphis.

Ancient Egyptians believed that temple rituals were essential to maintain order in the cosmos, and allow communication between humans and gods. The pharaoh was required to bring offerings, as part of a twofold promise made to the gods: to remain a just ruler, and to prevent chaos from entering Egypt.

Details of the ceremonies found on temple walls provide a thorough overview of the stages of the daily ritual. Performed three times a day to mirror human meal times, each step of the highly symbolic ceremony was accompanied by specific recitations, many of which referred to mythical events.

The high priest would first awaken the sleeping god with a chant. Then the seals of the shrine's doors were broken, and the bolts drawn back. The act of swinging open the doors was a symbolic gesture, where sight was granted to the deity. The priest would then bow, and kiss the ground.

The god was then washed with incense-infused water, and its mouth rinsed with mineral salts. The cleansing was followed by adorning the statue with jewels and royal garments. The final ritual required the priest to sweep away any footprints in order to prevent evil from approaching the god.

Heredity was the primary source of new recruits. Rarely was an outsider allowed this position. At the top of the temple hierarchy was the high priest. Each temple dedicated to a god had at least one high priest devoted to its care and service. During the Ptolemaic dynasty, one family held the position of High Priest in Memphis for almost 300 years.

High priest candidates made their way up the ranks of the temple hierarchy. The one chosen to occupy the lofty position of high priest was usually confirmed by the pharaoh. Several of the high priests were also important officials in the government. Families sharing the highest priesthood titles tended to make many alliances, thereby gaining more land and wealth. Shifting balances of power sometimes resulted in more or less open conflicts between the priesthood and the pharaohs.

In the 21st dynasty, Thebes became the capital of an almost entirely theocratic government. The city was headed by king-priests who spoke and governed in the name of god Amun, in open opposition to the ruling pharaohs. These kings-priests caused a massive decentralization of power, known as the Third Intermediate Period.

The educational institution in ancient Egypt was known as the House of Life. Attended by the offspring of the elite and the clergy, it was a place tailored to the social status of its attendees. The eartiest references to this type of institution date back to royal decrees of the Old Kingdom.

Only two known centers have been uncovered, one in the abandoned city of Akhetaten and one at the temple of Ramses II, on the west bank of Thebes. Inscriptions uncovered in those locations mention the names and titles of people who were connected with the House of Life, such as a chief physician and many scribes. Itis presumed that by the Late Kingdom, every temple had a House of Life.

The House of Life offered training for the elite destined for occupations such as astronomers, doctors, veterinarians, diplomats, architects, translators or theologians. Some institutions focused on specific disciplines, making them a central hub for the country.

Not limited to instruction for young students, the House of Life was a source of reference for many scholars, with rooms dedicated to papyri of many disciplines. Because papyri were preserved there, the Greco-Romans referred to the House of Life as a library.

Ancient Egyptian economy was based on an unequal system of redistribution of goods. The state of Egypt collected the crops, and the temples distributed them throughout the provinces. Since the only people capable of counting and ensuring a fair redistribution were the educated scribes, this meant that the temples played a pivotal role in this process.

There are records of pharaohs making offerings of large tracts of land and animals to temples in order to maintain their favor. Ramses Ill offered generous gifts to the temple of Amun in Karnak in such a manner.

Palaces, warehouses, and granaries were built inside the temple compound to better control the redistribution of goods. The size of the recorded numbers of goods combined with every other function filled by temples only serves to confirm their might as economic, religious and political centers of power within Egypt.

Building Ancient Egypt

Understand the different techniques used by ancient Egyptians to quarry stone blocks, and build their monuments.

Constructed with bricks made of mud, most ancient Egyptian buildings were not permanent. Only religious temples and funerary monuments were meant to stand the ravages of time. For these very important structures, Egyptians used limestone, sandstone, and harder materials such as granite, quartzite and travertine. These heavy stone blocks were so prized that they were often transported from quarries located hundreds of kilometers away.

Limestone was common and easy to extract from quarries on the east bank of the Nile. This particular limestone had marine fossils in it however, preventing it from being easily decorated and polished. Used as the main building material, the structure would then be finished with a finer limestone that was polished smooth, and decorated as needed. Limestone was used for the building of the first pyramids, and for most of the religious buildings of the Old and Middle Kingdoms.

Ancient Egyptians preferred to use sedimentary rock beds, or layers like sandstone and limestone, because they were often easier to extract. The common method used to extract stone was the open pit quarry. Stone cutters would find quality stone, shape and dig it out on site. Open pit quarries enabled many workers to work simultaneously on many blocks, which allowed for better productivity.

Workers would draw a large grid directly on the stone's surface, taking care to leave a space between the blocks. This allowed them to isolate the different blocks and create a trench that would make the extraction easier. Stone workers used iron chisels for hard rock, and bronze or copper tools for softer rocks such as limestone. Removing material between each block created a trench line. In some quarries, that trench was wide enough to accommodate a worker, who would then cut the block entirely on site. For harder rocks like granite, workers cut a series of holes and hammered wooden wedges into them. They then soaked the wood until it swelled and caused the rock to split.

The gallery extraction technique was used when the desired rock was buried under layers of rubble. This method was often necessary in order to find the whiter and finer limestone required for a smoother finish. The first step was for the stone workers to create an access pit that would allow them to reach the desired wall of stone. Once a wall of quality stone was exposed, workers could then cut out smaller blocks. This pit required a descending platform. Designed like a stairway, it allowed them to free multiple galleries of blocks.

To cut the stone, they created a longitudinal kerf, or slit, and then cut the rock at a 90-degree angle. The lower side was determined along the geological layers or by using a horizontal cut. Wooden wedges were inserted in the rock and hammered in. Shock waves were then generated using hammers, fracturing the blocks at the seam.

To maintain the stability of these mining pits over the course of quarrying, workers would leave support sections of unexcavated rock.

In every quarry, dedicated shrines were established to offer protection for the workers. In particular, Serket, the scorpion goddess, was considered a very powerful deity among quarry workers. Every mine and quarry of ancient Egypt included a scorpion charmer, who was said to use magical powers to ward off the dangerous insects and keep the workers safe.

Workers & Transport

Understand who were the people involved in the creation of ancient Egyptian monuments, and understand the techniques used to quarry stone blocks and transport monuments.

Whether workers were employed for the pyramid construction or at the quarries, the government supplied food and housing. Workers for the pyramids and royal necropolises were housed in more permanent villages such as the famous Deir el-Medina. Quarry workers had more temporary lodgings. Al skill levels were needed and utilized, from basic workhands to prepare the gypsum, to brick makers and sand carriers, to skilled stonemasons to shape the blocks.

Skilled architects and engineers were employed year-round, while support labor were often farmers who worked on the quarries or construction during the Nile's flood season. The basic laborers were hard-working and versatile. Many may have been farmers who joined the construction during the off-season. Hieroglyphs found in the work villages listed assigned job titles.

Archeological research shows that no food was stored or prepared on site, but instead workers received abundant rations of bread, beer and meat. These rations were taken care of by an administration outside the village. Medical treatment was also available for those who were injured.

While some quarries were closer to the Nile, others were located across the desert and required long expeditions. These expeditions were sanctioned by the state. They involved complex logistics, and required many participants. Transporting a block by land meant that workers had to overcome the weight and friction of the load. To solve this, they first dug a track in the ground. This path was sometimes reinforced with rails upon which a sled used to ferry the blocks would be pulled.

Whenever possible, blocks were toppled from a higher elevation onto the sled. Workers then poured water onto the clay at the front of the sled, creating a slick surface to more easily move the load. It wasn't until the New Kingdom that animals were used to tow the burden.

During flood season, the Nile was at its largest and deepest, which allowed the transportation of the heaviest and biggest loads. Quarries close to the river had troughs dug out to deliver the stones to the shoreline. Harbors and wharfs situated at the river's edge allowed the transfer of materials and supplies. Harbor warehouses accommodated additional stocks of stone so that they were available for the winter sailing season.

The Ouadi el-Jarf papyri detail a limestone load intended for the Khufu pyramid that weighed in at 70-80 tons, or thirty blocks. One papyrus is a fragment from a foreman's notes taken while working on the Great Pyramid. It details the transportation of limestone blocks from the Tura quarries to the construction site of the pyramid. The other papyri are shipping logs containing archives of the sailors assigned to sail the Red Sea and the Nile.

Stone cargo generally weighed 15 tons per boat, amounting to roughly six or seven blocks per trip. For heavier Loads such as obelisks, monolithic pillars or gigantic statues, larger boats were used. These transports are the ones typically showcased on temple walls.

River transportation was the most efficient way to ferry stone blocks between the quarry and the construction site. Blocks were transported by flotillas of several types of boats. The most detailed illustration of transport by river is a relief of Queen Hatshepsut's barge with an accompanying flotilla.

Agriculture & Seasons

Learn about the basic agricultural food production techniques, and understand how the Nile was at the center of Ancient Egypt wealth.

While crops were cultivated in different cases around the desert, most of the arable lands were near the Nile. Two types of cereal grain were cultivated: barley, and an ancient wheat known as emmer. These two key ingredients contributed in establishing bread and beer as the staple of the Egyptian diet, and the basis of its economy.

The Ptolemaic era created an agricultural revolution with the introduction of advanced agricultural techniques and new grain types such as rice, durum wheat and pearl millet. The resulting agricultural mass production greatly increased the economy of ancient Egypt. It also prompted the development of storage and transportation, allowing long-distance trade with other regions.

Both bread and beer rations were part of a system of barter payment. The state used those goods to pay wages for those who worked in the quarries and at the construction sites. Beer was so important to ancient Egyptians they had a goddess of beer brewing: Tenenet. Tenenet is seen in many paintings and sculptures with beer, and women are depicted as the primary beer makers.

In order to increase agricultural production, fertile land was divided into plots, and large agricultural villages were encouraged. The state and temples were the biggest landowners. Depending on the region, fertile land was managed by civil servants, or rented to individuals. Ancient Egyptians relied on rudimentary tools for land cultivation. Soil was broken down with hoes, and wing plows were used to make furrows.

The three seasons known as Akhet, Peret and Shemu corresponded to a specific phase of the agricultural process and the river's natural changes. Akhet, was the time of the flood, beginning with the appearance of the star Sirius in July. Peret was the time when lands were cultivated, plowed and sown. This fell between October and November. Shemu ran from May to September, and was when harvesting and taxation began.

The pharaoh's duty was to uphold order against chaos, and provide for his people. Priests and local governors also wanted to appear as protectors of the people. However, any variation in the Nile's seasons could cause water shortages. This had devastatingconsequences on wheat and barley crops. The pharaoh, administrators and priests knew they needed to demonstrate their ability to prevent such a catastrophe from happening, and so they invented the story which would be inscribed upon the Famine stela.

The story begins with the pharaoh worried for his people. The Nile hasn't flooded in years and his people are starving. In search of the origins of the flooding, Djoser seeks out Khnum, the protector god of the region and the source of the drought. Djoser gives the god offerings and orders his priests to restore the temple of Khnum. These offerings please the god, and the floods are restored. This story was intended to highlight the importance of the deity in everyone's daily lives, while also demonstrating the crucial role that the priests and the king played in feeding and protecting the people of Egypt.

Ancient Egyptian Cultivation

Learn about the ancient Egyptian agricultural techniques.

The new grain types of the Ptolemaic period required a great deal of water. Farmers needed to ensure they had effective, consistent irrigation. The Nile's rising and receding waters naturally irrigated most of the crops. Areas where the Nile didn't reach, such as gardens and vegetable plots, required an irrigation tool known as the shadoof. The shadoof allowed easy transport of water from its source. It consisted of a tall wooden frame with a long pivoting pole and suspended bucket. The system could be raised and lowered with little effort.

Later a sakia, or water wheel, was invented. The sakia needed animals to turn the wheel, which rotated buckets through the water. It drew the water to an elevation of 3.5 meters, and enabled a great deal of control over the irrigation process. This improvement supplied larger areas and thus resulted in larger harvests.

The threshing process separated the grain from its husk. Workers would spread the ears on clean ground. Oxen, cows or donkeys were then guided back and forth to trample the grain. This continuous movement worked the grain loose while preventing the animals from eating it. Unwanted chaff and straw were swept away, or gathered and added to the mud used to make bricks, to make them stronger.

Winnowing was the stage where workers used wooden scoops to throw ears in the air. The wind carried off the chaff, leaving the heavier seeds to fall to the ground. This action was repeated until the undesired materials were sifted out. Grain waste was mixed with manure or other organic substances to produce brick-shaped dung toaves that could be easily burned. A standardized brick size enabled Egyptians to mass produce this byproduct, and use it as a commodity.

Transporting large amounts of grain required ships equipped to carry heavy loads. These goods were moved during the Nile's flooding season, when the river was deep enough for large ships. The transports stopped at checkpoints to accommodate customs and police controls, as well as for technical requirements and weather conditions.

Having reached Alexandria's inner harbor, the wheat was unloaded under the supervision of a civil servant in charge of wheat management. Portions were distributed to Alexandria's city market, and the remaining stockpile was either exported or stored in warehouses.

Grain storage facilities were located across all of Egypt. Temples and institutions had large silos, while individual houses had storage sheds. In some houses, arched cellars were built into the foundations. These watertight chambers were accessible from the ground floor, through a trapdoor. Royal granaries acted as the storehouse and distribution centers, and managed state payments to civil servants, soldiers and the police. Though plastered on the inside, silos weren't completely sealed and so remained susceptible to mice infestations.

When the grain was ready for processing, it was poured into bowis and pounded into a coarse flour. That flour was then passed through a sieve to make it a finer quality, and further ground between stones. Ancient Egyptians did not stock flour. Instead, fresh grain was portioned out each time to produce flour as it was needed.

The sieves used by Ancient Egyptians were unable to filter out sand and stones. Grit often passed into the flour, causing long-term tooth abrasions among all classes of Egyptians.

Domesticated Animals of Ancient Egypt

Learn about the various domesticated animals of ancient Egypt.

Agriculture and domesticated livestock were introduced 6000 years ago. Archaeologists have found traces of cattle, donkeys, pigs and dogs. Dromedary are thought to have been introduced during the Persian invasion.

Pets were deeply cherished in ancient Egypt. Many illustrations of children often include a pet in the depiction.

One of ancient Egypt's most iconic animals, the cat, wasn't adopted into their daily Life until the Middle Kingdom. Since they were so highly capable of killing snakes and rodents, cats were present throughout every period. However, they only became pets sometime during the Middle Kingdom. Prince Thutmose, son of Amenhotep III, had his cat Ta-miu laid to rest in its own sarcophagi.

The earliest reference to dogs dates back to 5000 BCE. They were popular pets, as they helped hunters and protected herds. They were closely linked to Anubis, the jackal-headed god. Baboons, monkeys and even falcons were tamed as pets. Each was mummified and buried with as much ceremony as any family member.

Ancient Egyptian Medicine

Learn about the balance of science and magic that was ancient Egyptian medicine.

Evidence of advanced medical procedures have been found on mummies, and ancient Egyptians left detailed medical writings, from diagnosis to follow-up treatment. One of the oldest known surgical studies is the Edwin Smith Papyrus. It's one of the first documents in history that notes an association between the integrity of the brain and cognitive functions, including cases of ocular complications and paralysis following head trauma. Vinegar-treated marble stone from Memphis was used as an anaesthetic.

Another similar document, the Ebers Medical Papyrus is over 20 meters long and 30 centimeters wide. It details treatments of forty-eight surgical cases and contains 877 paragraphs describing various diseases. Alongside accurate and factual scientific approaches, the papyrus has more than 700 magic formulas and incantations to ward off demons and disease. This demonstrates how ancient Egyptians believed in a harmonious balance between religion and science.

Remedies were considered as medicine, and carried by doctors and priests. Village doctors often had another job, alongside their medical duties and the preparation of medicines. A cure for blindness was made of fermented honey, ochre and kohl. The science behind it was that honey functioned as an antiseptic and antibacterial, while ochre would reduce the swelling. All of their knowledge did not always suffice. Ramses II died of an infection caused by an abscessed tooth.

Leather & Linen in Ancient Egypt

Learn about the uses of leather and linen in ancient Egypt.

Tanning, a process which dates from prehistoric times, was present although not highly valued in Egypt due to the heat. Leather was reserved mainly for things such as sandals, leather bags, dagger sheaths, quivers, and other similar items. Leopard hides, unlike regular leather, were highly valued and usually worn by priests.

Valued for its coolness and freshness in hot weather, linen was the fiber most commontly used for fabrics and textiles. It was produced from flax, which was plentiful in Egypt. Fibers were usually dyed before weaving. While color was used in the production of textiles, dyes weren't commonly used for clothing and most Egyptians wore white. The color represented spiritual purity, a goal to reach for every day of one's mortal life.

Various shades were achieved using woad, a dye produced from the leaves of Isatis Tinctoria. The plant was cultivated for this purpose within the Nile Delta, and allowed for the creation of various colors. For example, different maceration times of the leaves would result in colors ranging from red to green, while adding in limestone shifted it to blue. During the Greco-Roman period other ingredients were found, resulting in a wider range of colors.

(Behind the Scenes) This area's style is strongly influenced by the dye baths and tanneries of modern day Fes, in Morocco. This helped Ubisoft envision what such locations might have been like in ancient Egypt. While this tannery is within the city walls, back then they were often found outside the city boundaries. The tanner's trade was considered off-putting by the Greeks, as all these operations resulted in noxious smells.

Ancient Egyptian Fashions

Learn about ancient Egyptian fashions.

Learning what life was like for ancient Egyptians presents many differences, and yet also, surprising similarities to how people might live today. Understanding the daily lives of regular citizens so many thousands of years ago is, ultimately, what connects us as human beings.

Jewelry was a popular item among ancient Egyptians of all social standing. Both men and women wore earrings, rings and bracelets. Status determined how much jewelry a person wore, and what it was made of. Common folk wore pearl necklaces, simple bracelets and leather bangles. Brightly colored earthenware and glass paste were a favorite enhancement.

The jewelry of the elite was made from gold, silver and other precious stones. Because gold never lost its shine, it was considered akin to the flesh of the gods. Wide jeweled collars were a favorite. Made with rews of beads formed into patterns of animals or flowers, the soft chiming sounds they made were thought to appease the gods.

Though idealized, tomb paintings are a catalogue of the changing fashions of ancient Egypt from the Old to the New Kingdom. Egyptians took appearance and cleanliness very seriously and were diligent about their fashion, hair and jewelry as well as their grooming habits.

The fabric of ancient Egyptian clothing was almost entirely made from various grades of linen. Linen was commont!y white, draped over the body and cinched at the waist, though some garments were sewn or tailored. Wealthy men wore long tunics, loincloths or kilts, while poor men only wore loincloths. Women wore long dresses, with differences residing in the quality of the fabric depending on social status. Egyptians commonly went barefoot, but could also wear sandals made from papyrus fiber or leather.

Cosmetics, including concoctions to prevent body odor and bad breath, were an integral part of everyday life for Egyptians. Used by both men and women, cosmetics were used as moisturizing ointments and sun protection as much as for beautification. Red ochre, a natural clay, was the most readily available cosmetic to tint lips and cheeks. Henna was used on nails and Lips, and as hair coloring. It was also favored by richer women to decorate their palms and the soles of their feet.

Egyptians believed kohl had magical powers, wearing it as black eyeliner to protect their eyes from the sun and to prevent eye infections from particles in the flooded Nile river. A special green kohl, made from ground malachite, was worn for ceremonies and religious rituals.

Women and teenage girls wore their hair long, and often braided. Wealthier women included carved combs or hairpins. The length of men's hair rarely dropped past the shoulders. They were mostly clean-shaven during the Dynastic Period, a trend began by the elite and soon adopted by the general populace. Queen Hatshepsut donned an artificial beard when she became pharaoh.

Wigs were very popular. Used for special occasions, or to conceal grey hair or baldness, they were fastened in place with beeswax. The most expensive wigs, were made from human hair and reserved for royalty. Other wigs were composed of linen, wool or animal hair.

Prepubescent children generally had their heads shaved. Young girls kept some strands intact, while young boys had a braid worn on the side.

Artisans of Ancient Egypt

Learn about the daily life of artisans in ancient Egypt.

It was under the watchful eye of Ptah of Memphis, the god of craft and architecture, that ancient Egyptians developed the unique rendition of the world they lived in. However, it is vital to understand that their view of art, and those who created it, was likely very dissimilar to the modern concept of the word. Instead of artists, the creative culture had skilled and respected artisans. The most significant categories of specialties for crafters were drawing, painting, sculpture and metalworking.

Ancient Egyptian craftspeople created both art and a wide variety of mundane, everyday tools. Every item created had a specific purpose and was produced by anonymous artisans who worked alone or with a team. Most crafts such as pottery and metalworking were utilized for everyday items. Luxury goods and artwork illustrations served temple rituals, and were not meant for public display. Artisans rarely signed their names to the work, though they were clearly aware that they possessed a unique skill and talent for the task.

Art in all of its forms has offered not only a practical insight into the way ancient Egyptians lived, but in how they viewed the world and their place in it. The balance of order and chaos was crucial in both the physical and the metaphysical universes. As a result, their art appears to follow a strict set of stylistic conventions that supported this worldview. From households and palaces to temples and tombs, pottery, papyrus and textile items were essential to the everyday life of ancient Egyptians.

In ancient Egyptian culture drawing was used as ilustration, such as seen in the Book of the Dead. It was also the first step in the creation of a relief, painting, or statue. Two-dimensional representations were concerned with order and form, and were intended to honor gods and promote the transition of the soul to the afterlife.

Stylistically, Egyptians were concerned with the depiction of the human form's inner self. As such, artistic representations were not concerned with realism, but rather with idealized youth, and perfectly harmonious visuals.

An exception to this were scenes depicting hunting and battle, where the environment and enemies moved in lively, even chaotic ways. Animals and foes were depicted piled up as if describing chaos, with Egyptians standing in solemn, disciplined poses, bringing order to the scene.

Reliefs could be either in high relief, or low relief. Either method required a surface suited to the desired technique. Preparation of the surfaces differed depending on the quality of the rock. A quarried block only needed a simple smoothing. Rough-cut rock monuments such as those found in tombs, required more work. Often the surface was coated in plaster before being sculpted.

For reliefs, preliminary sketches were drawn in red, then framed with a red grid to position the elements of the scenes. Corrected sketches were in black and once approved, the scene was ready to be carved. This method likely explains the name given to relief-makers: the one who draws the outlines.

Statues were believed to be vessels for the souls of the deceased, or deities. That is why a sculptor was called “the one who makes it live”. This divine duty earned them the utmost respect. As with a relief, creation of a sculpture began with a drawing. Most statues were made of quarried blocks of stone, primarily limestone, though sometimes harder stones such as quartzite were also used.

In ancient Egypt, the profession of crafter was organized and relied on a specific hierarchy. Most artisans depended on an institution to provide them with raw materials. There were three working levels for craftsmanship: domestic, large estates and within palace and temple workshops. Some royal workshops, at their largest, covered an area of about 2.8 square kilometers in size.

At the domestic Level, most Egyptians were craftspeople to a greater or lesser extent. The ability to repair tools was a daily necessity. Crafted everyday items could also be bartered for at the local market. Artisans with skills but lacking in resources worked at large estates, where the elite provided them with space to work and raw materials. The most skilled artisans were employed in royal or temple projects, and benefited from a special status. They were provided with good work spaces, and considered to be highly skilled.

An ancient text known as the Satires of Trades has a number of descriptive summaries that offer teasing glimpses into how artisans were perceived. A coppersmith was said to stink and have fingers that resembled crocodile droppings, while potters were said to be like those who lived in bogs. This view was likely exaggerated in order to highlight the most enviable position of all: that of the scribe.

Located near the Valley of the Kings, Deir El-Medina was a settlement created by order of the king to honor the most skilled artisans. lts name translates as "the monastery of the city.” Allocated a house on the initiative of the king, these craftsfolk were regarded with respect, and referred to as the royal artisans. Those who lived there worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and its surrounding temples.

Archaeologists believe the site was home to skilled and respected artisans for over 400 years. It is considered one of the most important discoveries relating to Egyptian daily lite. While much of the focus of Egyptian archaeology was on its kings and queens, it wasn't until the excavation of Deir El-Medina that Egyptologists were given a valuable window into the community life of ancient Egyptian artisans.

Evolution of Pottery in Ancient Egypt

Learn about the pottery and its various uses in ancient Egypt.

Excavations all over Egypt have uncovered enormous quantities of pottery vessels of all shapes and sizes. The production of pottery was mainly confined to the outskirts of settlements due to the materials required, and to keep the kiln smoke away from inhabited spaces. The function of the product determined the selection of the raw material, its treatment, its form as well as the finishing of the surface.

Pottery was essential to ancient Egyptians' daily lives. It was used in all aspects of life, from the storage of grains and liquids, to containers within the tombs of necropolises. The most common pottery was made from Nile silt that resulted in a reddish-brown clay. Limestone clay, which made for more attractive pottery, was only found in Upper Egypt.

Early pots were made from pinched or coiled clay. Chopped straw, ashes and other minerals were added, and the mixture was then smoothed and decorated before being put in the oven. Pots were fired in bonfires, or enclosed within a brick kiln.

The potter's wheel was utilized during the Old Kingdom. Pottery became smoother and more polished, similar to river stones. it was decorated primarily in red pigment, with the black color achieved by exposing it to smoke. Pottery workshops were attached to palaces or temples, and around the late period specialized workshops began to appear.

Quartzite particles, which created the rich blue or green glazing, became common during the New Kingdom. Mediterranean motifs and tin-based glazing came with the Greco-Roman era.

Potsherds could be found anywhere and were the most common canvas for writing or drawing, in comparison to the more expensive papyrus sheets. Named after their Greek description, Ostraca contained daily life records, letters or could be drawn upon. Artists drew sketches for temples and tombs or simply for leisure.

The Egyptian Household

Learn about the family life and homes of ancient Egyptians.

In pre-Greco-Roman culture, women were considered equal to men in many matters. They owned property, testified in court, could divorce and inherit. Until the Greeks and Romans restricted their rights, Egyptian women could take over their deceased husband's trade. Marriage contracts included mentions of allowances and items of value brought to the marriage by the woman, which would forever belong to her.

Certain professions were open only to women, such as weaving or professional mourning, while others were available to both genders, including working as servants for the rich households. Social status did have an impact, though; the higher in status, the easier it was to obtain education, and access different professions.

Homes were generally composed of three rooms. First there was the entrance, furnished with a small bench of brick, probably intended for a statue and protective divinity. Then there was the ceremonial room, meant to receive guests. The last room was either a bedroom or kitchen. Furniture consisted of basic chairs, chests and storage. Tables were not used for family dinners. Instead each individual had a small table of their own.

Marriages were a social contract rather than a religious construct. Family was vitally important to ancient Egyptians, and children were considered a blessing from the gods. The father, mother and their children were the nucleus of the family, and cohabitation sometimes extended to mothers-in-law, sisters, aunts and sisters-in-law.

Status and wealth played a large role in the style and size of ancient Egyptian homes. Commoners' houses were built with sunbaked mud-bricks. Wealthier homes were often painted in white, and decorated with various motifs.

Town officials and the rich lived in mansions with numerous rooms that were luxuriously decorated. Only temples and tombs, meant to last for all eternity, were built with stone.

Funeral stone inscriptions focused on the main member of a household. Encircling this person would then be a spouse, parents and children, possibly even siblings. These stones were so structured because there were no surnames in ancient Egyptian culture. Parents and children were a sort of family tree, which allowed for the identification of the deceased.

Beer & Bread

Learn about the production steps of brewing beer and bread making, and their importance in ancient Egyptians' lives.

While the Mesopotamians invented beer, including using a straw to avoid the sediments and herbs, Ancient Egyptians perfected the brewing method. Egyptian beer's quality was determined by alcohol strength, color and flavor. During the Pharaonic era, beer was the most commontly used and important alcoholic beverage. The state and temples used it, along with bread, as payment to workers and it was included on the Lists of food offerings to the gods and the deceased.

Beer was the popular drink of ceremonies and festivals. The Festival of Drunkenness was even dedicated to it. Considered to be quite nutritional, beer was also significant in the day-to-day lives of ancient Egyptians. Egyptian adults and children consumed beer with all of their meals, and medical texts include hundreds of remedies that contain beer. It remained the most popular alcoholic beverage until the Roman era.

Recipes for beer varied over time, and depended on the quality of the materials. Bakers and brewers typically worked alongside one another at the same workshop or house. Many families often produced the quantity appropriate to their own consumption, with better quality beers produced for festivals and other special occasions. The most basic recipe used malted cereal as the main ingredient. Fruit such as dates were added along with honey and spices.

Once baked, bread would be crumbled into the brew to start the fermentation process. Adding grain enzymes would break down the starches, turning them into sugar and creating a thick mash.

Once ready, the bread and grain mixture was compressed, and then strained through a sieve with water into the mix of malt beer. Once fermented, the beer mash was transferred to large containers and again compressed, by foot or with pestles.

Once smooth, the beer was stored in pottery jars and sealed with a clay stopper. It probably couldn't be kept for long and likely had a thick, pasty appearance and texture. Very little was wasted. Leftover grains were reused to make sourdough bread, or combined with the next batch of beer.

While there are many ancient accounts for making bread, most of the knowledge known about ancient Egyptian brewing comes from an account by the alchemist Zosimos, over 300 years after Cleopatra's reign. More recently, Dr. Delwen Samuel, an archaeobotanist, has proposed alternate antique techniques to brew beer. However, experts are unable to replicate an authentic beer since not all of the techniques and ingredients used by ancient Egyptians are known yet.

Food was prepared on the floor until the Middle Kingdom, when cooking benches were introduced. The introduction of durum wheat improved bread quality, meaning that the upper and middle classes ate better. The poor, however, still made do with a diet consisting of a gruel made of vegetables, softened bread or barley.

Dough was kneaded by hand or foot and when sufficiently blended, additional items were added such as fruits, nuts, honey and spices. To leaven the bread they added sourdough or leaven from beer brewing. Ovens were circular or beehive shaped and made with clay or brick. If there was no oven at all, a bread maker used the hot sand to bake flat bread, a technique stillin use by some Berbers today.

(Behind the Scenes) Ancient Egyptians always had to fight off the omnipresent sand particles that were blown towards them. Despite their best efforts, sand regularly made its way into their food. Additionally, particles from the grain-grinding stone tools and ovens they used also contributed to attrition and prematurely worn teeth. The team tried to portray this through toothache animations and commoners sweeping sand off.

Wine in Ancient Egypt

Learn about the origin, production and storage of wine in ancient Egypt.

When the god Horus lost his eye in a war with Set, the ancient Egyptians believe the eye turned into a vine, and the vine's tears became wine. Early texts dating back to 3150 BCE contain the hieroglyph for wine. Regarded as extremely valuable, wine was highly sought after by the elite. It was also an essential part of many religious ceremonies.

A millennia-old tradition, grape cultivation and wine production was regimented in the way typical of ancient Egyptian bureaucracy. Egyptians kept careful records of winemakers, which they clearly identified on labels. Every land owner with a modicum of self-respect usually kept a vineyard. This held particularly true in the regions of the Faiyum and the Nile Delta.

Documentation shows that only certain craftsfolk were allowed to provide the containers required to store and transport wine. That and rigorous quality control checks established for every step of wine production shows that ancient Egypttians knew that the quality and longevity of wine could easily be affected by any number of variables, which they paid careful attention to.

Egyptians had different kinds of wines, most of which ranged in quality from good to very good. The sweet shedeh, to which honey had been added. The soft nedjem, obtained by drying the grapes in the sun. The maa, reserved for religious cerimonies. And finally there was the paour, the mediocre-rated wine, resulting from the second pressing of grapes and reserved for a less discerning palate.

Oil in Ancient Egypt

Learn about the cultivation and use of oil in ancient Egypt.

(Behind the Scenes) Castor, sesame and moringa were the source of the most common oils in Ancient Egypt. Oil was used for various purposes: cosmetics, medical treatments, nutrition, perfume, athletics, and rituals, to name a few. The team decided to use oil as an explosive to add more gameplay opportunities for the player.

Ancient Egyptians originally used castor oil in wick lamps, but also for cosmetics, such as facial and hair treatments. There is mention in some papyrus of castor oil being prescribed to treat constipation, and help pregnant women. Castor beans were found in ancient Egyptian tombs as early as 4000 BCE. Castor oil was made by pressing the beans from the plant of the same name.

Olive trees were present though scarce in ancient Egypt's earty history, and olives were mostly imported from Syria and Palestine. Their use and cultivation remained uncommon untilthe mass arrival of Greek settlers during the reign of the Ptolemies, when demand increased sharply. Olive trees were normally found in the region of the Faiyum and the lands surrounding Alexandria.

Romans

Roman Military Equipment

Learn about the military equipment typical of Rome's armies.

Skyphos: Tiberius' triump & preparation of a sacrifice

The strength of Rome was directly dependent on its military supremacy, and fundamentally militaristic society.

Regular citizens, comprised mostly of farmers and herders, joined to protect their land and families.

In return for their service, members of this civic army were allowed to vote.

Trained to be highly disciplined and obedient to superior officers, citizen-soldiers developed a deep sense of loyalty to their city.

Relief, base of Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus: iurator conducting a census

The quality of the armor of a Roman foot soldier was intrinsically linked to his social status and wealth. Chainmail was the most commontly used type of armor. Scale armor, made famous in today's media, came into use after Caesar's time.

Foot soldiers carried large and oblong shields, while the cavalry used smaller ones of Greek origin.

Soldiers were expected to carry their own kit, including the tools required for the construction of forts and tents.

Marching Roman soldier, with gear

Roman soldiers used the same types of weapons. The stomach and face were the most targeted parts of the body. As such, a legionary was equipped with two close-combat weapons: a dagger and a short sword known as a gladius.

One of the most ingenicus Roman weapons was the javelin. Its pyramid-shaped tip pierced the body, while its iron shank was designed to break upon impact, stopping the enemy from throwing it back.

Trajan's column

During their conquests the Romans regularly transformed enemy technologies to add to their own formidable arsenal.

After capturing a Carthaginian vessel, the Romans adopted its better features and constructed a superior fleet of ships.

Adapting heavy artillery designs from Greek modeis aided the Romans in building catapults and ballistae. The latter became an iconic symbol of Roman warfare.

Roman Forts

Learn about the structure and operation of Roman forts.

The size of a Roman military camp, known as a castrum, varied significantly depending on how many soldiers it needed to accommodate. However, they all shared common characteristics in design and construction, such as this fort before you, located in Cape Chersonesos.

Rectangular in shape, the forts were heavily fortified by ramparts and a ditch system. The walls were reinforced with parapets, essentially an extension at the roofline which allowed a protective barrier for patrolling soldiers. Depending on the availability of materials, some forts were built with stone, timbers, stacked turf and, particularly in the eastern part of the Empire, baked brick.

Access doors on all four sides were each flanked by guard towers. The commanding officer was positioned in the middle of the camp, giving him a clear view of the troops and the main gate.

Along with sleeping barracks for the soldiers, the fort also had a granary that was expected to hold rations for a year or longer. To ensure the health of the soldiers, every camp was equipped with medical staff and a hospital. A clean water supply with conduits for a bathhouse and latrines was included in the construction of every fort.

The Forts of Cyrenaica

Learn about the fortifications discovered in Cyrenaica, and their purpose.

Village near Cyrene

Cyrenaica was a Libyan region under Roman control, gifted to Rome by one of Cleopatra's ancestors.

The remains and foundations of ancient fortifications were discovered in the 19th century in the south-west of Cyrenaica, as well as a Roman garrison dating back to the first century CE.

Evidence shows that these forts were of Libyan origin, rebuilt and modified by Roman engineers when Cyrenaica was part of the Empire.

(Behind the Scenes) Stone was the most commontly used material to build forts in Egypt and Cyrenaica. Though no real proof of a fortress similar to the one before you has been uncovered in that region, the team chose to add it as a worthy and awe-inspiring end of game challenge for the player.

(Behind the Scenes)

Map of the world. Made by Eratosthenes of Cyrene, 240 BCE

The forts of Cyrenaica were intended to prevent invaders from gaining access to the main route that lead to the country's five most important cities. These forts were built close to coastal plains and deserts for added defense.

Three of these cities were recreated by the team: Balagrae, Apollonia and Cyrene.

Had it existed, the fort before you would have protected the road leading to Balagrae.

Other than reference to an attack around 404 CE and a military reorganization by Emperor Justinian during the 6th century CE, we still know little of the Roman military presence in Cyrenaica.

Roman Aqueducts

Learn about the aqueducts and water management in Cyrenaica.

Painting of the Pont du Gard, by Hubert Robert

Water management was taken seriously by the Romans. Cyrenaica benefited greatly from Roman administration, with the construction of aqueducts and canals.

The source of water varied depending on the location.

Many aqueducts were built at the foot of the mountains, offering greater flow from the melting snow.

View of the aqueduct near old Cairo, by Edme-François Jomard

The ability to transport water over a greater distance increased agricultural production.

Some aqueducts were reported to be over 7 kilometers in length.

Where the Greeks of Libya originally focused mainly on olive trees and figs, which required less water, the advent of Roman aqueducts allowed for a far greater crop diversity. Every farm's water use was carefully scheduled.

Roman leveling tools

The engineering methods used to create aqueducts were constantly reviewed, with a clear focus on exploiting the local environment. Materials, water usage, cleaning regulations and a deep understanding of how to exploit gravity itself were all important concerns.

Several fortresses were built to protect the aqueducts, basins and cisterns.

Roman Aqueduct of Segovia

Additional water was collected with wells and cisterns, but aqueducts were the main supply of fresh water.

The water was distributed based on the collective needs of the city, before the private needs of an individual.

Almost all aqueducts ended in a fountain where the water circulated to clean the streets, and supply bathhouses and latrines, thus improving the cleanliness of Cyrenaica's cities.

Crucifixion

Learn about crucifixion, the most severe form of Roman capital punishment.

In terms of the severity of Roman justice, crucifixion was at the top of the list of corporal punishment, followed by death by fire and decapitation. The upper class considered crucifixion unworthy of their position. Those lucky enough to have Roman citizenship were also exempt from such treatment.

Decimation, by William Hogarth

Easily accessible, crucifixions were popular entertainment among the citizenry.

Unlike throwing victims to wild animals, which required an arena, crucifixions did not require any particular setting.

The martyrdom of Saint Andrew

Those subjected to crucifixion were almost always slaves, traitors and lower class citizens.

Roman deserters were crucified because the betrayal of the soldiers was perceived as endangering the lives of Roman citizens.

Spartacus breaking his chains

In 71 BCE, a major slave uprising in Italia was repressed by the Roman army.

This resulted in the crucifixion of 6000 men including their leader, a slave and former gladiator known as Spartacus.

Characters

Image Name Description
ACO DT Bayek.png
Bayek of Siwa Medjay. Husband to Aya of Alexandria.
ACO DT Aya.PNG
Aya of Alexandria Trained as a medjay. Wife to Bayek of Siwa.
ACO DT Julius Caesar.PNG
Julius Caesar Roman politician and general.
ACO DT Cleopatra.PNG
Cleopatra VII Philopator Descendant of Alexander the Great's general, Ptolemy I Soter. Queen of Egypt.
ACO DT - William Miles render.png
William Miles Modern day mentor. Father of Desmond Miles.
ACO-DT Layla.png
Layla Hassan Technical engineer. Former employee of Abstergo Industries.
ACO DT Ptolemy XIII.PNG
Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator Brother-husband of Cleopatra VII Philopator. Pharaoh of Egypt.
ACO DM Khemu.PNG
Khemu of Siwa Son of Aya and Bayek.
ACO DM Shadya.PNG
Shadya of Euhemeria Egyptian. Daughter to Hotephres and Khenut.
ACO DM Reda.PNG
Reda the Merchant Egyptian. Nomadic merchant.
ACO Hasina.png
Hasina of Yamu Daughter of Menehet, an old friend of Bayek.
ACO DT Actor.png
Actor One of the famed actors of ancient Egypt, in costume.
ACO DT Egyptian Woman.png
Egyptian Woman Wearing clothing typical of the common Egyptian folk of the era.
ACO DT Egyptian Nobleman.png
Egyptian Nobleman Wearing clothing typical of the nobility of Ancient Egypt.
ACO Egyptian Noblewoman.png
Egyptian Noblewoman Wearing clothing typical of the nobility of Ancient Egypt.
ACO Roman Soldier.PNG
Roman Soldier Wearing clothing typical of Roman soldiers of the era.
ACO DT Greek Nobleman.png
Greek Nobleman Wearing clothing typical of the Greek nobility of the era.
ACO DT Greek Noblewoman.png
Greek Noblewoman Wearing clothing typical of the Greek nobility of the era.
ACO DT Greek Man.png
Greek Man Wearing clothing typical of the common Greek folk of the era.
ACO DT Greek Woman.png
Greek Woman Wearing clothing typical of the common Greek folk of the era.
ACO Ptolemaic Soldier.png
Ptolemaic Soldier Wearing clothing typical of Egyptian soldiers of the era.
ACO DT Bayek Hedj.png
Bayek with Egyptian Hedj Wearing hedj clothing, a more distinguished though still practical outfit. Hedj means "white".
ACO DT Bayek Irtyu.png
Bayek with Egyptian Irtyu Wearing irtyu clothing, favored by the nobles. Irtyu means "blue".
ACO DT Bayek Narok.png
Bayek with Egyptian Narok Wearing the robe of an elder Maasai warrior.
ACO DT Bayek Persian.png
Bayek as a Persian Commander Purple is the color of leaders, feared by their enemies.

Timeline

Timeline

Gallery

References

  1. This Month in Assassin's Creed: Origins – February. Ubisoft (01-02-2018). Archived from the original on July 17, 2020. Retrieved on February 2, 2018.

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