Ancient World: Ego, Archaic, Immortality

Ancient World: Ego, Archaic, Immortality

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1706-2.ch008

Abstract

The features of depicting space in the reliefs and murals of Ancient Egypt are considered. Attention is drawn to the preservation of the connection of ancient Egyptian art with primitive art in sacred paintings and to the evolution of the ways of depicting space in secular scenes. There is enough material to reconstruct the ancient Egyptian version of the World Tree myth and to establish links with other archaic myths and ideas about the World Tree in the synchronous cultures of the Middle East. When analyzing markers of evolutionary changes, the most active channels were established and the forecast of the self-organization scenario was checked. The results are presented in the form of generalized psychological portraits and behavior patterns of representatives of the main estates.
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Background

The timeframes of the research need to be established.

Archeological finds in the Nile Valley date back to the Paleolithic, Neolithic and Eneolithic Ages. Speaking about a relatively developed urbanistic civilization comparable with the Harappa or Sumer, such one appeared in the so-called predynastic times (approximately 6 000 -5 000 years ago). However, of interest here is the pictorial art of the epoch of the earliest states, as it is somewhat different from the art of the Eneolithic period. Those timeframes encompass the so-called dynastic period of the Egyptian history (5 000-2 650 years ago) which includes the periods of the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms, together with the intermittent periods of disturbances and foreign invasions (Breasted, 1915; Gardiner, 1964; Grimal, 1992; Dodson, Hilton 2004; Wilkinson, 2010). In that period Egypt's influence sometimes spread to the west and east of the Nile Valley, as well as far back southwards, sometimes, it narrowed down to the territory spanning from the Nile delta in the north to approximately the latitude of the present-day Aswan in the south (Figure 1).

This period ended with, firstly, the Assyrian, then Persian and Macedonian conquests, as a result of which Egypt lost its governmental autonomy; whereas the cessation of the spiritual and cultural tradition should be dated to the first centuries of the Christian Era, when Christianity was adopted, with the ancient religion and writing falling into oblivion. Although, already in the Hellenistic and Roman period the traditional Egyptian culture, heavily influenced from outside, demonstrated the signs of stagnation.

It should be noted that as early as the beginning of the Old Kingdom the Egyptian culture was already rather mature, with the established religion, social organization, irrigation farming, writing, literature, and arts. Such combination turned out to be robust enough while maintaining self-similarity in several respects, despite the external influence and attempts of internal fundamental reformation.

Concerning pictorial art, and, specifically, to space representation methods, the monuments of the time also have some specific features that make it possible to speak of an easily distinguishable “Egyptian style” (Smith, Simpson & William, 1998; Robins, 2008). A comparison with the pictorial art monuments of synchronic Mesopotamian civilizations (Sumerian, Elam, Assyrian, Babylonian) is also necessary as it will enable us to single out common features of the ancient states while setting aside certain particular features inherent in the pictorial art of any of those states.

The researches differently assessed both the Egyptian pictorial art and its link with the art of previous epochs. Matie (1956, 1966) has developed an idea of the Ancient Egypt pictorial art being close to the primeval art while regarding the former as the supreme stage of the latter. In the opinion of Raushenbakh (1980), an Egyptian artist depicted objective space with the help of orthogonal projections; and, the author supposed that it was only possible with the help of a drawing made according to the orthogonal projection rules. Kolotov (1998) maintained a similar view believing that spatial correlations were portrayed by aligning several orthogonal planes positioned vertically or horizontally.

Therefore, the leading scholars advance contradictory theories supported by an analysis of a certain part, rather than the entire data set, whilst the methods of analysis do not demonstrate the required consistency of approach.

These drawbacks can be eliminated by using other sources, such as visual materials on the Egyptian pictorial art in order to replenish the data set (Verman, 1904; Global History of Arts, 1956; Gombrikh, 1988; Hill, 2007); hieroglyphs (Adkins & Adkins, 2001) images of synchronic cultures (Ragozina, 1902; World History, 1955-1970) that are required for the sake of comparisons; self-organization theory – applicable to the evolution of the Egyptian pictorial art (Kovalyov & Nitsyn, 2010).

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