The Magic of Egypt

An investigation of the sciences and arts of ancient Egypt


There can be few students of history or seekers after Truth who are not awed and fascinated by ancient Egypt in equal measure. This is not surprising when we consider the length of time the Egyptian civilisation flourished—a much longer period than modern scholars suppose. Consequently, most of us will have lived at least one lifetime in that magical land of towering pyramids, magnificent temples and gorgeous palaces; a verdant paradise of shimmering, reeded lakes, wooded hills and flower-strewn valleys.

For Egypt was very different 10,000, or even 20,000 years ago from the narrow strip of cultivated land along the River Nile bordered by arid, windswept deserts which we behold today. Since then many climatic changes have radically altered the climate and topography of this land of mystery and magic. Recently, interest has been re-kindled in Herodotus' descriptions of Lake Tritonis which existed 10,000 years ago in what is now the present-day Sahara desert. Ancient sources tell us that this large body of water was over 250 miles in circumference, whilst modern surveys conducted by orbiting satellites have confirmed that an even larger body of water, more akin to an inland sea, may have extended to Egypt's western border 20,000 years ago. If this is correct Egypt would have enjoyed a very much wetter and more equable climate than it does today. But this subject is outside the scope of this investigation which is primarily concerned with the sciences and arts which flourished in Egypt, and not with its climate or history, though we shall consider the beginnings of its civilisation as we proceed.

As no investigation of the wonders of ancient Egypt can be considered to be complete without discussing the Magical Arts of the Egyptians, we shall devote our afterword to a brief survey of this subject. This, if it shows us nothing else, demonstrates that there is nothing new in the modern fascination with rituals, spells and demons which the vulgar consider constitute the veritable Arcana of Magic.

Meanwhile, ancient Egypt beckons, sending forth its clarion call to those who dwelt in its scented gardens long ago, when they gazed with enraptured eyes upon the Holy Houses of the Gods which once stood like an avenue of torches along the banks of Hapi—the Sacred River. O, blessed memories, bittersweet with joys and sorrows, never to be forgotten, which fill the aching heart with longing to return to that Shining Land of the Gods. So, let us travel back in time to ancient Khem to see what we may discover about the wondrous civilisation Gerald Massey called 'The Light of the World.'

The beginnings of ancient Egypt

The orthodox view among Egyptologists is that the Egyptian civilisation began with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the 1st Dynasty Pharaoh, Menes. Some scholars have attempted to identify him with Narmer and Hor-Aha. The fact of the matter is that no one knows for certain who the first ruler of Egypt was, or the date the Egyptian civilisation was founded, or re-founded if we consider that Menes or Narmer reunited the two parts after an indeterminate period of strife and disorder as some scholars believe. Some idea of the differences of opinion among Egyptologists regarding the antiquity of Egypt can be gained from the following list of dates for the founding of the 1st Dynasty.

  • 2,320 B.C. (John Gardner Wilkinson, 1835)
  • 5,005 B.C. (Auguste Mariette, 1871)
  • 4,400 B.C. (E. A. Wallis Budge, 1900)
  • 3,400 B.C. (James Henry Breasted, 1920)
  • 4,777 B.C. (Flinders Petrie, 1940)
  • 4,240 B.C. (Walter Bryan Emery, 1960)
  • 3,100 B.C. (Veronica Ions, 1968)
  • 2,930 B.C. (John Baines, 1980)
  • 3,078 B.C. (Michael Dee, 2013)

The variation between these dates is no less than 2,685 years. Nor is the most recent estimate any improvement on the guess Wilkinson made in 1835! If Menes did reunite Egypt, and we personally have no doubt of this, what came before? To answer that question we need to consult the oldest textual records available to us, such as the 'King list' compiled by Manetho, the Palermo Stele, the Turin Royal Canon, and other artefacts, as well as the testimony of Herodotus and other ancient historians. Manetho, who flourished in the third century B.C., was an Egyptian priest whose native name may have been Maa-en-Tahuti, meaning the seer, or keeper of the secrets of the God Tahuti, or Thoth as the Greeks called him. He had unfettered access to the vast Library of Alexandria—then the greatest deposit of learning in the ancient world, and wrote a history of Egypt in 30 volumes for the Greek Pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter (285-246 B.C.) of which only three fragmentary books remain.

Manetho divided the rulers of Egypt into three categories, which he listed in chronological order. These were the 'Gods', the 'Demigods' and the 'Manes', or glorious spirits of the dead, by which he meant human rulers with supernormal, but not supernatural powers. We should call them initiates. Manetho named seven Gods in his list. Now, this number also appears in Revelation, where they are described as "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God" (Revelation 4:5). We find the same number of spirits or gods in India and Babylonia, so this was evidently a very ancient conception common to many nations, probably derived from Atlantis, from whence, as we have seen in previous articles, both the earliest settlers of Egypt and India emigrated. According to Manetho the total of the reigns of all these Gods, demigods and Manes was 24,925 years. Although modern Egyptologists still largely rely upon Manetho's list and chronology insofar as the purely historical dynasties are concerned they carefully avoid anything that relates to the mythological dynasties which preceded them!

The next ancient text we shall consult is the Turin Royal Canon, which remains the most extensive list of the rulers of ancient Egypt yet discovered. This papyrus is thought to date from the reign of Ramesses II (flourished ca. 1250 B.C.), and is still the definitive source for ancient Egyptian chronology prior to the reign of this 19th Dynasty Pharaoh. What interests us in this list are not the names of later Pharaohs, but the reference to the mysterious 'Shemsu Hor' or "followers of Horus" about whom little is known, but much speculated, who were said to have reigned in Egypt for many thousands of years before the 1st Dynasty was established. This is probable, nay certain, for no civilisation springs fully formed out of thin air as Egypt appears to have done, and a few tens of thousands of years is not too long a time for the arts and sciences to be developed to the high point we find them in the 1st Dynasty. But let us cast overboard the more fanciful speculations of some modern writers who tell us that each individual Shemsu Hor lived over 300 years because, say these pundits, they aged more slowly, enjoyed "different terrestrial gravity, lower density," or had "other ways of measuring time."

Let us also jettison the fantasy that Egypt was ever ruled by aliens whose technological superiority led them to be regarded as 'gods'. In saying Egypt was ruled by the Gods, Manetho and the anonymous authors of the Turin Royal Canon were stating the plain, simple truth that Egypt was first governed by a dynasty of semi-divine kings—the 'Sons of God' who "came in unto the daughters of man" as Genesis tells us. They were followed by the Shemsu Hor whom we would regard as great initiates. And so we arrive at the dynastic period when ordinary men and women sat in the seats of their mighty forebears. Some possessed much wisdom and spiritual power, such as we find during the 1st, 4th, 5th and 12th Dynasties and again in the 18th. Others were tyrants of the worst kind such as we find among the Hyksos, or 'shepherd-kings' who overran Egypt at the end of the 13th Dynasty and ushered in a long period of disorder and darkness that lasted for hundreds of years. It is probable that a similar period of chaos intervened between the last of the Shemsu-Hor and the commencement of the 1st Dynasty under Menes. In any event, the rule of these pre-dynastic kings ended, perhaps through wars, natural disasters, or a combination of these, and chaos ensued for time. Nor must we forget, as we mentioned in our articles about Atlantis, that a great flood inundated the whole of the Mediterranean about 9,500 B.C.

magic of egypt

David Roberts — The Temple of Philae — watercolour 1838

The sciences in Egypt

Among the many enigmas ancient Egypt poses is how she came by her knowledge. The civilisation which we still admire today seems to have arisen out of nowhere. And the further back we go in time the more perfect are the sciences and arts which confront us. From whence could she have learnt them? The only reasonable answer is Atlantis, whose immense knowledge was carried to Egypt, first by colonists, and later by the survivors of the many disasters that befell the island continent over many millennia as we discussed in previous articles. As far back as the 1st Dynasty, the Egyptians had perfected the science of hydraulic engineering to a degree not equalled until the 19th century of our own era. The gigantic work of turning the course of the Nile—or rather of its three principal branches—and bringing it to Memphis, was accomplished during the reign of Menes. A still more remarkable feat of engineering was the construction of Lake Moeris, which still exists today as the smaller saltwater lake called Birket Qarun in the Fayum Oasis, fifty miles southwest of modern Cairo. Herodotus described this lake as measuring 450 miles in circumference, and 300 feet in depth. It was fed through artificial channels by the Nile, and made to store a portion of the annual overflow for the irrigation of the country for many miles around. He goes on to tell us that its numerous floodgates, dams, locks, and engines were constructed with the greatest skill.

If we now turn to architecture, we find even greater wonders which still baffle and amaze us today. Herodotus, 'the Father of History' confesses repeatedly that Greece owes everything to Egypt. This demolishes the popular notion that progress, and hence civilisation, began with the Greeks, who invented speculative philosophy and rational science. Were this true, we should expect to find modern Greece in a more flourishing condition than it is. And when we turn to modern Egypt peopled with strangers, crushed by grinding poverty, illiteracy and riven by endless political and religious strife, it's sacred ruins the abode of bats and snakes, and a few persecuted Copts the sole surviving heirs to all its perfection of art, science, and religion, its glorious cities and monuments despoiled by hordes of gaping tourists, we need no further proof of the emptiness of the myth of 'progress' and 'civilisation.'

Throughout the long centuries since the Pharaohs reigned, philologists, astronomers, chemists, painters, architects, physicians and engineers have looked to Egypt to learn the origin of language and writing; of the calendar and solar motion; of the art of cutting granite with a copper chisel, and of giving elasticity to a copper sword; of making glass with the variegated hues of the rainbow; of moving single blocks of polished granite, nine hundred tons in weight, for any distance, by land and water; of building arches, rounded and pointed, with Masonic precision unsurpassed at the present day, of fresco painting in imperishable colours; of practical knowledge in anatomy; and of time-defying construction in stone.

Yet, the merciless hand of time has left some traces of these wonders. One of the grandest of these was the famous Labyrinth, already in ruins when Herodotus discovered it more than 2,500 years ago. He regarded it as far more marvellous than the pyramids themselves, and, as an eye-witness, minutely describes it. He says that he found 3,000 chambers; half subterranean and the other half above ground. "The upper chambers," he writes, "I myself passed through and examined in detail. In the underground ones the keepers of the building would not let me in, for they contain the sepulchres of the kings who built the Labyrinth, and also those of the sacred crocodiles. The upper chambers I saw and examined with my own eyes, and found them to excel all other human productions. The passages through the houses and the varied windings of the paths across the courts, excited in me infinite admiration as I passed from the courts into the chambers, and from thence into colonnades, and from colonnades into other houses, and again into courts unseen before. The roof was throughout of stone like the walls, and both were exquisitely carved all over with figures."

Vivant Denon, the French savant who accompanied Napoleon on his expedition to Egypt at the end of the 18th century wrote: "It is hardly possible to believe, after seeing it, in the reality of the existence of so many buildings collected together on a single point, in their dimensions, in the resolute perseverance which their construction required, and in the incalculable expenses of so much magnificence! It is necessary that the reader should fancy what is before him to be a dream, as he who views the objects themselves occasionally yields to the doubt whether he be perfectly awake. There are lakes and mountains within the periphery of the sanctuary. The whole valley and Delta of the Nile, from the cataracts to the sea, was covered with temples, palaces, tombs, pyramids, obelisks, and pillars. The execution of the sculptures is beyond praise. The mechanical perfection with which artists wrought in granite, serpentine, breccia, and basalt, is wonderful, according to all the experts. Animals and plants look as good as natural, and artificial objects are beautifully sculptured; battles by sea and land, and scenes of domestic life are to be found in all their bas-reliefs."

It is now known that the Egyptians made long sea voyages as far as the British Isles and Southern Africa. We alluded to this in our article on Egypt in England in which we related the expedition commissioned by Queen Hatshepsut during the 18th Dynasty, which is depicted in a relief at her temple in Deir el-Bahri. In the 26th Dynasty the Pharaoh Necho II fitted out a fleet on the Red Sea and despatched it for exploration. It was absent for over two years and instead of returning through the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, as was usual, sailed back through the Straits of Gibraltar. Herodotus was reluctant to concede that the Egyptians sailors had circumnavigated Africa, yet the records of the expedition made at the time clearly say that "returning homewards, they had the sunrise on their right hands," which proves that they returned by way of the Cape of Good Hope.

The Egyptians were well versed in all the branches of medicine. That they understood the circulation of the blood ages before William Harvey re-discovered it in the 17th century seems certain from the healing manipulations of the priests, who knew how to draw blood downward and arrest its circulation during surgical procedures. They had their dentists and ophthalmologists, and no doctor was allowed to practice more than one specialty; which may mean that they lost fewer patients in those days than our physicians do now! It is noteworthy in this connection that among the objects discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamen were several metal plates engraved with detailed diagrams of the human iris, proving that the Egyptian ophthalmologists practised the art of iridology. As recently as 2015, a trial involving 800,000 patients in Russian hospitals found iridology to be 85% accurate in diagnosis; in South Korea clinical trials by the government found that on average iridology was 78.2% accurate but with an impressive 90.2% accuracy in the diagnosis of digestive system disorders. So there may be something in the old adage that the 'eyes are the windows of the soul' after all!

In Winged Pharaoh, reviewed among our occult books, Joan Grant describes an operation to relieve pressure on the brain caused by a head injury which had fractured a man's skull. Distilled alcohol was used to cleanse the wound. Then a healer priest released the man's spirit from his body so that he would feel no pain while his colleague transferred the life-force to the patient to maintain his strength. Meanwhile, a surgeon operated using instruments in no way inferior to ours; scalpel, retractor, forceps and a trephine or tiny saw for drilling into the skull. Once the bone splinters had been removed which were pressing on the brain, the wound was covered with an ivory plate held in position by little gold pins. Then the flap of skin was put back and covered with surgical wax and the patient's head tightly bandaged. All this, more than 6,000 years ago—an astonishing achievement!

Turning now to astronomy, we find that the Egyptians knew the true length of the year, the precession of the equinoxes and calculated solar and lunar eclipses with a precision unmatched until recent times. By recording the rising and setting of the stars, they understood the particular influences which proceed from the positions and conjunctions of all the heavenly bodies, and their priests, whom we should really regard as scientists, predicted the weather with considerably greater accuracy than our modern meteorologists armed with all their computer models. And although Cicero may have been partially justified in his indignation against the exaggerations of the Babylonian priests, who he tells us "assert that the Egyptians have preserved upon monuments observations extending back over a period of 470,000 years," yet it cannot be denied that the period which had elapsed for astronomy to arrive at the perfection it attained in the earliest Dynasties, must have been immense.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

The most famous of Egypt's many wonders is undoubtedly the Great Pyramid of Giza which has fascinated and awed generations of visitors for thousands of years.

Let us begin our survey by dispensing with the silly notion that it was the tomb of the Pharaoh Cheops, despite the fact that no body has ever been found within it. Nor was the sarcophagus in the King's Chamber used as a 'corn bin' as some Biblical scholars have speculated. H. P. Blavatsky, Eliphas Levi, Manly P Hall and others have shown conclusively that the Great Pyramid was used for Initiation purposes and other sacred ceremonies of a secret nature. For these reasons we may also safely dismiss the various modern theories that the Great Pyramid was a 'nuclear power station' or a landing site for extraterrestrials. Let us separate fact from fantasy, however attractive it may be to those who simply adore conspiracies of all kinds.

Nor was the Great Pyramid built by or for 'Cheops' this being the Greek rendering of the Egyptian word 'Khufu'. The Great Pyramid was constructed out of limestone and granite, and these two kinds of rock were combined in a peculiar manner. We might say that these two materials represent the Higher and lower selves, as we suggested in our article on Stonehenge which was also constructed with these two materials. We might further regard the solid gold capstone which it is thought originally crowned the structure as symbolical of the Divine Soul, the entire edifice thus representing the three main principles of man.

The manner in which the Great Pyramid was constructed was similar to that employed in buildings today. Perhaps some readers were hoping levitation and other 'magical' practises were used to lift the massive stone blocks weighing hundreds of tons to their allotted positions? If so, we are sorry to disappoint them! The German Egyptologist Bunsen tells us: "The skill of the ancients in quarrying is displayed the most in the extracting of the huge blocks, out of which obelisks and colossal statues were hewn—obelisks ninety feet high, and statues forty feet high, made out of one stone!" Some writers have stated that the limestone blocks were sawn with bronze saws, the teeth of which were diamonds or other jewels, or with hardened copper saws. This is another pretty fantasy with no basis in fact.

The Great Pyramid was built by means of sheer muscle and sweat under the direction of master architects and mathematicians who had a greater knowledge of the laws of balance and equilibrium than any one today, wonderful as some modern achievements are. Manpower, haulage, block and tackle, cranes, leverage and a number of other instruments and principles of a similar nature were the means by which the huge stone blocks were placed on top of one another with the greatest precision. The blocks were sawn (when necessary) with the same sort of saws our masons use today. These were made of steel, and there is no reason to doubt that iron was known to the ancient builders, though it was then a very rare metal. Indeed, a steel dagger was one of several metal items found by Howard Carter in the tomb of Tutankhamen.

Nor was there any real hardship attached to the work, no slavery, or whipping task-masters, as some 'experts' have speculated, for the whole community worked with a will at the erection of the great Temple of Initiation, a monument they all knew would last for all eternity, constructed for the sake of the love and awe with which the great Priest-Kings inspired their people. The huge blocks were brought to the construction site by means of flat-bottomed barges by river and canals, now hidden beneath the drifting sands. The blocks were also moved along on rollers, and if it were not for the sand which covers all today, it would be possible to find the roads by which they arrived by means of aerial surveying, the same as the old tracks along which the great monoliths of Stonehenge were dragged have now been discovered at last.

When Herodotus wrote about the 'building' of the Great Pyramid, he was actually referring to the restoration of it, which he tells us took ten years and cost 1,600 talents of silver. No one has ever questioned why Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Manetho and Eratosthenes all differ in their accounts regarding the name of the builder, yet the answer is so obvious we are surprised no one has discovered it! They probably all heard various names mentioned which referred to the restorers, or the High Priests who decided upon the inscriptions with which the structure was covered again after it had been restored. J Michaud refers to such inscriptions in his short story of The Bronze Mirror. We have no reason to doubt his claims as similar inscriptions are found on almost all Egyptian temples and obelisks. It would be a very strange thing indeed if the greatest monument of all and one in which the most sacred ceremonies took place, were the exception to this rule.

The Sages of ancient times entered the Great Pyramid for initiation purposes as men, but after their three days' sojourn in the spiritual regions (while their bodies lay within the King's Chamber) they emerged as gods. Hence the Great Pyramid was called 'The Place of Second Birth', and 'The Womb of the Mysteries' and by the ancient Egyptians themselves 'Aakhut-Mir' or 'The Divine Horizon of Light'. There it was that Pythagoras, Plato, and many others, came face to face with the Wisdom of God and His former High Priests under the rule of the Supreme Hierophant, who was called 'The Invisible One whom no one ever beholds; He of the lion-face, the Master of Masters—He who alone could give to the Postulant the Word of Life'—if he had proved himself worthy!

The secret places of Egypt

Over the years several readers have written to us asking whether the various tales of secret chambers within the Great Pyramid are true. The short answer is yes. The whole of Egypt is honeycombed with such underground passages, chambers and crypts, as H. P. Blavatsky mentions in The Secret Doctrine and other occultists have alluded to from time to time, of which the famous Labyrinth which we mentioned earlier is but one example. We would go further and say that what remains above ground is but a fraction of the wonders of Egypt yet to be discovered by future generations, less faithless and covetous than our own.

But despite the presumptuous claims of some writers and psychics, none of these secret places has ever been discovered by the uninitiated at any time. The reason for this is that all such sacred crypts, chambers and temples—many of which contain treasures which far exceed anything found in the tomb of Tutankhamen—are carefully protected from unworthy prying eyes and grasping hands. You may ask how they are protected. They are protected in all sorts of ways. They are protected by the greediness and superstition of the Arabs who now dwell in Egypt. They are protected by concealed entrances, some of which now lie under water. Most of all, they are protected in supernormal—but not supernatural—ways by the Masters of Wisdom through their application of some of the unknown laws of Nature.

In recent times, many attempts have been made by 'remote viewing'—which is simply a modern word for clairvoyance—to penetrate the so-called 'Hall of Records' said to be located beneath the Sphinx. All have failed. One such 'remote viewer' commented as follows on their experience: "Lights, walls, dark, tunnels, long, deep, very deep. Hidden area. Guards. Four levels below the surface. Dark, hidden, camouflage, cannot go there, it is secret. Guards, lethal, protection, sealed off. This is a unique structure. It is so well protected that you may not be aware of this when seeing it. Disguise is the keyword. What is being protected? I see a six-pointed 'star' like formation. Whatever it is—it is buried deep underground and closely guarded. I cannot, I dare not go any further." We would add that this investigator was more fortunate than many previous peeping-toms, whose mouldering bones still exist today in some of the deep pits and shafts which were constructed thousands of years ago to protect the sacred places of ancient Egypt from unworthy, prying eyes!

The Sphinx of Giza

Of all the monuments of Egypt the Great Sphinx of Giza remains the most mysterious and least understood. "The Sphinx," Iamblichus tells us in his book On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, "served as the entrance to the sacred subterranean chambers in which the trials of the initiate were undergone. This entrance, obstructed in our day by sands and rubbish, may still be traced between the forelegs of the crouched colossus. It was formerly closed by a bronze gate whose secret spring could be operated only by the Magi. It was guarded by public respect: and a sort of religious fear maintained its inviolability better than armed protection would have done. In the belly of the Sphinx were cut out galleries leading to the subterranean part of the Great Pyramid. These galleries were so artfully crisscrossed along their course to the Pyramid that in setting forth into the passage without a guide through this network, one ceaselessly and inevitably returned to the starting point."

sphinx at giza

The Egyptian name of the Sphinx was 'Hu-em-Heru-en-Aakuti' which means "The God Hu as the Horus of the two Horizons." What the Egyptians meant by the 'two horizons', what they signified and why Horus presided over them as the emanation of the God Hu is a subject outside the scope of this investigation. What we can say is that this name conceals as great a mystery as the riddle of the Sphinx itself. We can also dismiss the notion that the human face of the Sphinx is meant to represent Chephren or Khafra, the so-called builder of the second pyramid of Giza. When we say 'riddle' we do not mean the supposed questions asked of those wishing to enter Thebes, a kind of ancient 'password' which would grant travellers safe passage into the city. Firstly, the Sphinx lies more than 300 miles to the south of the ruins of Thebes, and secondly, admittance to the Mystery Schools of Egypt was never granted by answering riddles! The real 'riddle' or enigma if you wish, is what the Sphinx represented to the Egyptians. For as we have seen, they did nothing without good reason, and certainly did not go to the trouble of constructing the Sphinx simply to baffle future generations of inquisitive tourists and Egyptologists! The Sphinx is a compound emblem wrought in stone symbolising animal, man and God. These correspond to the same principles in Man, namely lower self, Higher Self and Soul. It is so orientated that it faces the Sun of Initiation in the East and guards the way to the West, the domain of the immortal mortals who dwell in the Fields of Peace, or Sekhet Hetepet.

The arts in Egypt

The Egyptians, as we have seen, excelled in all the arts. They made paper so excellent in quality as to be time-proof. "They took out the pith of the papyrus," says one anonymous writer, "dissected and opened the fibre, and flattening it by a process known to them, made it as thin as our foolscap paper, but far more durable. They sometimes cut it into strips and glued it together; many of such written documents are yet in existence." The Papyrus of Ani now in the British Museum presents the appearance of the finest muslin, it's glowing colours as bright today as when they were painted over 3,500 years ago.

The Egyptians also excelled in the art of making linen and fine fabrics of all kinds. The writer of this article has himself examined a piece of Egyptian linen dating from the 18th Dynasty in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The weave was so fine it was impossible to count the threads with the naked eye. Pliny speaks of a certain garment sent by King Amasis to Lindus, every single thread of which was composed of 360 minor threads twisted together. Egyptian linen was spun and dyed in brilliant and gorgeous colours, the secret of which has been lost. On the mummies we often find the most beautiful embroidery and bead-work ornamenting their shirts; several of these can be seen in the British Museum in London, as well as in Cairo.


When we turn to the ornamental arts our sense of wonder knows no bounds. Ancient Egyptian jewellery is thoughtful, mystical and allegorical. It was carefully designed to enshrine the highest Truths in emblematical form, expressed through harmonious proportion, stylisation and radiant colour, all beautifully wrought in gold, silver, precious and semi-precious stones. Glass was manufactured in all its varieties from the earliest period. The jewelled pectoral illustrated at left made for a 12th Dynasty Egyptian princess shows the perfection the ornamental arts had reached in Egypt more than 4,000 years ago. We find scenes of glass-blowing and the manufacture of bottles depicted in many Egyptian wall paintings. Sir Gardner Wilkinson tells us that Egyptian jewellers imitated pearls, emeralds, and all the precious stones to great perfection with glass. If you do not have access to the collections in the great museums, you can find many fine photographs of these beautiful objects in The Jewels of the Pharaohs by Cyril Aldred, published by Thames & Hudson in 1971. When King Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered in 1922 there issued from it such a store of sublime treasures that the world gasped with astonishment.

As we saw in our article on the Magic of Music, the Egyptians cultivated music from the earliest times, and understood well the influence of musical harmony on the mind and body. Music was used in the temples for the cure of physical and psychic disorders of all kinds. Music was strictly divided into popular, military and sacred sounds, and these were never confused as they are today. The lyre, harp, and flute were used for sacred concerts to which only the nobility and priesthood were invited. For festive occasions they had the guitar, the single and double pipes, and castanets; for troops, and during military service, they had trumpets, tambourines, drums, and cymbals. Various kinds of harps were invented by them, such as the lyre, sambuc, ashur; some of which had more than twenty strings. Pythagoras learned music in Egypt and made a regular science of it in his teachings.


Countless books have been written about ancient Egypt from every conceivable perspective that still leave much untold and unrevealed, and our short investigation is no exception. This is not surprising when we consider that, even at a conservative estimate, the Egyptian civilization flourished for some 5,000 years, far longer than any other with the possible exception of China. In contrast, the Roman Empire lasted barely 500 years. We will be very lucky (or unlucky, depending on one's point of view!) if our much vaunted Western 'civilization' lasts even that long. Hence, we have said nothing about Egyptian mathematics, agriculture, writing or literature, though we explore some aspects of these subjects in other articles (see Further reading list in the sidebar). Nonetheless, we sincerely apologise for such omissions which are inevitable when considering so vast a subject. However, if we have succeeded in opening the eyes of our readers to even a fraction of the Magic of Egypt our labours will be amply repaid.

© Copyright Article published 11 November 2018. Updated 18 January 2024.

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