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The Achievements and Challenges of Egypt

The Odyssey is extremely grateful to the teachers at Bay Breeze Educational Resources for contributing these lessons for your use! Special thanks go to Maureen Carroll and Laurel Blaine.

Learning objectives for students

This unit is intended to focus on some of those aspects of Egyptian life and history that are of great significance to understanding the people of Egypt today and their situation. By using or adapting the core lessons and activities, your students will learn about the following:

Students will be encouraged to develop a critical stance toward information. They will learn to evaluate evidence, consider sources, and study a variety of differing viewpoints. The goal for these lessons in the Teacher Zone is for students to develop an understanding of the culture of Egypt and to develop critical thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

Lessons and activities for students

Ia. Introduction - Dynasties


Egypt has captured the imagination of people around the world as few, if any, other places have. Words such as The Nile, pyramids, King Tut, mummies, instantly evoke images of mystery and grandeur in all of our minds. With 5,000 years of recorded history the task of investigating this information can be a bit daunting to say the least. This lesson will introduce students to Egyptian history, as well as explore ways of learning about this history.


  • Students will create a KWL chart for Egypt.
  • Students will research a time period in Egyptian history.
  • Students will work in groups to prepare a presentation on the time period that they researched.
  • Students will create a class test that touches on the key points of their presentation.
  • Students will design a visual representation for their particular time period.


1. Begin this lesson by constructing a class KWL chart about the history of Egypt.

2. Divide the class into 6 groups. Each group will research a different time period in Egypt's history.

    Old Kingdom
    First Intermediate Period
    Middle Kingdom
    Second Intermediate Period
    Early New Kingdom
    Late Period

An overview of these time periods may be found on the following website:

3. Each group will research their time period and create the following:

    A presentation to be delivered to the entire class. A test to be given to their fellow classmates on the information that was included in their report. A visual representation of the information they have studied (a collage, pictorial timeline, poster for an ancient Egypt exhibit, of just their time period).

4.The following is a list of sites to begin an Internet quest for information.

6. Preparing the Test After the presentation has been completed, have students create a list of the key points in their report, information that they feel is essential for their classmates to know. Ask students to be sure to include at least one question from each of these key points in their test.

7. Make certain that students know that they should take notes on the presentations. Students will be tested on the information contained in the presentations.

8. Have the students grade the tests and turn them in.


Students will be evaluated on the quality of their report, test and visual display.

Ib. Everyday Life in Ancient Egpyt


Tomb paintings and objects placed in tombs have provided us with insights into the daily lives of ancient Egyptians. Because of these artifacts, we know what ancient Egyptians ate and drank, what kinds of clothes and jewelry they wore, and how they spent their leisure time. This lesson looks at what was important to ancient Egyptians, and compares it to what is important to us today.


  • Students will gather information about everyday life in ancient Egypt.
  • Students will develop an understanding of the differences and similarities between the ancient Egyptian culture and their own culture.
  • Students will create a time capsule that reflects what is important in their daily lives.


1. Have students collect pictures or descriptions of items that Egyptians chose to accompany them into the afterworld. The following are a few internet sites that maybe helpful:

2. Ask students to write a sentence or two for each object that explains why they think this item might have been important to this person.

3. Tell the students to create a time capsule of their own. Write a sentence or two explaining why the items were chosen.

4. Ask students to write several paragraphs comparing and contrasting their time capsule with the one from ancient Egypt.

5. The answers to the following questions should be included.

  • What do the artifacts from ancient Egypt tell you about everyday life during that time period?
  • What do the items in your time capsule tell you about your everyday life?
  • In what ways are the items chosen by the ancient Egyptians similar to the items you chose?
  • In what way are the items different?

6. Students will share their time capsules with the class. At the conclusion of the presentations; discuss the following questions:

  • How do the time capsules of the class members differ?
  • How are they similar?
  • Can any generalizations be drawn about the differences between the time capsules based on gender?
  • The ancient Egyptians were buried with certain artifacts that were to accompany them to the afterworld. When you collected artifacts for your time capsule, you chose items to communicate your life style to future generations. How do you think this difference in purpose might have affected the choice of artifacts made by the Egyptians and yourself?


Students will be evaluated on the quality of their written work and their time capsules.

Ic. Prince of Egypt


The makers of the movie The Prince of Egypt went to, what they considered , great lengths not to offend anyone in the making of this movie. In spite of this, a number of Egyptian people are upset by the film. Nadia Abou-Al-Magd expressed these sentiments in the article entitled "The Prince of Egypt Under Fire." The article states that the movie, in effect, "Tarnishes Egypt's ancient history." In this lesson students will read online articles published in the Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper, and discuss the existance of stereotypes in movies.


  • Students will exhibit an understanding of the existence of stereotypes in movies.
  • Students will watch the movie and compare events in the movie to the list of objections.
  • Students will form an opinion on the situation and write a letter stating their views.


1. Divide the class into small discussion groups to answer the following questions:
  • What is a stereotype?
  • How have minorities, women, the elderly, and people with disabilities been portrayed in the movies in the past? Give examples.
  • How are they portrayed in present day movies? Give examples.
  • Have movies changed in recent years? If so how? Why?
  • How important do you think this issue is? Reassemble the class and conduct a whole class discussion on the answers to these questions.

2. In this activity, students will read online articles published in the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper. (This site seems to take a long time to load. You might want to access it prior to the lesson and copy the article.) These articles are found on the following site:

You may also search the site for other related articles

3. Discuss the main objections raised in the article and write them on the board. List the steps that the producers took in the creation of the movie to try and to prevent offending anyone.

4. Show the movie The Prince of Egypt to the class. Ask the students to think about how people are portrayed in the movie.

5. Discuss the movie and compare it to the points made by Nadia Abou-Al-Magd in the article.

  • How do you think the Egyptian people were portrayed in the movie?
  • Do you agree/disagree with the points in the article?
  • Do you think that the producers could have done anything differently?
  • Do you think that it is possible to create a movie no one will object to?
  • How important do you think this issue is?

6. Pretend that The Prince of Egypt is still in the production stage. Write a letter to the producers stating your opinions about whether or not the movie should be released, or what changes could be made before it is released.

Extended Activity Other animated films (such as Mulan and Pocahontas) have also been criticized by various communities. Students may want to view these movies and voice their opinions on the subject.


Students will be evaluated on the quality of their written letter.

Id. Ancient Laws


King Hammurabi created a set of famous laws regarding crimes, debt, marriage, divorce and slave ownership. This set of laws was written down, and is accessible on the World Wide Web. This lesson uses these authentic resources to compare ancient laws to current-day laws.


  • Students will analyze the Hammurabi code.
  • Students will compare and contrast the Hammurabi code to our current day criminal and civil codes.
  • Students will create newspaper editorial on the subject.


1. Have students read the Hammurabi code on the following Internet site.(You may want to copy the codes yourself and pass them out to students.)

2. Tell students to record five observations regarding the laws, as they are reading them.

3. Engage the class in a discussion about the laws. Generate a class chart based on the students' observations.

4. Compare the Hammurabi code with the modern day criminal and civil codes.

  • How do sentences for similar offenses in modern times compare to sentences in Hammurabi times?
  • Ask students which code they think is more effective? Why?
  • Which code would students rather live under? Why?
  • Do students think that the Hammurabi code would work in our society today? Why/why not?

5. Our criminal justice system is seemingly under constant criticism. Write an editorial defending or criticizing our criminal and/or civil codes compared to the Hammurabi codes.


Students will be evaluated on the quality of their newspaper editorial.

IIa. Mummies


In May of 1996 an antiquities guard riding a donkey on the Bahareya Oasis made an amazing discovery. The donkey's leg fell into a hole, revealing a tomb beneath the surface. The mummies, slightly over one hundred in number, covered with gilded gold and gold masks. Zahi Hawass, director of antiquities for Cairo and Giza, said that the mummies gazed as if they were alive. He described one female mummy, in particular, as holding the hand of her husband and looking at him with love and affection.

What happens to the mummies now? This lesson looks at the dilemma of sharing the find with the outside world and the fear of, as Zahi Hawass states, "damaging the spiritual value of the people of that time."


  • Students will gather information about the excavation of tombs.
  • Students will develop an understanding of the desire to learn about the past, as well as the need to be sensitive to people (past and present).
  • Students will compose a letter stating their recommendations for the resolution for the stated dilemma.


1. Begin the lesson by asking students how we obtain information about people who lived thousands of years ago. What resources are used?

2. Ask students how we have gathered information about Egypt. Discuss how people have studied the contents of tombs to attain much of this knowledge.

3. Have students gather specific information about what people have learned about ancient Egypt from the studying of its tombs. Also, have students record thoughts and information about the actual mummies. Information about the excavation of tombs may be found on the following web sites:

4. Create a class chart to hold the factual information students have unearthed.

5. Create a second chart to contain thoughts and feelings about the mummies themselves, and the removal of burial artifacts from the tombs.

6. The following questions are a guideline for a discussion of the pros and cons of human remains being on display as artifacts.

  • In a dark room in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, Nes-Ptah, a barber from Thebes, Egypt (Dynasty22,946-712 BC) is displayed in a glass case. His wife Tabes is also on display in the gallery. What do you think about mummies being on display in museums?
  • Do you think that the educational value outweighs the objections of using human bodies as artifacts?
  • What do you think about so many of Egypt's artifacts leaving the country of their origin?
  • Think of objects that are important to us in this country. How would you feel about them disappearing to other countries?
  • Imagine that you have been cryogenically frozen. Would you want to be put on display in a museum?

7. Zahi Hawass, and others, have struggled with the decision of what to do with the artifacts and mummies from this dig. Form a class panel to hear the individual class members' opinions on the subject. (Try to pick students with varying opinions.)

8. Each class member will write a letter to the panel detailing their opinions on the matter. In the letter they will propose what they feel is a reasonable solution to the dilemma.

9. The panel will reach a decision and write a report detailing how they will handle the matter.

10. Have the panel read their report to the class. Allow time for the class to ask the panel questions regarding how it reached its decision.


Students will be evaluated on the quality of their written letter and their class participation.

IIb. Rosetta Stone


In 1799 a large, black basalt stone bearing inscriptions in Greek, Demotic and hieroglyphs was discovered in Rosetta, Egypt. The writing on the Rosetta stone actually contained the text of a decree from the reign of PtolemyV Epiphanes, 196 BC. This was not immediately realized, and many years would pass before scientists would understand that the hieroglyphic symbols actually represented sounds, and were not merely pictures that represented objects.

Hieroglyphics were, among other things, used to write letters, legal documents, and inscriptions on tombs. Because of this, many aspects of life and events in ancient Egypt have been recorded. Other countries on the African continent relied on an oral tradition to record their history. This lesson compares and contrasts written and oral recordings of history.


  • Students will engage in a discussion about the development of written languages.
  • Students will evaluate the differences between written historical documents and oral histories.
  • Students will compare the differences between a written family document and an oral accounting of a given event.


1. Involve students in a discussion about language.
  • Why did people develop oral and written language?
  • What purposes do they serve?
  • What purpose does graffiti serve in our society?
  • What purpose does music serve in our society? What stories does it tell?

2. Have students read the information contained in the following web sites. (You may want to print the articles and copy them for the class.) The first web site is an oral account of Sundiata and the history of the Mali Empire. The second site is an account of King Tut's life extracted from the written word.

Compare the accounts of the two rulers of African countries.

    How does the style of the two accounts compare?
    Does one give you more information than the other does?
    Do you find one of the accounts more interesting than the other?

2. Ask students to think about an event in their family's history. Find examples of a written account of the event. (i.e. marriage/birth certificate, newspaper article, letter) Find an oral accounting of the same event (i.e. a family story).

3. Have students write about what they learned from the two different types of documentation of an event. Include the following:

    What did you learn about the event from the written document?
    What did you learn about the event from the oral account?
    How are the two accounts different?
    How are the two accounts the same?
    What does this exercise tell you about how history is recorded?


Students will be evaluated on the quality of their written report.

IIIa. Women in Egypt


It is generally believed that women were treated better in ancient Egypt than they have been in many other societies. Egyptian women enjoyed many legal rights, such as the right to own and inherit property. Married women remained in control of assets that were brought into the marriage. In the event of a divorce, each person kept what he or she brought to the marriage, while property that was accrued during the marriage was divided. For this lesson, students will read primary sources to gain an understanding of the legal status of women in ancient Egypt.


  • Students will gather information from original documents about laws governing women in ancient Egypt.
  • Students will compare and contrast the laws governing women of ancient Egypt to that of women living in the United States in the 1800's.
  • Students will create a story about a woman living in ancient Egypt.


1. Ask students what they think life may have been like for women in Ancient Egypt. Record the students' answers.

(Teacher Note: A lecture given by William A. Ward from the Department of Egyptology at Brown University on the subject of women in Egypt is available on the following web site: )

2. Have students look on the following web site (or print the site, copy it, and pass it out to students) to learn about women and the governing laws of ancient Egypt.

3. Have students write a one or two sentence summary of each case.

4. Discuss how the written summaries compare with the recorded student responses.

  • What surprised you the most about the court cases?
  • Do you think women of various classes were treated differently?
  • Compare the lives of the Egyptian women to women living in the United States in the 1800's.
  • Compare them to women from other countries.

5. Have students to pick a case to write about. Ask them to make up details to create a short story surrounding the case. Tell students to draw upon their knowledge of ancient Egypt for the details.

6. Have students create another story based on the same court case. This time have the setting be in the United States in the 1800's or in another country.


Students will be evaluated on the quality of their written story.

IIIb. The High Dam at Aswan


The High Dam at Aswan and the creation of Lake Nasser, completed in 1972, provided millions of acres of farmland to feed Egypt's increasing population. At the end of the 19th century a smaller dam and lake had been created at Aswan. This project caused problems for the ancient monuments in the vicinity. Buildings on the island of Philae were now covered with water during certain times of the year.

The construction of the High Dam would result in the loss of many monuments. UNESCO launched a rescue mission to save the monuments. This lesson looks at the effects that the creation of dams has had on past and present societies.


  • Students will gather information about the construction of dams.
  • Students will consider the pros and cons of building dams.
  • Students will prepare a list of reasons to build or not build a dam in their community.


1. Discuss the pros and cons of the construction of the Aswan Dam, and dams in general. Generate a list of reasons why dams are necessary. Create another list regarding the negative impact of dams on communities.

2. Have students perform a quick search to gather information about dams and their effects on communities. This might mean simply talking to someone from an area where a dam has been constructed. Most states have had dam construction projects that have resulted in the destruction of entire towns. The following are a few sites to get you started.

3. Add the information that students have learned to the lists.

4. Tell the class that the government has decided to build a dam that will create a lake where your town now exists. The government wants to collect water from the runoff of the mountains to the north of you. They will store this water in a lake, the lake that will be created where your town now stands. This water will be directed to farmlands in the south to be used to produce crops.

5. Tell the students that there is going to be a "town meeting" regarding the matter. This will be their chance to ask questions and express their opinions on the matter.

6. Select a group of students to be the government representatives. Ask them to find out information about the construction of dams. (The Army Corps of Engineers may be a good place to look.)

7. Tell the remaining students to prepare a list of reasons why they agree or disagree with the government's proposed idea. Tell the students that these lists will be turned in to the teacher.

8. Hold the mock town meeting.

9. Have students write one of the following:

  • A letter to the editor of the local newspaper expressing their opinions on the subject.
  • A newspaper report about what happened at the meeting.
  • A letter to their representative voicing their opinion.
  • A detailed plan of what course of action they will take in the matter.


Students will be evaluated on the quality of their written work and their class participation.

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Internet and Society Lessons - Youth and Society Lessons
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