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Year 2 History and Geography

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Fantastic Pharaohs and Marvellous Monuments

great sphinx and pyramid map

In What Your Year 1 Child Needs to Know, we looked at the way people lived in the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age in Britain. For thousands of years, people lived by hunting animals and gathering plants. But in some other parts of the world, people were already living in a way that was much more like the way we live today. We talk about these people and their ancient civilisations (a civilisation is a big word for a group of people who live in a highly developed society). Let's think of some of the things that make what they are, things like living in one place, farming, building cities and having a written language.

The first civilisations began in Africa and Asia. Let's learn about ancient Egypt, in Northern Africa. Five thousand years ago, the ancient Egyptians began to grow crops and build villages and cities. Over the course of the next two thousand years, the ancient Egyptians built enormous buildings and monuments that are still among the biggest ever made. They built huge stone temples and pyramids, too.

The pharaohs had wonderful names that are fun to say: Rameses [RAM-ee-sees], Akhenaten [ah-ken-AH-ten], Amenhotep [ah-men-HOE-tep], Tutankhamun [toot-AN-CAR-moon] and Hatshepsut [hat-SHEPsoot]. The pharaohs were the rulers of ancient Egypt, and they were not just important kings and queens (like those in Britain) but also thought to be like living gods. The pharaohs wanted to inspire and amaze people with their greatness, and each pharaoh wanted to show his people that he or she was even more powerful and important than the pharaoh who had come before.

Imagine for a moment that you're the pharaoh and you want to tell everyone about how important and powerful you are. What would you do to show them? Would you have someone write a story about the great things you've done? Would you make a huge statue of yourself for everyone to see? The pharaohs thought of those ideas, too.

The pharaohs ordered thousands of slaves to build great monuments to themselves and to the gods they worshipped. They ordered workers to carve large images of their faces in stone. They also built great sculptures and statues, including the massive statue of the Great Sphinx that has the body of a lion and the head of a human. The Sphinx is like a pharaoh because the pharaoh rules as a person and is as powerful as a lion. The pharaohs also built the amazing pyramids, which are the sacred tombs that were built as the burial places of many pharaohs. Since the pyramids and the statue of the Great Sphinx were so enormous, they show the pharaohs' great power in ancient Egyptian society. Even though they are thousands of years old, you can still see the pyramids and the Great Sphinx in Egypt today, and in the picture shown. Learn more about ancient Egypt and its art here, or visit the British Museum in London for much more.

This activity is adapted from pages 125 -132 of What Your Year 2 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here.

This activity has cross-curricular connections: click below to see related activities.

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history and geography owl
history and geography owl