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INTRODUCTION

TO THE

EGYPTIAN COLLECTIONS IN THE BRITISH

MUSEUM.

CHAPTER I.

THE COUNTRY OF EGYPT AND ITS LIMITS. THE DELTA.

OASES. LAKES. THE NILE. INUNDATION. NILE
FESTIVALS. FAMINES. ANCIENT AND MODERN
DIVISIONS OF EGYPT AND THE SÛDÂN.

The Land of Egypt is situated in the north-east shoulder of the continent of Africa, and in the earliest times it consisted of that portion of the Nile Valley which lay between the Mediterranean Sea and the northern end of the First Cataract; the Island of Abu, or Elephantine, and the town of Sunnu, or Sunt, the Syene of classical writers and the Sewênêh of the Bible (Ezekiel xxix, 10), forming the southern boundary of the country. The northern limit of Egypt has, in historic times, always been the Mediterranean Sea, but its southern limit varied considerably at different periods. Under the Vth dynasty, about B.C. 3600, it was marked by Elephantine and Syene. Under the XIIth dynasty, about B.C. 2500, it was extended to Semnah and Kummah, about 250 miles to the south of Syene. Under the XVIIIth dynasty, about B.C. 1600, the southern frontier town was probably Napata, the modern Merawi, about 600 miles, by river, from Syene. A century later the Egyptians took possession of the Island of Meroë, and they appear to have built a town at a place about 930 miles from Syene, by river, to mark their southern frontier. Between B.C. 1200 and 600 the frontier was withdrawn to Syene, where it remained practically for several centuries. Under the Arabs, the

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4.

INTRODUCTION TO THIE EGYPTIAN COLLECTIONS.

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southern frontier was fixed at Dongola (A.D. 1275), the old Nubian capital, which lay about 570 miles from Syene. In 1873, Sir Samuel Baker extended it to Gondókoro, about 2,823 miles, by river, from Cairo. In 1895, the frontier town of Egypt in the south was Wâdî Halfah, and it continued to be so until the capture of Umm Darmân (Omdurmân) in 1898. At the present time, the southern limit of Egypt is marked by the 22nd parallel of N. latitude, which crosses the Nile at Gebel Sahaba, about eight miles north of the Camp at Wâdî Halfah, and its northern limit is the northernmost point of the Delta. The distance, by river, from the Camp to the Mediterranean Sea, is about 960 miles. The boundary of Egypt on the east is marked by a line drawn from Ar-Rafah, which lies a little to the east of Al-Arîsh, the Rhinocolura of classical writers, to Tabah, at the head of the Gulf of Akabah, by the eastern coast of the Peninsula of Sinai, and by the Red Sea. On the west, the boundary is marked by a line drawn from the Gulf of Solum due south to a point a little to the south-west of the Oasis of Sîwah, and then proceeding in a south-easterly direction to the 22nd parallel of N. latitude, near Wâdî Halfah.

The name “ Egypt,” which has come to us through the Latin “Aegyptus" and the Greek “Aiguptos," is derived from one of the ancient Egyptian names of Memphis, viz., “Het-ka-Ptah," meaning “Temple of the Ka, or Double, of Ptah ” I Ou08

1. The common name Wololu for Egypt among the Egyptians was “ Qem,” or “ Qemt,” i.e., the “ Black Land,” o , in allusion to the brownish-black mud of which the soil chiefly consists. Another name of frequent occurrence in the literature is “ Ta-Mera,” the “ Land of the Inundation,"

i II

+ The soil of Egypt is formed of a layer of sedimentary deposits, which has been laid down by the Nile, and varies in depth from about 40 to 110 feet ; the rate at which this layer is being added to at the present time in the bed of the river is said to be about four inches in a century. In prehistoric times the sea ran up as far as Esna, and deposited thick layers of sand and gravel ; upon these the rivers and streams flowing from the south spread the mud and stony matter

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i The Peninsula of Sinai has been a province of Egypt for about 6,000 years,

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