Earliest Egypt

A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905), Chapter III, pp. 25-50

Browse scholarship by topic:

Art & Architecture


nology and theory only, and the "White House" of the southern kingdom survived throughout Egyptian history as the sole treasury of the united kingdom. This history of the early treasury is instructive as showing that the amalgamation of the administrative machinery of the two kingdoms was a slow process which Moues was unable to complete. In all probability the land all belonged to the estate of the king, by whom it was entrusted to a noble class. There were large estates conducted by these nobles, as in the period which immediately followed ; but on what terms they were held we can not now determine. The people, with the possible exception of a free class of artificers and tradesmen, will have been slaves on these estates. They lived also in cities protected by heavy walls of sun-dried brick, and under the command of a local governor. The chief cities of the time were the two capitals, El Kab and Buto, with their royal suburbs of Nekhen or Hieracoupolis, and Pe ; the "White Wall," the predecessor of Memphis ; Thinis, the native city of the first two dynasties ; the neighbouring Abydos ; Heliopolis, Heracleopolis and Sais ; while a number of less importance appear in the Third Dynasty.

Every two years a "numbering" of the royal possessions was made throughout the land by the officials of the treasury, and these "numberings" served as a partial basis for the chronological reckoning. The years of a king's reign were called, "Year of the First Numbering," "Year after the First Numbering," "Year of the Second Numbering" and so on. An earlier method was to name the year after some important event which occurred in it, thus : "Year of Smiting the Troglodytes," a method found also in early Babylonia. But as the "numberings" finally became annual, they formed a more convenient basis for designating the year, as habit seemed to have deterred the scribes from numbering the years themselves. Side by side with this official year, there was doubtless a civil year which followed the sea-sons, and the lunar months continued to be the basis of temple payments and of many business transactions, although

Page 25