Studying African history has always been important in our family. Over the years, many schoolbooks have omitted or glossed over ancient African kingdoms and we wanted to make sure that our children learn the truth about these civilizations, no matter what.
To start, we focused on the Ancient Egyptian civilization, which is world-famous as a kingdom that prized mathematics, law, agriculture, and writing – among other things. But many school lessons have presented a view of Ancient Egypt that is at odds with what historians have discovered, including what the Egyptians looked like, what they accomplished, and who ruled the kingdom over the years.
So we put together our own lesson about Ancient Egypt history for kids! Read on to learn more about this fascinating and accomplished civilization that you can share with your children!
If you love this unit, be sure to check out our list of must-read black history books for kids!
Ancient Egyptian Architecture
Egypt is probably the best known ancient African kingdom. The main reason for this is that there are so many archaeological sites that testify to what life was like in Ancient Egypt.
We looked at some images of Egyptian ruins to get an idea of the extraordinary accomplishments made in architecture, design, and mathematics by Egyptians. We looked particularly at the Great Pyramid of Khufu and the Abu Simbel temples.
The Great Pyramid, for example, took over 20 years to complete. Its design is so mathematically precise that historians still cannot understand how the Egyptians built it. They even doubt that the same structure could be reproduced today.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu and the SphinxFred Hsu
The Temples at Abu SimbelDennis Jarvis
The kids made some miniature models of the Great Pyramid of Khufu out of paper. We got this activity from the book History Pockets: Ancient Civilizations.
To make the pyramids, we simply cut out the paper shapes and then colored them.
Then we folded them on the lines and added glue to make them stand up.
As you can tell, this craft was a pretty big hit.
Hatshepsut, the Female Pharaoh
We also learned about the first female Pharaoh, Hatshepsut. Tigger, in particular, was interested to find out about her. We picked up the book African Princess: The Amazing Lives of Africa’s Royal Women and read about her life and reign.
She was truly an incredible woman and ruler. In many art pieces and statues, she is portrayed as a man with a beard. At the time, a female Pharaoh was unheard of and scholars think that the succeeding Pharaohs decided to show her as a man to hide her existence. But a few statues of her exist that show her as a woman.
This one is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston:Keith Schengili-Roberts
Hatshepsut was so revered as a Pharaoh that she was buried at her own temple at Deir el-Bahari:Olaf Tausch
What Did Ancient Egyptians Look Like?
One of the things that has long irritated me about the images of ancient Egyptians in popular culture is that they are often portrayed as being very fair-skinned. I’ve personally seen a lot of children’s history resources use cartoons that show Egyptians as Caucasian people dressed in Middle Eastern attire.
To counter this view, we looked at some examples of ancient Egyptian art that clearly shows ancient Egyptians as brown-skinned people:
Image c/o: Angelfire.com/ky/southernrock Image c/o: StewartSynopsis.com
We also learned that Egyptians were very fond of jewelry and that both men and women wore it regularly. Women typically wore lots of eye makeup, as well as elaborate collars such as this:woodsboy2011
In fact, here’s a relief at the Hathor Temple showing the same kind of collar:isawnyu
Where Was Ancient Egypt?
To give the kids a better idea of how the ancient kingdoms of Africa were situated, we decided to make a simple map of them. We purchased the Discover Africa notebooking set from Balancing Everything and used the blank Africa maps as the basis for our template. (It is a truly wonderful geography unit for all 54 countries on the African continent.)
We began by marking the area covered by Ancient Egypt and we’ll be filling in the map with the other kingdoms we feature.
If you’d like to check out the Discover Africa notebooking set, you can see it for yourself by visiting Balancing Everything or by clicking below:
Books and Resources about Ancient Egypt
Here are the books and resources we used for this lesson.
PBS: Wonders of the African World – This website is based on a PBS series from the 1990s written and narrated by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Sections cover Egypt, Nubia, and Swahili.
Be sure to check out the rest of our 10 Days of African History series!
For more awesome history ideas, follow my Living History for Kids board on Pinterest!