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Exhibitions/ Ancient Egypt Transformed/ Exhibition Galleries/ Gallery Seven

Gallery Seven

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An Expanding Worldview: Conquest, Colonization, and Coexistence

The ancient Egyptians imagined themselves at the center of the world, while their neighbors inhabited the periphery. Relations with foreign lands were governed by anxiety about potential invasions and an intense desire to control the raw materials, goods, and labor found outside Egypt. The pharaoh, therefore, had the complicated task of protecting Egypt's borders while also exploiting these same dangerous zones for valuable commodities. These responsibilities were expressed symbolically in the image of the king smiting and conquering foreigners. In reality, various strategies were employed, ranging from subjugation to occasional punitive and rapacious campaigns to tolerance that allowed for peaceful coexistence and trade.

Middle Kingdom views of foreigners were complex. Fascination with the outside world as well as the distinction between Egypt and surrounding lands found expression in adventure stories that we now call The Tale of Sinuhe and The Shipwrecked Sailor.

Foreigners were integrated into Egyptian life to a remarkable degree. Nubian mercenaries served in the army. Thousands of Asiatic captives and immigrants worked as laborers, weavers, and musicians in temples, workshops, or households. At the same time, Middle Kingdom Egyptians established elaborate fortifications at and outside the traditional borders of Egypt, particularly to the south in Nubia.

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