Memphis (Ancient Egypt) Timeline

Memphis (Ancient Egypt) Timeline

  • c. 3150 BCE - c. 30 BCE

    Life of the City of Memphis, Egypt.

  • c. 3150 BCE

    Memphis Egypt known as Hut-Ka-Ptah ("Mansion of the Soul of Ptah").

  • c. 2613 BCE

    Memphis called Inbu-Hedj ("White Walls").

  • c. 2613 BCE - c. 2181 BCE

    Memphis is capital of Old Kingdom in Egypt.

  • c. 2332 BCE - c. 2283 BCE

    During reign of Pepi I Memphis becomes known as Men-nefer ("Enduring and Beautiful") which Greeks translate as Memphis.

  • c. 2181 BCE - c. 2040 BCE

    Capital of Egypt moves from Memphis to Herakleopolis during the First Intermediate Period.

  • c. 2040 BCE

    Thebes is capital of Egypt, Memphis continues as important religious and commercial site.

  • c. 1991 BCE

    Iti-tawi (Lisht) is capital of Egypt, monuments still raised at Memphis.

  • 1353 BCE - 1336 BCE

    Akhenaten builds temple to Aten at Memphis.

  • 1279 BCE - 1213 BCE

    Ramesses II honors Memphis with monuments and building projects.

  • 671 BCE

    Second Egyptian Campaign, Assyrian army successfully captures Memphis and conquers Egypt.

  • 671 BCE

    Memphis destroyed by Assyrian king Esarhaddon.

  • c. 670 BCE - c. 668 BCE

    Memphis rebuilt.

  • 666 BCE

    Memphis destroyed by Assyrian king Ashurbanipal.

  • c. 664 BCE - c. 525 BCE

    Memphis rebuilt during the time of the Saite Pharaohs.

  • 525 BCE

    Persian Invasion of Egypt. Memphis becomes capital of Satrapy.

  • 331 BCE

    Alexander the Great is crowned pharaoh of Egypt at Memphis.

  • c. 323 BCE

    Ptolemy I has Alexander the Great's body entombed at Memphis.

  • c. 283 BCE - c. 246 BCE

    Ptolemy II has Alexander the Great's body moved to Alexandria. Memphis declines in prestige.

  • 196 BCE

    Memphis Decree (Rosetta Stone) issued by Ptolemy V during whose reign city declines with rest of country.

  • 30 BCE

    Egypt taken by Rome; Memphis is neglected and begins final decline to ruin.

  • c. 640 CE

    Arab invasion of Egypt; Memphis ruins used as source of stone for building cities of Fustat and Cairo.


Ancient Egyptian Timeline: 2575 BC to 2000 BC

The 4th Dynasty emerges between 2575 and 2467 BC. Peace finally settled in Egypt during this time period. We start to see kings becoming concerned with uplifting the arts of ancient Egypt. King Khufu’s Great Pyramid of Giza was constructed at this time. Royal tombs showcased some of the first religious words written on the walls. The sun god Re became a rather popular figure in regards to the worshipping practices of the land.

2550 – 2490 BC: Illustrious pyramids are built with Khufu (Cheops), Khephren (Chephren), and Menkare behind their existence.

2494 – 2487 BC: Abusir becomes the location, where King Userkaf chooses to construct a temple in honor of the sun god Ra.

2465-2323: The 5th Dynasty. During this time period, the government saw (for the first time) individuals from outside of royal bloodlines taking high positions. A shift is seen in the way that pyramids are constructed, as they start to look smaller and less solid in size. However, the carvings found in the temples are attractive and make up for the shortcomings of construction. Papyrus scrolls that dated back to this time have been discovered since, which start to show changes in record keeping , like keeping track of goods.

2375 – 2345 BC: The Pyramid Texts are created, which offer a description of Osiris.

2420 – 2258 BC: The government starts to suffer weak leadership, which is often attributed to the rule of Pepi I and Pepi II.

2323-2152 BC: The 6th Dynasty. The majority of records discovered from this time period reveal trading expeditions.

2160 BC: The capitol is no longer Memphis and is moved to Herakleopolis, which is located in the northern part of Middle Egypt. At this time, Theban rulers gain control of Upper Egypt.

2150 , 2135 BC: This is the time, where ancient Egyptians lived during the 7th and 8th Dynasties. The Old Kingdom suffers a collapse in their political structure. Famine spreads throughout the land and civil disobedience is on the rise. A great deal of death and destruction takes place.

2135 , 1986 BC: The 9th and 10th Dynasties are observed at this time, which sees a split in Egypt. Herakleopolis marks the location where the north is ruled from, while the south is ruled from Thebes. Ancient Egypt enjoys a stretch of prosperity, as foreign trade brings great wealth. A number of large building endeavors take place as well. The ancient Egyptians also become skilled in the art of making jewelry. The government grows stronger with the help of individuals, such as King Amenemhet I.

2074-1937 BC: 11th Dynasty is observed at this time. Egypt becomes unified under the rule of Metuhotep, who is responsible for the construction of the mortuary complex found at Dyr al-Bahri.

2134 – 2000 BC: Mentuhotep II is successful in reunited Egypt. The capital is relocated to Thebes during this time period.


The Ancient Egyptian Towns

There were many different towns and cities in Ancient Egypt. Many of these towns and cities were close to the Nile River because that is where food could grow and where animals and people could get water.

City

A city in Ancient Egypt usually had two ways to get in. There would be a road that would go into the center of the city and then smaller roads would connect to the town so people could go back and forth.

Some of the cities had special meaning such as a political city. A political city was usually where people that worked for the government would live. These cities would usually be close to the capital city.

Some towns were used to hold temples. These were towns that people would go to so that they could worship their gods or goddesses. Some of these towns would have pyramids in them.

Houses

Most of the houses in Ancient Egypt were made of bricks that were made of mud. Sometimes there would be floods and this would destroy the houses because they were not very sturdy and strong.

When a house was flooded, or if it fell down, most of the time the people would just build a new house right on top of it.

Important Cities

Some of the cities were more important than others and some of these included the capital cities. The capital cities were where everyone would come to do their business, to talk to government officials and where the people that were in charge lived.

There were many different capital cities over time including Memphis, Alexandria, Amarna and Thebes.

Memphis

Memphis was the capital of Ancient Egypt in the years 2950 BC to the year 2180 BC. Memphis is believed to be the biggest city in the world during this time.

Many temples and religious areas were located in Memphis when it was the capital.

Alexandria

Alexandria was the capital city of Ancient Egypt from the years 332 BC to the year 641 AD. This became the capital city after Egypt was overtaken by the Greeks and especially by Alexander the Great.

During this time was the Ptolemy Dynasty and Alexandria was the capital for over 1000 years.

Alexandria is known for one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Amarna

Amarna was the capital city of Ancient Egypt when Pharaoh Akhenaten was in control of the city and when he made it a law to only worship one god, god Aten. The city was built as an honor to Aten, but it was left after he died.

It was a big thing for the Egyptians to worship only one god and so this capital city is a very important piece of history. It was before this time that the Ancient Egyptians worshipped many gods at one time.

Thebes

Thebes is probably one of the most known Ancient Egyptian capitals and it was the capital from the year 2950 BC to 2180 BC.

Thebes was never the biggest city, but it was a place that was known for having many temples and many places to worship the gods.

Other Cities

There were other cities in Ancient Egypt that were known such as Eplephantine which was important because it was the center of trade.

Crocodilopolis was another known Ancient Egyptian town which was known because it was named for the god Sobek who was the crocodile god.

One of the biggest trade centers in Ancient Egypt was the city Kom Ombo. It was a place where many people would travel so that they could trade things such as paper.


Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur

The capital of the Old Kingdom of Egypt has some extraordinary funerary monuments, including rock tombs, ornate mastabas, temples and pyramids. In ancient times, the site was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Memphis et sa nécropole – les zones des pyramides de Guizeh à Dahchour

Autour de la capitale de l'Ancien Empire égyptien subsistent d'extraordinaires ensembles funéraires avec leurs tombes rupestres, leurs mastabas finement décorés, leur temples et leurs pyramides. Le site était considéré dans l'Antiquité comme l'une des Sept Merveilles du monde.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

ممفيس ومقبرتها منطقة الأهرام من الجيزة إلى دهشور

تقوم حول عاصمة مصر القديمة مبانٍ مأتميّة رائعة بقبورها الصخريّة ومصطباتها جميلة الزينة ومعابدها وأهرامها. وصنف الأقدمون هذا الموقع بين عجائب الدنيا السبع.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

孟菲斯及其墓地金字塔

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Мемфис и его некрополи - район пирамид от Гизы до Дахшура

В столице египетского Древнего Царства находятся великолепные погребальные памятники, включающие скальные надгробия, богато украшенные «мастаба», храмы и пирамиды. В древние времена этот объект считался одним из Семи Чудес Света.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Menfis y su necrópolis – Zonas de las pirámides desde Guizeh hasta Dahshur

En torno a la capital del Antiguo Imperio egipcio subsisten extraordinarios monumentos funerarios: tumbas rupestres, mastabas delicadamente ornamentadas, templos y pirámides. Menfis era considerada en la Antigüedad una de las Siete Maravillas del Mundo.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

メンフィスとその墓地遺跡-ギーザからダハシュールまでのピラミッド地帯
Memphis en haar necropolis - de piramides van Gizeh tot Dahsjoer

Memphis – de hoofdstad van het Oude Rijk van Egypte – heeft een aantal bijzondere grafmonumenten, waaronder rotsgraven, sierlijke mastaba’s (tumuligraven, die lijken op modderbanken), tempels en piramides. In de necropolis van Saqqara, de grootste in het land, staat de eerste grote stenen piramide, die gebouwd werd als mausoleum van Djoser, de stichter van de Derde Dynastie. De piramides van Gizeh bestaan uit de Piramide van Cheops, de wat kleinere Piramide van Chefren en de Piramide van Mycerinus. Aan de oostzijde van de piramides bevindt zich de Sfinx van Gizeh. In de oudheid werd de piramide van Cheops beschouwd als een van de zeven wereldwonderen.

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Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur (Egypt) © Editions Gelbart

Outstanding Universal Value

Brief Synthesis

Memphis is located in the center of the floodplain of the western side of the Nile. Its fame comes from its being the first Capital of Ancient Egypt. The unrivaled geographic location of Memphis, both commanding the entrance to the Delta while being at the confluence of important trade routes, means that there was no possible alternative capital for any ruler with serious ambition to govern both Upper and Lower Egypt. Traditionally believed to have been founded in 3000 BC as the capital of a politically unified Egypt, Memphis served as the effective administrative capital of the country during the Old Kingdom, then during at least part of the Middle and New Kingdoms (besides Itjtawy and Thebes), the Late Period and again in the Ptolemaic Period (along with the city of Alexandria), until it was eclipsed by the foundation of the Islamic garrison city of Fustat on the Nile and its later development, Al Qahira. As well as the home of kings, and the centre of state administration, Memphis was considered to be a site sacred to the gods.

The site contains many archaeological remains, reflecting what life was like in the ancient Egyptian city, which include temples, of which the most important is the Temple of Ptah in Mit Rahina. Ptah was the local god of Memphis, the god of creation and the patron of craftsmanship. Other major religious buildings included the sun temples in Abu Ghurab and Abusir, the temple of the god Apis in Memphis, the Serapeum and the Heb-Sed temple in Saqqara. Being the seat of royal power for over eight dynasties, the city also contained palaces and ruins survive of the palace of Apries overlooking the city. The palaces and temples were surrounded by craftsmen’s workshops, dockyards and arsenals, as well as residential neighbourhoods, traces of which survive.

The Necropolis of Memphis, to the north and south of the capital, extends southwards from the Giza plateau, through Zawyet Elarian, Abu Ghurab, Abusir, Mit Rahina and Saqqara, and northwards as far as Dahshur. It contains the first complex monumental stone buildings in Egyptian history, as well as evidence of the development of the royal tombs from the early shape called "mastaba" until it reaches the pyramid shape. More than thirty-eight pyramids include the three pyramids of Giza, of which the Great Pyramid of Khufu is the only surviving wonder of the ancient world and one of the most important monuments in the history of humankind, the pyramids of Abusir, Saqqara and Dahshur and the Great Sphinx. Besides these monumental creations, there are more than nine thousand rock-cut tombs, from different historic periods, ranging from the First to the Thirtieth Dynasty, and extending to the Graeco-Roman Period.

The property also includes the remains of many smaller temples and settlements, which are invaluable for understanding ancient Egyptian life in this area.

Criterion (i): In Memphis was founded one of the most important monuments of the world, and the only surviving wonder of the ancient world, namely, the Great Pyramid of Giza. Its architectural design remains unparalleled and scientists continue to conduct research on how it was constructed. The Pyramid Complex of Saqqara is also a great masterpiece of architectural design, for it contains the first monumental stone building ever constructed and the first pyramid ever built (the Pyramid of Djoser, or the Step Pyramid). The great statue of Rameses II at Mit Rahina and the pyramids of Dahshur are also outstanding structures.

Criterion (iii): The ensemble of structures and associated archaeological remains at Memphis, including the archaic necropolis at Saqqara, dating back to formation of Pharaonic civilization, the limestone step pyramid of Djoser, the oldest pyramid to be constructed, the tombs and pyramids that reflect the development of funerary monuments, and the remains of the city, together form an exceptional testimony to the power and organization of the ancient capital of Egypt.

Criterion (vi): Memphis is associated with the religious beliefs related to the God of the Necropolis "Ptah" who was sanctified by the kings, as well as with outstanding ideas, artistic works and technologies of the capital of one of the most brilliant and long-standing civilizations of this planet.

The Necropolis of Memphis contains within its boundaries all key attributes that convey the property’s Outstanding Universal Value. The perfection of ancient building techniques has ensured the structural resistance of the main monuments to natural forces through time. They still display their beauty and convey their inestimable artistic and historic value, preserving all the main features that directly and tangibly associate them with the events, religious ideas and the development of methods of burial through different periods. The vicissitudes of history from 2200 BC until contemporary times have caused extensive damage that make them vulnerable in terms of surface details.

The extensive number of smaller monuments and underground remains in the five main archaeological sites, as well as the sensitivities of the whole Giza Plateau, mean that the scope and extent of the remains as an ensemble also has considerable vulnerabilities, as a result of development and infrastructure pressures.

Authenticity

The form and material of the main monuments of the property from pyramids, tombs and settlements characterize it as one of the most authentic among the known monuments of the ancient world. The property preserves almost 80% of its ancient form and material.

In terms of setting, the monuments and the site of the capital are vulnerable to development, as well as to the indirect impacts of urban growth, both of which have the potential to erode their context between the Nile River and the desert and their ability to convey their sacred, spiritual and other associations in a powerful way.

Protection and management requirements

A comprehensive system of statutory control operates under the provisions of the Protection of Antiquities Law No. 117 of 1983 as amended by the Law No. 3 of 2010, for the protection of monuments. It also established the rules for preserving archaeological sites.

Despite the efforts for protection and requirements to retain its World Heritage status, a comprehensive management plan for the overall property has not been formulated. The major challenge is that the property contains five major archaeological sites and the conservation, forward planning, visitor management and capacity development for each of these needs to be brought together in one Management Plan that sets out an overall governance structure. Such a plan is urgently needed.

The Ministry of Antiquities has conducted a number of conservation projects on the property. More recent initiatives in Saqqara and Dahshur (2012) are being carried out with the involvement of all major stakeholders as well as the local community in the management of the site. There are also ongoing projects for the development and rehabilitation of the Giza Plateau in collaboration with all government bodies in Egypt (Giza Plateau Master Plan). The interventions in some of the most significant structures have been made in accordance with the international principles of restoration, with respect to the legibility of the edifices and to the principle of reversibility. The Sanctuary’s location and setting has been almost entirely preserved, so that visitors are still able to experience the spiritual character of the archaeological site.

There is currently no buffer zone although work is ongoing by the Ministry of Antiquities to delineate one and ensure its protection in response to development pressures. This needs to be submitted to the World Heritage Committee.


1. Ancient Egypt Chronology

  • Old Kingdom (2800 – 2200 B.C.): The first pharaohs created a powerful State, with its capital in Memphis, which governed all of Egypt and achieved a long period of stability. The great pyramids of Giza were constructed in this period.
  • Middle Kingdom (2050 – 1780 B.C.): The capital was moved to Thebes. Its pharaohs extended their dominion as far as the region of Nubia and brought about great cultural development. The empire decayed because of attacks by the Hyksos, coming from Mesopotamia.
  • New Kingdom (1580 – 1100 B.C.): The unification of the territory, achieved by the pharaoh Ahmose I allowed the broadening of its dominions as far as Palestine and Syria. In addition, Amenhotep IV established a new religion in Egypt based on the cult of the god Aten and established his capital in Tell El-Amarna.
  • Late Period (1100 – 30 B.C.): In this period the decline of Egypt began, as it suffered from Assyrian and Persian attacks. In the 4th Century B.C it was conquered by Alexander the Great, and in the year 30 B.C, the Romans made it into a province of their empire.

2. Geographic Location

Egypt can be found situated in the northeast extreme of Africa. The River Nile goes through it from South to North and flows into the Mediterranean Sea. Desert covers more than 90% of Egypt. The Egyptians lived on the banks of the Nile or next to canals. Each year the Nile overflowed and flooded the fields located by its shores and fertilized them, generating excesses of food.

The country was divided in two: Upper Egypt to the south and Lower Egypt to the north, in the mouth of the Nile in the shape of a delta. The unification of Upper and Lower Egypt is attributed to pharaoh Menes, around the year 3200 before Christ. His political action signified the start of a great civilization which lived on for close to 3500 years.

This important culture occupied for many centuries not only part of the African continent but also the western extreme of Asia, thanks to its campaigns for conquest during the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom.

3. Social Organization

Ancient Egyptian society had a pyramidal character and was divided into distinct groups:

  • First group: the Pharaoh (king/god) and the royal family.
  • Second group: Priests, some civil servants, governors of provinces, military commanders and scribes of high rank.
  • Third group: farmers, who constituted around 97% of the total population. It also included artisans and tradesmen.
  • Fourth group: Slaves belonged to this group. They were considered objects or animals and could be bought and sold. Many of them worked in the comfortable houses.

The role that the woman played in Egypt was more significant than in other cultures of Antiquity. Some of them had great power and were even Egyptian queens. Nefertiti is the most known queen from the Pharaonic period. Her name means, “The beautiful one has come,” and her beauty has been emphasized in the different sculptures and recordings. Nefertiti was immortalized in temples and monuments more than any other Egyptian queen.

The pharaoh was considered a god as it was believed that he had a divine origin. He took the name of He of the Two Ladies, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Horus of Gold, Horus the Victor and son of Ra.

Ancient Egypt Social Structure

Upon dying, power was transferred by inheritance to his firstborn son, although on various occasions it did not happen this way.

He was an absolute monarch, though he had to have a wide intellectual formation, and all of his public and private life was regulated with severity. He had all the powers: the legislative, the executive, the judicial and the religious. The functions of the pharaoh consisted of preserving and maintaining respect for the laws of Maat, which maintain the order of the universe, from the moment of creation, not only in that which has to do with the social and political structure of Egypt, but also the laws of nature.

The priests were characterized by their wisdom, their principal function being the administration of temples and the service of their divinities, to interpret their desires, fulfill them and worship them. They were a very influential class in politics, such that some even came to govern as regents in the 21st and 22nd Dynasties. Such is the case of Piankhi or Harsiese.

The scribes were very important in the organization of the state, as they were charged with writing down laws, transcribing sacred texts and all types of commercial and administrative texts.

The artisans worked in workshops in which all the offices were mixed, and were supervised by a director general: smiths, jewelers, carpenters, leather workers, painters… Sculptors preferred to work isolated, even though it was common for several of them to work on the same work.

There existed a type of slavery, or rather servitude, in which individuals had rights and salaries, and could even buy their freedom.

4. Political Organization

The Egyptian system of government was characterized by being:

Monarchic, as it was ruled solely by the Pharaoh, absolutist as the pharaoh had all the powers of the kingdom and theocratic as the Pharaoh believed himself to be the son of or chosen by God, in this way he justified his absolutism, giving account to no one besides God, as he considered himself a deity.

The Egyptians were governed by the Pharaoh, who was helped by civil servants, governors, and soldiers to extend his power over all the territories under his mandate and enforce the established laws. This organization headed by a king is called a State.

The Pharaoh had the mission of defending the nation with his army, as well as organizing cities, constructing canals for irrigation, encouraging agriculture, promoting commerce and administrating the agricultural excesses to successfully overcome the years of bad harvest.

Some pharaohs were very powerful and broadened their dominions fighting against neighboring states.

Ancient Egypt civilization

Next came the following positions:

  • The Royal Scribe: charged with annotating all the acts of the government. This was a fundamental character, as they were educated, experts in hieroglyphic writing, and they knew the secrets of arithmetic, being the only ones capable of evaluating taxes, ensuring construction jobs and transcribing the pharaoh’s orders.
  • The High Priest: The supreme head to whom the leadership of the religion had been entrusted. The priests formed a powerful class which for long centuries was the owner of power.
  • The Grand Vizier: The one who controlled the nomes (provinces) and was the intermediary between the pharaoh and the other officials. The highest director or “prime minister” is denominated vizier, whose authority was second only to that of the pharaoh, assuming various of his functions by delegation.
  • The Head of the Royal Seal: The one who controlled the treasury, the incomes and expenditures of the Egyptian monarchy.

5. Egyptian Religion

The Egyptian religion was of a polytheistic nature, that is to say, they believed in various gods and goddesses, not in only one.

The Egyptians worshiped Osiris, who judged the soul, Ra (Sun God), the principal god of the empire and hundreds of divinities which they portrayed with animal heads, like cats, scarabs, snakes and the ox Apis.

They celebrated numerous rituals, the most important of which was used to encourage the longed-for flooding of the river Nile, so necessary for agriculture.

5.1. Egyptian Gods:

Some of the most important gods of Ancient Egypt were:

RA: He is the principal divinity. He represents the sun.

  • ANUBIS: Represented as a man with a canine head, or as a great dog. He facilitates the ascension of the dead towards the celestial regions. Patron of the embalmers.
  • ATEN: Name of the original solar disc of Heliopolis. Amenhotep IV did away with all the other deities, and only believed in this one.
  • HORUS: Son of Isis and Osiris. God of they Sky. He was represented as a falcon or as a man with the head of a falcon. God of kingship.
  • OSIRIS: Lord of the subterranean world which contains the seeds of life. He is the protector God of the dead in the beyond.
  • HAPI: God of the Nile, of fertility and of the richness of the Egyptian nation.
  • BES: Represented as a dwarf with a flat face. Protector of childbirth, and defender against evil spirits.
  • PTAH: he was represented as a man wrapped in a tight vestment and wearing a cap and a scepter. Creator god, lord of the city of Memphis. Considered the patron of artisans.
  • AMUN: Represented with two falcon plumes which adorn his headdress. The animals which represent him are the goose and the ram. God of the Empire and patron of Monarchy.

The Egyptians believed in life in the beyond, that is to say, after death. The dead were buried in tombs (pyramids, mastabas, or hypogeums), some of them prodigiously adorned with paintings, relieves and fabulous funerary furnishings. Thanks to this we know their civilization pretty well.

Mummification was a fruit of the beliefs about the afterlife, that is to say, the preparation of the dead for the next life. The bodies of the dead were put through a long process through which the entrails were removed (deposited in vessels called “canopic jars”) and, through being soaked in various substances, they were carefully wrapped to preserve the appearance they had in life.

5.2. Main Monuments: Pyramids

These great architectural works created in limestone were built by the Egyptians in antiquity, there were 47 main pyramids.

They are the largest constructed funerary elements, inside a pyramid, there are several rooms, one of which is the mortuary chamber where the mummy and the funerary furnishings of the dead person were deposited. The largest and most well known are those of the pharaohs Keops, Khafre, and Mykerinos, which are found in Giza.

There also existed Mastabas which are pyramids truncated at the top. They normally served for the burials of important courtiers and the Hypogeums were tombs excavated in the rock. They are not visible from the outside.

6. Cultural Contributions

Long before the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, the Egyptians already had a system of writing, which in the beginning was figurative, because each figure represented an object or an idea. This way of writing was also called ideographic writing. This, later enriched with signs and symbols, was called as a whole hieroglyphic writing. The hieroglyphics are recorded on stones and on the walls of temples and pyramids and with them, testimony was left of the important facts of the history of Egypt. Hieroglyphic writing came to consist of more than 500 signs.

The necessity of calculating the floods of the Nile encouraged the advance of astronomical studies, for which they invented the solar calendar.

In the same way, the measurement of the waters of the Nile and of the plots of ground which were covered by them required mathematical calculation.

The practice of embalming, a method which prepared the dead for their conservation in the life after death, made them acquire notable knowledge about human body and medicine they even carried out complex operations.


Memphis (Ancient Egypt) Timeline - History

The Memphis group comprised of Italian designers and architects who created a series of highly influential products in the 1980's. They disagreed with the conformist approach at the time and challenged the idea that products had to follow conventional shapes, colours, textures and patterns.

The Memphis group was founded in 1981. One of the leading members of the group Ettore Sottsass called Memphis design the 'New International Style'.

Memphis was a reaction against the slick, black humorless design of the 1970's. It was a time of minimalism with such products as typewriters, buildings, cameras, cars and furniture all seeming to lack personality and individualism.

In contrast the Memphis Group offered bright, colourful, shocking pieces. The colours they used contrasted the dark blacks and browns of European furniture. It may look dated today but at the time it looked remarkable. The word tasteful is not normally associated with products generated by the Memphis Group but they were certainly ground breaking at the time.

All this would seem to suggest that the Memphis Group was very superficial but that was far from the truth. Their main aim was to reinvigorate the Radical Design movement. The group intended to develop a new creative approach to design.

On the 11th of December 1980 Scottsass organised a meeting with other such famous designers. They decided to form a design collaborative. It would be named Memphis after the Bob Dylan song ''Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again''. Coincidentally the song had been played repeatedly throughout the evening.

Memphis was historically the ancient Egyptian capital of culture and the birthplace of 'Elvis Presley'. This was quite ironic but so were most of the pieces created by the group.

The image below is of the 'Super lamp' created by Martine Bedine. It is made of metal, which has been painted and lacquered.

The group decided that they would meet again in February 1981. By that time each member would have had time to generate design proposals. When they did meet themembers of the group had produced over a hundred drawings, each bold, colourful.

They drew inspiration from such movements as Art Deco and Pop Art, styles such as the 1950's Kitsch and futuristic themes. Their concepts were in stark contrast to so called 'Good Design'.

The group approached furniture and ceramic companies commissioning them to batch produce their design concepts. On the 18th of September 1981 the group showed its work for the first time at the Arc '74 showroom in Milan. The show exhibited clocks, lighting, furniture and ceramics created by internationally famous architects and designers.

The image below shows the 'Carlton bookcase' for Memphis designed by Ettore Sottsass.

In the same year the group published the book 'Memphis, The New International Style. The book served to advertise the groups work.

Many of the pieces featured in the exhibition were coated in brightly, colourful laminates. Laminates are most commonly used to protect kitchen furniture and surfaces from staining as a result of spillage. The group specifically chose this material because of its obvious ''lack of culture''.

The work of the Memphis Group has been described as vibrant, eccentric and ornamental. It was conceived by the group to be a 'fad', which like all fashions would very quickly come to an end. In 1988 Sottsass dismantled the group.

The group may no longer exist but it has certainly influenced graphic design, restaurant design, fabrics and furnishing.


Cities in ancient Egypt grew out of the development of agriculture and the emergence of the state as the unifying and predominant form of political organization. However, even as early as 3500 BC, towns and cities (if they can be called such), consisted of regional capitals linked to the population centers of smaller administrative districts. The term we most frequently apply to these districts is nome, which was actually not used to describe a province until the Greek Period. During the New Kingdom, the Egyptian word for "city" was niwt, a term which in the earliest texts of the 1st Dynasty refers to "settlement". As early as the 5th Dynasty, the term for a "town" or large village was dmi. The term for "village", which was apparently linked to the word for "household", was whyt.

Unfortunately, our knowledge about Egyptian cities, and settlements in general is limited. Every aspect of of ancient Egyptian cities conspires to limit our understanding. Settlements and cities were located on the floodplain, with a preference for proximity to the Nile, in order to receive goods by boat and for its source of water. Unlike temples and tombs, most housing and public buildings in these cities and settlements were made of mudbrick throughout pharaonic times and shifts in the course of the Nile, the build-up of the floodplain by the annual deposition of silt and the impact of high Nile floods have all led to their destruction, which has sometimes been complete. Many cities, such as Thebes, have been built over by modern settlements, and even when some remains have survived, the mudbrick has been harvested by farmers to use as fertilizer. Finally, archaeological investigations since the nineteenth century have focused on temples and tombs, with their rich and spectacular art, sculpture and architecture, rather than the few less thrilling ancient Egyptian towns.

Early prehistoric settlement sites in the Nile Valley vary in size from as little as about 16 meters. The largest sites probably represent repeated occupations, with lateral displacement through time. By contrast, the Predynastic villages were the result of permanent occupation with a vertical build-up of deposits.

Prior to about 5000 BC, the inhabitants of the Nile Valley were mostly foragers who practiced fishing, fowling, hunting and collecting wild plants. The first known farming community then occupied a site at the edge of the floodplain of the Nile Delta at Merimda Beni Salama, about twenty-five kilometers to the northwest of Cairo. This was a large village, consisting of about 180,000 square meters and it remained populated for about 1,000 (one thousand) years, until about 4000 BC. At the end of this period, the dwellings consisted of clusters of semi-subterranean huts made from mud with mud-plastered walls and floors. The village had residential areas interspersed with workshops and public areas. Even though the orientation of huts in rows seems to suggest some organizational order, there is really no indication of elite areas or any pronounced hierarchical organization. Initial estimates of the village population were around 16,000, but more recent investigations suggest that it more likely had between 1,300 and 2,000 inhabitants, provided the whole of the area was simultaneously occupied.

Around 3500 BC, the village of Maadi was established about fifteen kilometers south of present day Cairo, probably as a trade center. The site shows evidence of huts, storage magazines, silos and cellars. We believe that Maadi was at the end of an overland trade route to Palestine, and was probably inhabited by middlemen from the Levant at that time, as evidenced by house and grave patterns. In fact, trade items including copper and bitumen from southwest Asia have been unearthed in this location. There were also artifacts discovered that associate the site with Upper Egypt, suggesting that Maadi was a trade link between the south and the Levant. Maadi seems to have been about the same size as Merimda Beni Salama.

At about the same time in the Nile Valley, the two towns of Hierakonpolis and Naqada became much more important, growing in relationship to neighboring villages. Hierakonpolis was contained in an area of about 50,000 to 100,000 square meters, which is comparable in area to the area known as South Town in the Naqada region. Excavations at Hierakonpolis reveal that over time, the village shifted to the northeast, suggesting that older areas were abandoned and used for disposal. At any one time, there were probably between 1,500 and 2,000 inhabitants.

Prior to the emergence of South town in the Naqada region, the area was dotted with small villages and hamlets between the edge of the floodplain and the desert margin. Dating to around 3800 BC, these villages, often spaced about two kilometers apart, consisted mostly of flimsy huts. However, by about 3600 BC, one of those villages began to build up into a true town. No other villages at the edge of the desert are known from that time. Of course, as the town grew, some of the rural population was incorporated into the emerging urban center, and a low Nile flood level caused some shifting of village communities closer to the river. South Town possibly developed into an urban settlement because of its association with a religious cult and shrine, which became a center for solidarity among the villages, which were probably organized by kin-related lineages and clans. It probably developed into an early administrative center, where food exchanges and trade transactions among the villages and even nearby nomads of the Eastern Desert were overseen. The villages of Naqada seem to also have established trade with Hierakonpolis, where the development of an urban center was possibly most related to its trade with Nubia and the Near East by way of Maadi.

A decline in the Nile flood discharge and an increase in demands for trade goods by expanding urban dwellers, beginning from around 3500 to 3300 BC, led to the integration of neighboring communities into larger political units, with territorial chiefdoms and petty kingdoms. This also led to some sporadic warfare and therefore, fortified walled cities. Each of these became associated with a territorial standard representing the tribal or ethnic groups. In Mesopotamia, this evolution led to the emergence of city states, but perhaps because of the linear arrangement and limitations of the Nile Valley, this did not happen in Egypt. Instead, the course of the Nile Valley urbanization followed a political transformation that we believe, around 3200 BC, led to the emergence of some sub-national unity.

Abydos, north of Naqada and Hierakonpolis, existed as a locus of proto-national power that even controlled parts of the Delta some two centuries before the emergence of the 1st Dynasty. The royal necropolis of Abydos continued as a significant religious establishment well after the emergence of Memphis.

By 3000 BC, the unification of all the administrative districts under a single theocratic dynasty was accomplished, we are told, by Menes. Memphis was a result of this unification. The fist kings of Egypt's 1st Dynasty, by consolidating their power at Memphis, diminished the possibility of the rise of rival urban centers. These early kings display considerable brilliance in their consolidation of power at Memphis, developing a royal ideology that bonded all the districts to the person of the ruler, rather than to any given territory. Furthermore, some of the most powerful local deities were included in a cosmogony at Memphis that removed them from their local political districts. Unfortunately, we know very little about ancient Memphis itself. Though it remained an important population center throughout pharaonic history, Memphis remains mostly a mystery, though recent investigations using new technologies are beginning to provide some enlightenment. For example we now know that the city, over its vast history of some three millenniums, shifted eastward in response to the invasion of sand dunes and a shift in the course of the Nile.

Later, other royal cities emerged to become royal capitals, though Memphis always seems to have been an administrative center. Tell el-Dab'a, located in the northeastern Nile Delta, was the residential site of Egyptianized Canaanites and elite Delta administrators. This town was possibly established on the site of an earlier estate, established at the beginning of the 12th Dynasty, as a royal palace of Amenemhet I. The town became the capital city of Egypt during the Hyksos dynasty from about 1585 to 1532, probably because of its favorable location for trade with the coastal Levant and the administration of mining activities in the Sinai. Then, this city's name was probably Avaris. Later, during the Ramessid era, the new capital of Piramesses was located nearby.

Obviously, during the New Kingdom, Thebes became very important, certainly rivaling Memphis. However, the city of Thebes is now completely covered by modern Luxor, and remains almost completely unknown except for the information derived from its temples and monuments, and from some rare excavations. We do know that the Middle Kingdom town consisted of an area of about 3,200 by 1,600 feet, made up on a grid plan and surrounded by a wall measuring some twenty feet thick. That city appears to have been almost completely leveled at the beginning of the New Kingdom, to accommodate the creation of the Great Temple complex of Karnak with a new residential area and suburbs that perhaps spread as far as eight kilometers from the city center.

During the Third Intermediate Period, Tanis, which is located about twenty kilometers north of Piramesses became an important royal city, and during the Late Period, Sais, which is situated on one of the western branches of the Nile and which is one of the earliest prominent settlements of the Delta, became a powerful capital. Of course, during the Ptolemaic (Greek) Period, Alexandria, located northwest of Sais, became Egypt's capital until the Arab invasion.

However, the cities of ancient Egypt, including their locations, functions and organization, were related to various dynamics that shaped the course of Egyptian civilization based on both internal and external forces. There were many specialized cities such as those based on trade. Others, for example, were made up of artisans, craftsmen and workers related to various royal projects. Some of the best preserved of these are four different workers villages have survived to some extent, all of which were situated somewhat off of the Nile. The village at Deir el-Medina is perhaps one of the best known, located on the western bank of the Nile opposite Thebes. It does provide an idea of the organization of a specialized village, as well as a somewhat distorted view of village life. Another workers' village is located at Illahun, on the eastern end of the 12th Dynasty pyramid complex of Senusret II. That town was later occupied by officials of the king's mortuary cult. A third workers' village was discovered at Tell el-Amarna, the capital city built by the heretic king Akhenaten. It was build on the edge of the desert to the east of the Nile, and because the city was abandoned early on, provides one of the clearest indications of village design and construction, though it may not be completely reprehensive of other settlements. A final workers' and surprisingly, one of the last to be excavated, is found at Giza just outside Cairo

The town of Illahun (Kahun) is also representative of various settlements that existed where priests and others were responsible for the rituals and observances related to the mortuary cult of the king, as well as the foundation estate created to finance such cults. Some of these also became administrative centers, in addition to their responsibilities for maintaining the cult.

Another clear example of specialized Egyptian towns were the fortress towns, of which some of the best known were in Nubia and date to the Middle Kingdom. However, there were other similar towns in the northeast and probably even the northwest, particularly later, that protected the borders from Asian and other invaders, as well as from massive immigration. The Egyptian state had also assumed a strategy to control the exploitation and flow of goods from Nubia, where these fortresses were built on either flat land or hills. One of the largest was the fortress excavated at Buhen, abut 250 kilometers south of Aswan. It consisted of a fortress built on an Old Kingdom site that consisted of an inner citadel, surrounded by a mud-brick enclosure wall some five meters thick and eight to nine meters high, all overlooking the Nile. These fortresses in Nubia were developed into towns, with temples and residential areas. Residential areas surrounded the citadel and were adjacent to a temple.

As Egyptian civilization progressed, there appears to have been some seventeen cities and twenty-four towns in an administrative network that linked them to the national capital. Though of course the population varied over time, it has been estimated at between 100,000 and 200,000 people. The populations of provincial capitals and towns were perhaps fairly small, ranging from 1,400 to 3,000 inhabitants. We believe that Illahun, Edfu, Hierakonpolis and Abydos would have been populated by 2,200, 1,800, 1,400 and 900 people, respectively. Tell el-Amarna, on the other hand, as a royal capital would have had a population of between 20,000 and 30,000. Older capitals, such as Memphis and Thebes, may have reached a level of between 30,000 and 40,000 inhabitants at the peaks of their occupation.

The population of these cities and towns were not urban in a modern sense, but perhaps more similar to today's provincial Egyptian towns, which have unmistakable rural aspects to them. The residents consisted not only of urban dwellers, but also of rural people, such as farmers and herdsmen who went out to the countryside each day. Urban inhabitants included artisans, scribes, priests, tax-collectors, servants, guards and soldiers, entertainers and shopkeepers. The kings, nobles and the temples possessed estates that employed a variety of personnel, many of whom were rural workers on the agricultural land. These cities and towns certainly had a hierarchical organization, which included not only palaces, mansions and temples, but also the humble dwellings for the functionaries and peasants, along with workshops, granaries, storage magazines, shops and local markets, all the institutions of residential urban life.

Irregardless of their size, towns and cities became centers of power. In these urban centers, both priests and nobles provided the fabric of the state ideology, as well as the administration of major economic and legal affairs. It was the cities of ancient Egypt that allowed the country to grow into an empire and assume the sophistications of a world power.


6. The Calendar And Timekeeping

Sennedjem and Iineferti in the Fields of Iaru , 1922 AD original 1295-13 BC, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

When it came to time, the Mesopotamians had paved the way by creating the sexagesimal system. However, today’s recognizable calendar and methods of timekeeping were Egyptian inventions. Based on the cycles of sun and moon, the Egyptian calendar was divided into twelve months of 30 days each, along with five additional days at the end of the year to bring the total up to 365. It is plain to see how this invention has stood the test of time. Unlike us, however, the Egyptians recognized only three seasons , which were used by farmers to determine when crops needed to be sown and reaped.

The Egyptians were not only the first to plot the days, months, and years still used today, but they were also responsible for the first timekeeping devices. Discovered in 2013 , the earliest known sundial was excavated in the Valley of the Kings, dating from roughly 1500 BC. Yet this was not the first example of a timekeeping device. Huge obelisks , first constructed 2000 years earlier, were used to tell the time from the way that their shadows fell over its engravings, and around the same time as the first sundial, the Egyptians made the water clock . Being able to tell the time facilitated a far more organized and efficient society, meaning that the invention of these devices may perhaps have enabled many of the other innovations made by the ancient Egyptians.


Where They Lived

The Philistines lived in a coastal strip between the Mediterranean and the land of Israel and Judah known as Philistia, a reference to the land of the Five Lords of the Philistines in the south-western Levant. Today, these areas occupy Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. According to the Hebrew Bible, the Philistines were in a continuous struggle with the Israelites, Canaanites and Egyptians surrounding them. Three major cities of the Philistines were Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza, where the temple of Dagon was located. The ancient deity, Dagon, is known as the national god of the Philistines and has been known to be worshiped as a fertility god.


A year later, in August of 1830, the three year old Baltimore & Ohio carried out trials of the Tom Thumb , the work  of Peter Cooper. ਊ month after this event the South Carolina Canal & Railroad Company (SCC&RR) tested its Best Friend of Charleston.

The SCC&RR would also be remembered as the first to haul a revenue train with an American-built design when its Best Friend of Charleston, a product of the West Point Foundry in New York, carried paying customers on December 25, 1830.

The railroad was chartered on April 24, 1827 to solidify Baltimore's standing as one of America's important ports and provide competition against New York's Erie Canal.  

As the success of these operations, and others, grew railroad mania struck the nation.  The new form of transportation could operate in all types of weather and move people and goods at previously unheard of speeds. 

Notable Early Railroads

By 1840, states east of the Mississippi River boasted over 2,800 miles of track and a decade later that number had more than tripled to over 9,000. During these early years much of the trackage was still disconnected and largely concentrated in the Northeast.  

There were also a variety of different gauges in service, ranging from 4 feet 8 1/2 inches (which later became standard) to six feet.  

Unfortunately, traveling could be a tricky, proposition as railroads saw no need to develop safe operations. ਎ven after development of modern "T"-rail, old strap-iron rail was still used for many years.  

A Santa Fe company photo featuring a beautiful lineup of FT's sitting outside the shops at Barstow, California circa late 1940s. Author's collection.

This led to cases of deadly "snake heads" where iron straps came loose from their attached wooden planks and tore into the under-frame of cars, injuring or killing passengers.  In addition, cars themselves were not reinforced to better withstand the carnage during derailments.  

Railroads used their power to influence politicians and avoid infrastructure improvement and safety enhancements, such as knuckle-couplers and air brakes.  Such things only cost money.  

In their greed they even refused to interchange freight with one another.  This arrogant attitude eventually led to extreme regulatory oversight.  

Who Invented The Railroad?

Who invented the railroad?  As mentioned elsewhere in this article, the first chartered railroad in the United States was the New Jersey Railroad Company of 1815 while the Granite Railway was the first actually put into service in 1826. 

However, railroading's roots can be traced back centuries before the modern incarnation was born during the 19th century.  As with many of our contemporary transportation technologies, the railroad came about gradually over time. 

Many different individuals are recognized for developing a number of different devices which found their way into what would now be described as the modern-day railroad of the 1820's. 

According to historian Mike Del Vecchio's book, "Railroads Across America," the very first railroad-like operation was opened in England during 1630 which used wooden rails, with wooden cross-ties (or "sleepers") for lateral support, to haul coal.

The first known implementation of iron rails occurred at Whitehaven, Cumberland in 1740, followed by William Jessop's (Loughborough, Leicestershire) invention of the flanged wheel in 1789.  The steam engine is attributed to Thomas Newcomen who received a patent for his design in 1705. 

It was later improved upon by James Watt in 1769 who realized expanding steam was much more powerful and efficient than Newcomen's condensing version.  He first employed the engine in steamboats, which later made their way to the United States. 

George Stephenson is credited as inventor the modern railroad when the Stockton & Darlington was placed into service in 1825.

Before Colonel John Stevens tested his "Steam Waggon" in 1826, the first patent for a steam locomotive is credited to Englishmen Richard Trevithick and Andrew Vivian in 1802. 

It entered service in 1804 along the Merthyr-Tydfil Railway in South Whales where it pulled loads of iron ore along a tramway.  Two decades would pass before the first modern version appeared, the work of George Stephenson. 

Although often overlooked, the very first device which could be described as a "locomotive" was the work of a Frenchman, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, in 1769.  It was steam-powered but did not run along a fixed trackway. 

Today, this historic piece of engineering still survives, housed and on display at the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris.  All modern locomotives and automobiles can trace their heritage back to this machine. 

Once more, Britain earns the recognition as putting the first contemporary railroad into operation when the Stockton & Darlington Railway formally opened on September 27, 1825. 

Mr. George Stephenson, a well-known builder of early steam locomotives, was also heavily involved in this project: he surveyed the route, gauged the rails to 4 feet, 8 inches (only a 1/2-inch narrower from the width which would later be recognized worldwide as standard-gauge) and, of course, furnished the locomotives. 

His little 0-4-0, named Active (later renamed Locomotion No. 1) was placed into service that day, earning Stephenson recognition as creator of the modern railroad.  His designs would also find their way onto early U.S. railroads until American builders became well-established. 

For their many advantages, some in public simply did not like the iron horse. ਊs John Stover points out in his book, "The Routledge Historical Atlas Of The American Railroads," one school board in Ohio described them as a "device of the devil" while those overseeing the Massachusetts turnpike called them "cruel turnpike killers" and "despisers of horseflesh."  

There was even a claim that rail travel would cause a "concussion of the brain." ꃞspite corporate malfeasance and the public's weariness, the efficiency and speed trains offered could simply not be argued.  

Chicago Great Western F3A #115-A has freight #43 along the main line at Kenyon, Minnesota (roughly 50 miles south of the Twin Cities) on August 31, 1962. Roger Puta photo.

During the Civil War railroads once more proved their worth as they quickly transported men and material to the front lines at speeds not previously possible.  

The North effectively harnessed this advantage, as historian John P. Hankey points out in his article, "The Railroad War: How The Iron Road Changed The American Civil War," from the March, 2011 issue of Trains Magazine.  

Its ability to do so was predominantly why it won the war. 򠯯ore hostilities had ended efforts were already underway to link the entire continent by rail.  

With the creation of the Pacific Railway Act, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 1, 1862, authorizing construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.  

The new legislation formed the Union Pacific Railroad to build west from the Missouri River at Omaha, Nebraska while the Central Pacific struck out eastward from Sacramento, California. ਋oth companies were given large tracts of land to complete their respective sections. 

Small-town America. Santa Fe F7A #335 is southbound with a maintenance-of-way (MOW), weed-spraying train as it passes through the little hamlet of Glen Flora, Texas on the now-abandoned Cane Belt Branch during June of 1976. Gary Morris photo.

After several years of hard work, particularly for the Central Pacific, the two met at Promontory Point, Utah during a formal ceremony held on May 10, 1869.  

Without the Pacific Railway Act our country's history would likely be very different as rail travel opened the west to new economic opportunities.  

After the Transcontinental Railroad's completion the industry exploded by the 1890s there were more than 163,000 miles in operation.  

Eventually, four major railroads established direct lines from the Midwest to West Coast including the Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Santa Fe, and Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (Milwaukee Road) while others worked together in linking both points.  

Conrail GG-1 #4800 ("Old Rivets," the original GG-1), in its vibrant Bicentennial livery, stopped at Leaman Place, Pennsylvania at the interchange with the Strasburg Railroad. Jerry Custer photo.

The era also saw many other advances as the late historian Jim Boyd notes in his book, "The American Freight Train." ꂯter several years of distrust a standard track gauge of 4 feet, 8 1/2 inches was adopted during the 1880s along with development of the automatic coupler and air brake.  

All three initiatives proved revolutionary, allowing for greater efficiency and much safer operations. ਏrom the late 19th century though the 1920's railroads enjoyed their greatest dominance and profitability in particular was the year 1916, which saw mileage peak at over 254,000 and railroads carried virtually 100% of all interstate traffic. 

Rail Mileage Throughout The Years

Below is a timeline of railroad mileage throughout the years: 

A Baltimore & Ohio 4-6-2 heads a local passenger train as it eases into the station at Williamstown, West Virginia some time during the 1940s. Passenger service on the Ohio River Subdivision survived until the mid-1950s. Author's collection.

1916: 254,037 Miles (Peak Mileage)

An Ohio River Rail Road 4-6-0 leads a work train near Parkersburg, West Virginia during the line's construction circa 1884. Author's collection.

Sources:  "The Routledge Historical Atlas Of The American Railroads," by John F. Stover.  New York: Routledge, 1999. �ral Railroad Administration's "Summary Of Class II and Class III Railroad Capital Needs And Funding Source" Report (October, 2014)

Penn Central U25Bs #2685 and #2674 lead a southbound Erie Lackawanna freight through North Tonawanda, New York on August 5, 1973. Doug Kroll photo.

During the 1930s the streamliner era hit the nation, all in an attempt to sway patrons back to the rails.  These fast, sleek new machines provided a new perk color and modernity never before seen.  

The industry's transportation dominance ended after World War II, as a long decline followed thereafter.  In response, the so-called mega-merger movement was launched in the 1950s in an attempt to cut costs through consolidation.

At the time the move was only partially successful as railroads slipped into despair by the 1970's.

The common observer could see this for themselves as tracks became weed-choked while trains were dilapidated. ਏor carriers like the Rock Island and Penn Central, both on the verge of complete shutdown, dirty and barely operational equipment was not uncommon.  

What happened in the 1970's has many causes although it can arguably be traced back to expanded powers placed upon the Interstate Commerce Commission following the passage of the Elkins Act (1903) and, in particular, the Hepburn Act (1906) and Mann-Elkins Act (1910).  

The latter two legislative actions gave ICC the authority to set freight rates and force railroads to explain why any rate change should be implemented.  

An A-B-A-B-B set of Santa Fe covered wagons, led by F7A #301, pulls the westbound San Francisco Chief during one of its final runs through Hercules, California in April of 1971. Amtrak was only a few days away. Drew Jacksich photo.

It was a lengthy, time-consuming process that was rarely successful.  The expanded federal oversight was all brought about to limit railroads' power as many executives had grown arrogant and forgetful of their ultimate purpose, to serve the public interest.  

Unfortunately, the legislation went too far and had placed an increasing burden on the industry by the post-World War II period, at which point they no longer held a transportation monopoly.  

During the 1970s several famous companies went under, now termed fondly as "fallen flags."  The decade also saw the collapse of Northeastern rail service following Penn Central's 1970 bankruptcy.  

Its failure led to others as neighboring railroads filed for reorganization. What eventually came out of the mess was the Consolidated Rail Corporation.  

A federally-funded corporation to restore service, Conrail began on April 1, 1976. ਊ few years earlier, also partially in response to PC's downfall, another government-sponsored railroad was born, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak).  It launched on May 1, 1971 and relieved many of their money-losing passenger services.

Before Penn Central was folded into Conrail, Federal Railroad Administrator John Ingram highlighted the difficulty for any railroad to abandon an unprofitable branch.  While touring the former Pennsylvania Railroad's Delmarva Peninsula trackage he said this during a speech highlighting the PC's plight:

"Let me tell you a little story about the abandonment of unprofitable branch lines.  One weekend last summer I was headed for Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean.  

You have to drive across the Eastern Shore of Maryland to get there, and I asked my staff to list a few of those Eastern Shore branch lines that the Penn Central wants to abandon. 

I wanted to see for myself - perhaps count the boxcars on sidings to see if there really was a shortage of business.  I drove to the area, checked my maps, and simply couldn't findਊnything that looked like a railroad.  

On Monday morning, I hollered at my staff for having sent me off on a wild goose chase, but they stuck to their guns.  So we went back - this time with property maps and a surveyor.  

We found the branch line, all right. ਊt one place it was directly under a junkyard full of wrecked cars. ਊt another point the highway department had covered the tracks with at least eight inches of pavement.  

And just off the road we found a six-inch wide tree growing between the rails.  That line had been completely forgotten, yet grown men were arguing before the ICC that that stretch of track was vital to the Nation's economy!"

A postcard of Northern Pacific's train #1, the westbound transcontinental "Mainstreeter" (Chicago - Seattle), at Fargo, North Dakota in a scene that likely dates to the 1950s. Author's collection.

Railroads of today would likely be very different if it wasn't for the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, proposed by Harley Staggers of West Virginia.  Prior to this legislation there had been discussions of simply nationalizing the entire industry, a scary proposition that both executives and those in the government wished to avoid.  

The bill brought a great level of deregulation as railroads regained their footing thanks to renewed freedom in setting freight rates and abandoning unprofitable rail lines.

The 1980s saw a slow recovery as Conrail posted its first profits in late 1981 and the mega-merger movement continued, creating today's Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation that decade. I

Also, Union Pacific purchased the Chicago & North Western while Norfolk Southern and CSX gobbled up Conrail in 1999.  The freight growth has continued into the 21st century.  We have also seen a renaissance in rail travel as folks look to escape the highway gridlock.