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Egypt - The Habit Of Civilization

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Egypt - The Habit of Civilization

Wood investigates the history of Egyptian civilization through a focus on spirituality. For him, the key to understanding ancient Egypt is to recognize the Egyptians' desire to overcome time, to become immutable. Centralized power, royal rituals and the cult of the dead intertwined to form the ideology of the first state; "For the Egyptians, divine kingship was the guarantee of a stable cosmos." Wood speculates that, perhaps, worship of the great ruler was a necessary stage in the development of civilization. While travelling to sites such as Edfu, Abydos and Hieraonkonpolis and discussing past and present expressions of spirituality, Wood constructs his argument that Egyptian society was predicated on the search for permanence and stability. As in the rest of the series, Wood's essentialized descriptions of the world's first civilizations allow him to comfortably use phrases such as "a typical piece of Egyptian imagination."

This episode contributes to a view of people whose culture in many ways resembles the culture of their distant ancestors as remnants of the past in the present rather than as full members of the present. Wood introduces the episode as a search for the roots of Egyptian civilization and its continuation in the ordinary people of today who turn out to be villagers and nomads. the resulting message is that only people in the cities have changed significantly and entered the modern world. (See review of part 3 for more comments on this issue) Lastly, there is an odd scene in this episode in which Wood uses Freudian and Jungian frameworks to interpret art and symbols of the Old Kingdom. Why he chooses to use specifically recent Western theories to interpret non-Western art produced thousands of years ago is unclear.

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