The rise of civilization can be accredited primarily to those who thought differently; to those innovators and intellectual revolutionaries who presented a challenge or anomaly to the pattern of traditions imprinted upon the status quo mindset.
When a new form of communication comes into the world, a giant leap occurs in evolutionary history, influencing thinking and impacting the brain. When the Greek alphabet was introduced around 1200 B.C., it became a revolutionary tool, the most efficient means of processing information, comparable with the impact computers have today.
The Greek alphabet would help shape the new philosophy of reason, considered a higher cognitive function of the left brain hemisphere, which would radically change history, and the nature of our perception of reality. Modern western civilization is deeply rooted in the ancient Greek culture.
Before the revolution of the Greeks, the ancient Egyptians were the longest, most traditional, unchanging civilization to have ever existed in the world. For 3,000 years, the Egyptian form of writing was hieroglyphics, a more advanced form of cuneiform -- a pictorial language that used symbols and phonetics to record Egyptian history.
Egyptian Hieroglyphic Cartouche
Challenging the Status Quo Mindset Towards Progress
The few exceptional leaders in Egypt's history who challenged the Egyptian mind to evolve into a new way of thinking were also the two who were almost completely erased from Egypt's historical record: Pharaohs Akhenaten (AH-ken-Ah-ten) and Hatshepsut (HOT-shep-soot).
Someone in ancient times
attempted to erase Pharaoh Hatshepsut's existence
by chiseling away her image.
These two pharaohs were the few who challenged the traditions and conventions of the Egyptian status quo. Pharaoh Akhenaten was the first and only Pharaoh ever to proclaim there was one god, the sun disk "Aten". He attempted to gradually erase the old Egyptian gods, replacing them with the image of the Aten, a god who provided warmth, light and life.
Akhenaten worshipping the sun god Aten
Completely abandoning thousands of years of Egyptian tradition, Pharaoh Akhenaten then packed up his bags with his beautiful wife consort, Queen Nefertiti, along with his followers, and left for his newly built city to start a new world. This Pharaoh is considered to be the first "individual" in ancient Egyptian history as one who followed his own vision rather than that of planned and unchanging traditions. However, it was clear that Akhenaten's ideas were not accepted by most Egyptians due to the long history the pattern of tradition imprinted upon their minds their brains had adapted to.
Some scholars have suggested that Akhenaten's reforms were the first true intellectual revolution in recorded history. Art of this period also reflected a new found individualism as artists had the freedom to express themselves like never before. Ultimately, Egypt was returned back to normal by King Tutankamun who restored all of Egypt's traditions. Akhenaten's reign was covered-up and most all of his images and monuments were destroyed or severely damaged. Those who followed referred to him in writing as "the damned one". Akhenaten's reign wasn't acknowledged in history until the 19th Century, when his broken monuments were finally uncovered and revealed to the world.
King Hatshepsut ruled over the 18th Dynasty Egypt for over 20 years. Her carefully planned propaganda in stone, led the average Egyptian citizen to believe she was a man. Artistic renderings show Hatshepsut dressed in men's clothing, and even wearing the traditional Pharaoh beard. In spite of attempts to erase her from history, the evidence uncovered in the late 19th Century confirm that Hatshepsut was the first woman in ancient history who proved it was possible to attain equal rights with men and make outstanding contributions in the process. Even today, some researchers, threatened by a woman's successful reign in ancient history, have attempted to detract from Hatshepsut stating she must have been a deluded "schizophrenic." This is clearly an unfair, meritless depiction of Hatshepsut exposing the destructive sexism that still exists today.
Hatshepsut, sporting the Pharaoh's beard,
had many "ideas" that made her reign unique.
Hatshepsut's reign was a carefully balanced period of internal peace, foreign exploration that brought back treasures to her people, and monumental building. She erected two well known obelisks at the Temple of Amen at Karnak, and was responsible for the construction of what is one of the most revolutionary architectural designs in the ancient Egyptian world, the Deir el-Bahri temple.
Information Derived From:
A Ancient Egypt, David P. Silverman
Oxford University Press, 1997
A A History of the Ancient World, Chester G. Starr
Oxford University Press, 1991
What Life Was Like On the Banks of the Nile
Time Life Inc., 1997
Hatchepsut, the Female Pharaoh, Joyce Tyldesley
Viking - The Penguin Group, 1996