Many people across the globe, Egyptians included, believe that it was the Greeks that invented the art of theater. However, ancient records and documents reveal that long before the Greeks, Ancient Egyptians were the first civilization to ever perform shows publicly.
With no special venues built for plays, ancient Egyptians performed shows for the general public on the streets. According to centuries old sources, dating sometime during the Middle Kingdom, the Ramesseum Dramatic Papyrus accurately documents the diversity of ceremonial theatrical performances, which included religious rituals and story-telling dramatic performances.
The ancient papyrus roll also included a text depicting a religious drama during the Horus festival . The hieroglyphs found on the document also included instructions for actors and actresses to follow and other staging instructions detailing how props and statues should be used or placed.
The documents also show that dramas were often performed in temples. However, very little is known about other venues that may have hosted other theatrical performances.
Other texts found shed light on how the ancient civilization may have been more advanced than previously believed. For instance, one of the shows we know about is called " Isis and the Seven Scorpions " in which gods are treated and perceived as humans, playing a psychological affect on the attendees and thus proving that ancient Egyptians had some sort of understanding about human psychology.
Another drama that we know of is called " The Triumph of Horus " that was performed during the Festival of the Victory at Edfu, celebrating her multiple victories. The texts that told the story of that drama, which date back to the New Kingdom and sometime between 1300-1200 BCE, also included instructions and notes about the talents involved.
Furthermore, the texts found also narrate the epilogue and the plot of the drama, describing a battle between Horus and Seth, the god of Chaos.
This particular drama also included musical support as ancient Egyptian instruments, such as the percussion and the tambourine, were used as portrayed on different ancient carvings on temples.
Perhaps the most famous play performed was the Osiris Passion Play, which tells the tale of King Osiris who was mercilessly murdered and dismembered by Seth. According to a stone tablet that is now exhibited in a German museum, Osiris's wife, Isis, collected his body part and reburied him, making him the God of the Dead and ruler of all who died.
To entice further emotion from the audience, the main roles were played by priests who wore masks representing their characters. This particular passion play, which lasted for several days and included battle scenes with real life killings, was divided into three parts, creating an intensity among the crowds.
Satire also existed during that time and, unlike today's authorities, pharaohs did not fear the artform but instead, embraced it. " Contendings of Horus and Seth " ridiculed the council of gods who took more than 24 years to decide who should inherit from Osiris, Seth or Horus.
The satire performance portrayed Seth as the representation of stupidity and evilness combined. The play also took a stab at Horus by portraying him to be an immature child who cries when beaten.
With this in mind, it is perhaps safe to assume that while the world ravels in the mystery that is Ancient Egypt, the civilization played, and continues to play, a massive and essential role in today's progressive world.