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Corporate Strategy as an Art (XII): The Bronze Age – Strategic Innovation Analysis Ancient Egypt (Part A).

Let´s continue with the Egyptian Corporate Strategy during the Bronze Age times.

Do you remember how do I have taught you to start to understand complex issues?. Yes, many times we have used the strategic innovation journey framework, do you remember the bee journey? We usually use without naming it. It is extremely useful, not just to analyze the present or future endeavors, entrepreneurship projects, academic papers, economic summaries, etc. We also can use it to understand the past. Today this is another occasion to apply the simplicity of the Strategic Innovation framework in order to understand what was happening in Egypt during the Bronze Age.

egyptians artLet´s refresh our writing atomizers: We are outsiders to the Egyptian Bronze Age. On average more than 3000 years have passed since then.  And we are not Egyptians either. But we have decided to explore and observe in detail the artistic vestiges or quotidian objects left by Ancient Egypt Civilization. Why? In order to understand their corporate strategy as a nation during a specific window of time (The bronze age). Again, we are not Egyptologists. We don´t have an archaeological background and we must rely on public or common history sources of information available. In addition, we must rely on experts who can read the language of that culture: hieroglyphics, signs, drawings, paintings, sculptures, pyramids, temples, mausoleums, etc. And by observing these artistic vestiges we are trying to infer about the Ancient Egypt corporate strategy ultimate purpose and justify a country strategy based on those remains.  I will skip the details for each dynasty or if they belonged to the early, new,  middle, late or old kingdom. I will write in general from the point of view of the top corporate strategists of Ancient Egypt (the Pharaohs).

Let´s start this experiment. OK!

What is our source of information? Artistic vestiges and architectural remains from those times. Please be aware of the interpretations of art. It seems to me that Egyptians from the Bronze Age wanted to show beauty on top of reality. Things could have been improved to look beautiful and were not really closer to reality. There are many things which I believe historians and archaeologists are partially right by inferring from the vestiges discovered.  For example, hieroglyphics or papyrus literature and paintings from the pharaoh´s tombs have provided a lot of reliable erudition, but did the things happened as we found them?.  Things could have been quite similar or different (with some discrepancies) in relation to government, jobs, clergy, deities, social structure, etc. But there are many things which need to be reviewed and updated. 

Who was doing corporate strategy during the bronze age in Egypt? The organization of the Ancient Egypt nation was basically the same from 3,150 BCE to 30 BCE. Who was ruling this nation? The pharaohs.


Tomb Of Amun-her-khepeshef Photograph by Henk Meijer Photography

The system was basically pivotal to the King (and their Gods). Again, according to historians and Egyptologists, the kings ruled over the country with one or more viziers (second-in-command). The king appointed government officials, scribes, regional governors (known as nomarchs), mayors of the villages, and also, they had a security army or a police force. The king was reigning from his palace at the capital of the kingdom (the capital of Egypt was not static. It was Memphis, or  Thebes, or Amarna, depending on the dynasty period). And the Pharaoh did all his job from there. The Pharaoh was also the top leader of the Army. He was also a priest. And a God. The pharaohs had clear delegation system to execute the corporate strategy. Pharaohs did not take decisions alone about their economy or strategic route. Since the religion was linked to their strategy, the priests were part of the advisory court. Historians and archaeologists have provided a clear description of the roles for each profession and each specialization was clearly defined. The pharaoh has to rely on each functional expert. Nevertheless, from what I have read, the last decision was taken in conjunction with the priests.

What was the core business of Ancient Egypt during the Bronze Age times? Ancient Egypt core business was agriculture, and to a certain extend trade. Do you remember what is core business? Well, it is the main sources of revenues of an entity or country. There are numerous wall paintings which confirm it.

From the point of view of the pharaohs (not the workers), do you think their main productive industries were the construction of megastructures, temples, and tombs? Who paid for these magnificent ouvres? Of course the owners of Egypt (the Pharaohs) and probably the taxes of the citizens. Do you really think that these infrastructure huge vestiges as the Pyramids of Giza, and the temples of the pharaohs were generating revenues to the Pharaohs as the main productive industry in Egypt? Did they order to built them to get income from it? Or were these megastructures considered as a “cost center” for the Pharaohs? Were these infrastructures merely a method to organize the society beyond agriculture? Was the construction of monuments an industry offering revenues to the society?  Probably, from the point of view of the pharaohs was simply an investment without payback. The major benefit of building “such dominant structures” was to show the pharaohs´ power to rule their society and keep other cultures away to conquer them. We assume these ouvres were built by artists, superintelligent engineers, and massive cheap labor forces (paid with food alimony) or slaves. But assumptions come from a biased mentality.  What do you think?

What is the meaning of the infrastructure (architecture ouvres) and artistic remains from Ancient, but Egypt? Let´s focus for some minutes in the remains and the character of the ouvres which still remain alive to this day. Infrastructure defined as monuments, palaces, mausoleums, tombs or hidden crypts. Other artistic remains are sculptures, paintings, literature, and functional-decorative objects.  We also are able to see paintings in each wall, columns, roofs inside these monuments. The paintings are clearly standard – with the exception of the time under the reign of Akhenaten (1353-1336 BCE). We also can see sculptures (real size and mega-sculptures as the colossal statue of Amenhotep III and his wife Tiye (eighteenth dynasty) all done with magnificent precision.  Other sculptures range from tiny dimension to Giga sizes. We can find handwritten documents, accounting reports and written stories (tales, literature, poetry) in papyrus. We also can see jewels and other luxurious objects for which this civilization has been remarkably well known. Regardless if these manifestations of art belong to the old, middle, new or late dynasties.

Abu Simbel Temples

The Abu Simbel temples are the two massive rock temples situated near the village in Nubia of southern Egypt. It was constructed by the Egyptian king pharaoh Ramasses II.

 Those finest decadent artistic representations which belonged to the pharaohs and the highest/rank officials or priests were a motive to please the Gods, to keep the society productive and busy, and to preserve the leaders’ presence via a legacy of “powerful Giga art” or beauty to us. Where these Giga arts a tool to show strength to defend their throne? The concept of beauty and bigger was important for Egyptians. The artisans were required to create harmony in all their works.  In relation to infrastructure projects such as the pyramids of Giza, the Red Pyramid, the Bent Pyramid, the Abu Simbel Temples, the Luxor Six Temple complex dedicated to three Egyptian gods Amon-Ra, Mut, and Chons, the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut dedicated to sun god Amon-Ra. Archaeologists have not deciphered yet why the pharaohs built the pyramids. The main theory that has been taught to us, is that these were tombs for the pharaohs for their journey to eternity after death.

My own opinion as a strategy artist about these infrastructures can be questionable for the experts, but let me share it, and excuse me if I am wrong. If the pyramids did not have coffins neither any wall paintings descriptions were found as in the tombs from the Valley of the Kings, the purpose of the pyramids, was not at all related to a tribute to the pharaohs life. Probably the purpose was another one, yet to be discovered. One hypothesis from  20 years ago points out that at least the biggest pyramid of Giza was a power plant or a battery of light. Not sure if this is totally correct. There are missing pieces of the whole pyramid apparatus, and that is why archaeologists and historians couldn´t offer that explanation before.  This new theory from Christopher Dunn emerged, through a couple of his books (which I have not read yet) and he believes the pyramids were built to generate energy (electricity light). What do you think? Could it be possible that Ancient Egyptians knew how to generate electricity to illuminate their city, to sculpt and work metals easier? Could it be feasible that Ancient Egyptians were smarter than us and used the pyramids to project light every night to all the population? What do you think? Can we perceive these hypotheses in their artistic vestiges?

If you google “ancient Egypt top art”, and without knowing anything in relation to their language, the majority of figures or drawings provide us detailed information about their respect for nature, harmony, cooking, agricultural activities, adoration to their Gods, rituals, dancing, music, conquering battles, etc.  The artists were busy. Why did the pharaohs decide to do one monument or another one? Professor David Neiman explains that priests were advisors to the kings and queens. And they were well-lit in relation to a simple relationship Pros and Cons, or cost-benefit consequences. I believe they also relied on math and data analysis calculation of value-added to keep the society working in harmony. But that is my mind who interprets it. Another reason could have been that the labor used to build the pyramids was coming from the low-class groups or slaves, and pharaohs had to keep people working in civil works in order to pay their food alimony.  The gap between the pharaohs/leader class and the majorities probably caused social conflicts, disorder, and anarchy. Nevertheless, I can´t explain why this happened. Egypt was not alone in the region. There is artistic evidence which shows us the links between Egypt and the rest of societies of the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, and the tribes living where is now Palestine-Judea, Lebanon, Jordan, Libya, Sudan, etc.  At least, there is archaeological evidence that between 1730 BCE and 1550 BCE the Egyptians built fortifications to defend themselves from the Amorites, natives of the land of Canaan.

What were the sources of production in Ancient Egypt? There is archaeological evidence that the Nile River was the center of life for the Egyptian cities of that time.  By observing the location of the archaeological ruins and temples, all of them are located on the narrow strip of land along the Nile river banks. Rivers are the fountain of water for fertile soils. In the case of Egypt, the Nile spreads into a Delta before going out to the Mediterranean Sea. Egypt has an annual cycle climate offering sunshine, nutrient-rich land favorable for agriculture crops, and in consequence, they adopted agriculture as their key and main industry. In addition, the location of Egypt was outstanding for trading and commerce with other civilizations such as the Sumerians, Akkadians, Anatolians, and other cultures located in the surroundings.  Egypt was known as the Mediterranean “Grenier” or barn.

Nile Riverboat

Nile Funerary River Boat from about 2000 B.C. from the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

 The three most important crops were wheat, flax, and papyrus. It has been interpreted from the paintings and hieroglyphics that commerce of the surplus of edible crops existed at that time. In addition, the regular flooding and ebbing of the river were also responsible for other diverse natural resources in the region. Apart from agriculture, other Egyptian natural resources in the Nile Valley are high-quality building stones. Quarried limestone is all along the Nile River, and granite from Aswan and basalt- sandstone from the wadis of the eastern desert.  In addition, e also need to do a strategic overview about transportation of the Ancient Egypt civilization using ships and the importance of the maritime navigation routes for trading and commerce.

For the purpose of not extending this post, we will stop here. We publish twice. Stay tuned, please. We will continue in a few hours, and I will publish part B of this theme. The sources of reference will be provided at the end of Part B. Thanks.

We will continue in a separate publication with the answers of the following questions.

What was the role of the Pharaohs?

What resources Ancient Egypt did not have? 

What was the role of religion in corporate decision making at the Pharaoh´s Office?

Who were the rulers or the CEO´s of Ancient Egypt during the Bronze Age?

What was the transportation systems role in Ancient Egypt?

How did the Pharaoh´s get the resources to build their monuments and art?

What was the role of the sciences, technology, and education in Ancient Egypt?

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