Religion was the basis of Egyptian civilization (art, medicine, astronomy, literature, and government); and thereby a pharaoh served as the intermediary between gods and human beings. Early sculptures of pharaohs and their queens (2500-2000 B.C.) portray them as austere, solid, and inflexible with no suggestion of movement because it was far more important to show a representation of their divinity (immortality) and grandeur than it was to depict them in a more natural form. However, more naturalistic and ornamental forms of sculpting developed as the Egyptians became a conquered people, their art began to show the forms of foreigners.
From about 600 B.C., evidences of Egyptian influences - stiff arms and clenched fists, a position of the left leg and block-like rigidity are present in the first phase of Greek Hellenic sculptures that took place during the Archaic period. The free-standing human figures of young men and women are much like that of the Egyptian sculptures except Egyptians did not sculpt nude male figures. These early Greek statutes (Kouros and Kore) were produced in large numbers, and possessed an enigmatic smile, known as the "Archaic smile." Their purpose still remains unclear.
During the Classical period, further growth of sculptural realism took place as the sculptors depicted humans in a style that was more faithful to reality. However, it was reality idealized or made more perfect than any individual could be. The human form was fixed and set to measurements, which was a reflection of the perfect and the not the actual. The Greek artist carefully observed nature and human beings and sought to achieve an exact knowledge of human anatomy, and were successful in accurately portraying the human body at rest and in motion.
While the Egyptian religion focused on a yearning for eternity and a desire to overcome death, seen in their pyramid tombs, mummification to preserve the dead, and funerary art; the Greeks focused on the development of rational thought, and saw human beings as worthwhile individuals. Through this shift of attention from the gods to human beings, the Greeks were able to break the myth-making orientations of the Near East and create an outlook that is a distinctive feature of Western civilization.