A Year in the Life of Ancient Egypt

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Ancient Egypt - Everyday Life

The official record of one expedition shows a mortality rate of more than 10 percent. Just as the Egyptians optimized agricultural production with simple means, their crafts and techniques, many of which originally came from Asia, were raised to extraordinary levels of perfection. Some of the technical and organizational skills involved were remarkable.

The construction of the great pyramids of the 4th dynasty c. This expenditure of skill contrasts with sparse evidence of an essentially neolithic way of living for the rural population of the time, while the use of flint tools persisted even in urban environments at least until the late 2nd millennium bce.

Metal was correspondingly scarce, much of it being used for prestige rather than everyday purposes. In urban and elite contexts , the Egyptian ideal was the nuclear family , but, on the land and even within the central ruling group, there is evidence for extended families. Egyptians were monogamous, and the choice of partners in marriage, for which no formal ceremony or legal sanction is known, did not follow a set pattern. Consanguineous marriage was not practiced during the Dynastic period, except for the occasional marriage of a brother and sister within the royal family, and that practice may have been open only to kings or heirs to the throne.

Divorce was in theory easy, but it was costly. Women had a legal status only marginally inferior to that of men. They could own and dispose of property in their own right, and they could initiate divorce and other legal proceedings. Lower down the social scale, they probably worked on the land as well as in the house. The uneven distribution of wealth, labour, and technology was related to the only partly urban character of society, especially in the 3rd millennium bce.

In the 3rd and early 2nd millennia, the elite ideal, expressed in the decoration of private tombs, was manorial and rural. Not until much later did Egyptians develop a more pronouncedly urban character. Ancient Egypt. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Introduction Introduction to ancient Egyptian civilization Life in ancient Egypt The king and ideology: administration, art, and writing Sources, calendars, and chronology The recovery and study of ancient Egypt The Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods Predynastic Egypt The Early Dynastic period c.

Written By: Edward F. Wente Alan K. Bowman Peter F. See Article History. The Egyptians would create new amulets in the hope that they would receive such things as gold, jewellery or delicious food. Because so many amulets were created for new purposes, the manufacturing of amulets in ancient Egypt became a major industry. Although amulets do not have the same importance today as they did in ancient Egypt; similar practices still exist. Some religious groups carry symbols of their religion with them to represent their faith. For example, Christians carry a cross to represent their connection to Jesus, who died on the cross for their sins.

Like Egypt today, ancient Egypt was a desert country where few trees could grow. Because of this, there was very little good wood available to build boats. The first boats built in Egypt were made of bundles of papyrus reeds taken from the Nile riverbank. These boats had a curved hull, flat bottoms, a square stern, and a mast to catch the wind. Sometimes a deckhouse was built on the boat to make travel on the river more comfortable. Transportation of heavy loads, such as stones to build pyramids and soldiers with their equipment, required ships that were stronger than boats built from papyrus.

To build bigger and stronger ships, cedar wood was imported into Egypt from neighbouring places like Syria and Lebanon. Cedar was used to build wooden vessels that were similar in shape to the old reed boats.


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These river ships could be propelled by oar or sail. Other times, they were towed from the bank or just left to drift downstream. These cedar ships could move stones weighing over tons down the Nile. The way the river boats were designed to carry heavy loads long distances provided a model, in later years, for the Greeks and Romans. The Greeks and Romans used ships to carry their heavy loads over a thousand years after it had been common practice in ancient Egypt.

The same basic principles of shipbuilding that were first developed by the ancient Egyptians are still in use today. Men, women and children of all ages and from all classes wore make-up in ancient Egypt. Mirrors of highly polished silver or copper were used to apply make-up to the face and even over the whole body. The Egyptians used a wide variety of make-up, including eye paint and colours for the lips, cheeks and nails. The Egyptians would grind certain stones into a powder and mix the ground contents with oil to make an eye colour called Kohl. The Egyptians painted their fingernails yellow and orange by using a substance called Henna.

The make-up that the Egyptians used was stored in special jars and carried in make-up boxes with them to parties, and keep them under their chairs for when they might need a touch up.

For the Egyptians, make-up had a greater purpose than creating a beautiful appearance. The Egyptians believed that make-up had healing and even magical powers. Eye make-up was used to fight eye infections and reduce the glare of the sun. Some believed that wearing make-up around the eye would restore eyesight. Make- up was also used as a form of perfume. People would rub themselves daily with special scented oils. These perfumes were made from flowers and scented wood, mixed with oil or fat and left in a pot until the oil had absorbed the scent.

These perfumed oils were also used to prevent skin from becoming dry and cracked, a common problem in the extremely hot Egyptian climate. At parties, servants put cones of perfumed grease on the heads of the guests. As the grease melted, it would run down their face with a pleasing, cooling effect. Today we do not use make-up to cool ourselves, but like the Egyptians, many people use make-up to create a more beautiful appearance.

Ancient Egypt

Hieroglyphics are small pictures that represent different words, actions, or ideas. The ancient Egyptians used more than of these pictures, as their form of written communication. Some of these pictures stood for whole words; for instance, a series of wavy lines meant "water". Hieroglyphics could be both inscribed or drawn and were often painted with many different colours.

Because of the intricate and detailed nature of drawing hieroglyphics, they took a very long time to write. Hieroglyphics differ from how we communicate using the English alphabet because symbols are used rather than letters. Different kinds of hieroglyphics had different meanings. Sometimes a hieroglyphic symbol would represent a specific thing; a drawing of a bird would actually mean "bird".

Hieroglyphic symbols could also be presented as individual sounds. A picture of an owl would represent the sound "m" because the ancient Egyptian word for owl had "m" as its principal sound. Hieroglyphic symbols could also be written after other symbols, to tell the reader how they should be read. For example, an eye or an ear placed after a symbol would tell the reader that the preceding symbol has to do with looking or hearing. Over time, the hieroglyphic symbols changed and eventually evolved into a very sophisticated language system.

Because the Egyptian system of writing took such a long time due to the detail involved in writing each symbol, they created a new alphabet called hieratic. This alphabet allowed words to be connected in a shorter space and increased the speed by which documents could be written.


  • Life in Ancient Egypt: what was it like? - HistoryExtra;
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  • Ancient Egypt!
  • Over time the Egyptians created a new set of symbols called the demotic system, replacing the old hieratic system. The demotic system was even more refined, and gave the Egyptians a greater ability to communicate in a smaller space. Jewelry : From the earliest times in Ancient Egypt, jewellery was worn by the From the earliest times in Ancient Egypt, jewellery was worn by the rich, both as a decoration and as a way to show what position they held in society. Bracelets, rings, earrings, necklaces, pins, belt buckles and amulets were made from gold and silver. Jewellery was also decorated with precious stones such as turquoise, carnelian, amethyst, and special glass.

    Very skilled craftsmen made many types of jewellery using a variety of methods. To make beads, artisans broke stones and rolled them between other stones to shape each individual bead. A bow drill was then used to drill a hole through the beads. The elegant design of Egyptian jewellery often reflected religious themes. Pictures on the jewellery, included images of the gods and goddesses, hieroglyphic symbols, and images of birds, animals and insects.

    These images were inscribed into the jewellery to represent the themes in the Egyptian religion. Some of the most commonly seen images were the scarab beetle , the Eye of Re the eye that sees all , the shen ring symbol of eternity , and the ankh symbol of life. When a person died his or her jewellery was placed in his or her grave to be used in the afterworld, along with many other personal items. The ancient Egyptians used jewellery for many of the same reasons as we do today.

    Jewellery still can be worn to show off wealth, as a good luck charm, and to make someone more beautiful. Wall Paintings : To make wall paintings, the ancient Egyptians covered the walls with To make wall paintings, the ancient Egyptians covered the walls with a mud plaster and then covered this layer with a lime plaster. On this base was painted scenes depicting various elements of Egyptian society, including the pharaohs, the Gods, and daily life. The painters were so sophisticated that they were able to shade colours to make the scenes seem three- dimensional and very realistic.

    When the painters had completed their job they would place a layer of varnish over the top of the paintings. Paintings were more than beautiful works of art; they had a ritual purpose. During the annual flooding of the Nile, which typically lasted from July through November, farming was impossible.

    But when the waters receded, a thick layer of fertile silt over the farmlands remained to insure rich soil for their crops and thick grasses for their grazing animals. The country of Egypt consisted of two narrow strips of arable land lining either bank of the river Nile, from Aswan to the northern Delta. Just beyond the farmlands lay enormous deserts. The Nile was the lifeblood of Egypt. Its cycle of flooding -- growth, death, and rebirth to new growth -- became the cycle of everyday life, and also of Egyptian religion and understanding of an afterlife.

    The people of Egypt were dependent on the river for more than their food. It insured a line of communication and transportation among the provinces of the kingdom. The pharaohs took advantage of the Nile as a means to transport their armies, thus maintaining a strong, unified nation.

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    By BC, Egypt had a centralized government controlled by a line of hereditary rulers. These kings, called pharaohs, kept a royal court of advisors and nobility, and oversaw the governors of the provinces of the kingdom. They were also commanders of the Egyptian army. Even the priests and priestesses who officiated at the complex religious ceremonies and attended on the gods served the pharaohs. The rule of the pharaohs is considered dynastic; it can also be considered absolute in the truest sense of the word.

    The pharaohs came to be considered as the representatives of the gods on earth and even as gods themselves. Ancient Egyptian society treated men and women equally. Women participated in the political, economic, and judicial world of ancient Egypt on the same terms as men.

    Ancient Egypt - Wikipedia

    This social system reflects Egyptian mythology, where Goddesses played an equal, if not chief, role. The primeval mother-figures in the earliest prehistoric Egyptian myths are female. Female deities were kept separate from the males, with their own temples and followers.

    Egyptian goddesses are also creator deities, and the protectors of the pharaohs in the form of the cobra, vulture, or linoness. In ancient Egyptian mythology, Egypt was created from the Watery Waste of Nun, a chaos god from whose body all things were born. The continuous mission of the daily temple services and strictly followed religious codes was to keep ordered Egyptian society from returning to the state of chaos in which it was born. Ma'at, the goddess in charge of law, balance and order, was one of the principal deities.

    Ancient Egypt, an introduction

    The two "protectors of the realm" of Egypt were originally Nekhbet, vulture goddess of Northern Egypt, and Wadjet, cobra goddess of Lower Egypt. The cobra and the vulture were chosen by the Egyptians as the royal symbols because they were thought to be self-producing and therefore creators, or divine. Egyptian mythology is a complex collection of often competing stories, traditions, and practices. This is partly because the culture is so ancient, and partly because each city had its own set of deities, whose unique personalities are lost as their cults age.

    Just as each city vied for supreme power before Egypt was a unified kingdom, the cities each tried to establish their gods as the supreme gods. Even after unification, each time the capital moved, the supreme god of the new city rose to be the supreme god of the kingdom. Below, a table listing some of the many gods and goddesses of Egyptian mythology. The deities are listed as closely as possible to the order of their appearance in the myths, from oldest to newest.

    The Egyptians began to form a pictographic written language about years ago, which they continued to use for more than years, until about AD. Eventually, the pictures they used to represent words came to represent sounds. After AD, the Egyptian language was written in the Greek alphabet, with the addition of several extra letters to represent Egyptian sounds that didn't exist in Greek.

    This form of Egyptian is called Coptic, and was in turn eventually replaced by Arabic, the language spoken in Egypt today.


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