Daily life throughout the centuries in Ancient Egypt revolved around the Nile and the fertile land along its banks. The annual inundation enriched the soil and brought good harvests and wealth to the land. People generally built their own mudbrick homes, grew their own produce, and traded in the villages for food and goods they could not produce themselves.
Most Egyptians worked the land as field hands and farmers, or as craftsmen and scribes, with only a minority section of society enjoying the privileged lifestyles of the nobility.
The home …
Central to life in Ancient Egypt was the home. Homes were built using mudbricks made from chopped straw mixed with mud from the Nile and baked in the sun. Depending on how wealthy and elaborate you were, the inside of your home would be painted with colourful scenes of everyday life. A simple earthen floor would be covered with reed mats, and woven sticks and palm rafters made up the ceilings.
Town houses could be multi-storied to make the most of limited land. The typical house was square in shape and consisted of three main rooms, a sleeping area, living area and a back yard which acted as an outside kitchen. Sometimes there was also a grinding floor for grain to make bread or beer. There were often two cellars for storage under the home. Various types of pottery were used for the eating and storage of food.
|Model of a house||Bread|
|The interior walls of the living quarters often contained niches where various statues of protective gods and goddesses were kept. A woman hoping to become pregnant, bear healthy children or be a good mother might have the statues of various protective household gods and goddesses such as Bes (bearded dwarf), Bastet (cat goddess) or Tawaret (part hippo).|
Many homes had stairways leading to a flat roof that contained a vent for catching cool breezes, together with storage bins or small grain silo. Often during the hot months, the Egyptians wood cook, eat and sleep on their roofs, and would usually eat meals sitting on a bench with reed mats.
How the wealthy used to live …
Scale models found in the tombs of the nobility show extravagant homes on spacious estates in the countryside or on the outskirts of a town. High ceilings with pillars were lavishly decorated with brilliantly painted scenery.
|There were secluded gardens, courtyards with palm trees and pools with sweet-smelling lotus blossoms. The pool might also be stocked with exotic fish from the Nile. There were servants quarters, granaries, stables and a small shrine for worship.|
Homes of the wealthy often included a bathroom of sorts, which was actually a recessed room with a square slab of limestone on the corner. Servants would douse you with water whilst you stood on the slab, and the water would empty out into a bowl in the floor below, or through an earthenware channel in the wall.
|A bedroom might include a bed made of fine wood from Lebanon, and enhanced with silver, gold, or ivory. The beds were usually higher at the head than at the foot. Mattresses might be made of bound cord and covered with linen or animal skins. Curved headrests made from stone, wood or bone replaced simple pillows. The less well off slept on simple reed mats covered with a course linen sheet.|
|simple reed bed||course linen sheet|
Family life and education …
The Egyptians had large families, with around four to seven children on average. Infant mortality was high, but in comparison to less developed countries, was actually considerably less. Boys were expected to help their fathers, and girls their mothers, and would usually stay in the family home until they were around the ages of thirteen to fifteen.
|At this time they would be expected to get married themselves. Although some marriages were arranged, people more often married for love. There was no formal or legal marriage ceremony, people simply set up a “common home” together as a declaration of their union. A woman would usually be given a dowry, and this would remain her property throughout the marriage or in the event of divorce.|
Education was expensive, and it was usually only boys who went to school, from around the age of five until they reached their teens. If you couldn’t afford to send your son to school, then when he was considered old enough, he would go to work with his father and learn his trade.
Schools were usually attached to temples and government offices, and children were taught by the priests. Young students learned hieratic script, writing on broken bits of pottery or wooden boards. Papyrus was considered far too expensive just to practice upon! Older students studied hieroglyphs, maths, history, languages, geography, astronomy and law, as well as gymnastics and good manners!