Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

The richest Egyptians were a privileged class that showed off their wealth without hesitation. But they were only a minority of the Pharaoh’s subjects. Some peasants and labourers lived in poverty and they often had to settle for very simple dwelling.

Proud Thebes (Waset) full of palaces, temples and beautiful residences hid also lots of inhabitants behind its majestic face, whose everyday worry was a struggle for survival. Although Pharaohs cared about their subjects, who took part in building their fame and divine power and the priests of Amun’s temples were usually generous to strengthen their religion power, the vast majority of Egyptians in cities had to be content with little in their everyday life.

Country life

The life wasn’t more idyllic in the country. The peasants had to pay high taxes, so they were forced to work to exhaustion. On the top of that they lived in an incessant fear of starvation, which could come after a poor harvest. However, the Egyptian civilization had existed for three thousand years.

Rituals and the faith that were skilfully kept by the central power and priests were more powerful than the feeling of poverty, which undoubtedly existed in Egypt. Despite significant differences between the richest and the poorest ones, Egyptians lived in harmony and they consolidated the unity of the land together. But if the ruler or priests betrayed their trust, the riots came very soon.

Development of life in periods

Houses of ordinary Egyptians didn’t differ much from each other in prehistoric times. Their dwellings were huts from pisé that were only furnished with mats for sleeping, a chest, several wicker baskets and a simple table. The way of living had changed in historical times. Peasant houses were built of mud bricks and were a bit larger, even if the internal furnishings hadn’t changed much. They consisted of two or three rooms, in which the family lived.

The task of women was to ensure water supply to the house, so they constantly moved between the channel and home with very heavy pitchers on their heads. Women also took care of the preparation of beer and brean, which were basic components of food. Most villagers didn’t own domestic animals. Those richest of them had a donkey, goat or an ox, a few pieces of poultry and sometimes a piece of land on which they grew vegetables, which enriched their diet. Egyptians, who lived near marsches, varied their diet with fish.

They faced the hard life by solidarity and friendship. Craft and working villages near Thebes (Waset), "the city of a hundred gates", were more like doss-houses. Their inhabitants worked in the nearby necropolises and their homes were only equipped with the most necessary. Modest houses of screed, which were crammed along narrow streets, were lit by a faint flame of oil lamps. The equipment was simple – wooden or wicker chests, a few wooden stools and containers of baked clay. The mats for sleep were spread right on the beaten ground. Beds were a privilege of the upper classes. There were hard benches of mud bricks along the walls, which were used for sitting or sleeping. Such a simple and resigned life also had its bright side.

Carefree children played on the street or they cuddled with a favourite dog. Relatives often met and ate ragout or pancakes stuffed with onion and beans together. They created their own world, in which they stayed on top of their hard fate of life. A lot of knowledge about the life of the poor ancient Egyptians comes from archaeological excavations.

The largest collection of items of daily use was found in the village of craftsmen, who built the tombs of the New Kingdom rulers in the Valley of the Kings. The village is now called Deir el-Medina. Baskets still filled with palm fruits, beds with wooden frame woven with matting from rush and simple cabinets, which were often painted with bright colours – it is only a part of houses equipment that has been revealed up to now.

Message from the Nile

  • History of Czech institution of egyptology

    The Czech egyptology founder is Frantisek Lexa, the author of up to now evaluated work about ancient Egypt magic and Demotic grammar. Seminar for egyptology started thanks to him in Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of Charles University in Prague in 1925. Two years later Lexa became the first regular professor of egyptology in then Czechoslovakia.

  • Abusir - outstation of Czech egyptology expedition

    Abusir is an archaeological locality in Egypt named after nearby recent village Abusir. It is situated on western Nile bank on the edge of Libyan tableland approximately 20 kilometers to the south-west of Cairo. The name of this locality is derived from ancient Egypt god Osiris, from Per Usir (Busiris), "(cult) place of Osiris" (Busiris in Greek).

  • Researches in Western desert

    Czech egyptology is successful in researching not only on pyramidal fields in Abusir recently, but also in supporting and organizing smaller expeditions into egyptian Western desert. Czech expedition has been working even in slowly evanescent oasis El-Hajez since 2003, which is situated about 400 km to the south-west from Cairo.

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