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Ancient Egyptian Children

The Pearls of an Empire

By Nicholas Duva

This study of Ancient Egyptian Children touches on three interesting aspects of their life: education, food and free time. It goes beyond the usual Egyptian topics - the pyramids, mummies, etc. and tries to show what life was truly like for children of that time and place.

Ancient Egyptian Children And Education Today, every child in America s is entitled to a free public education. But that was not true in Ancient Egypt, where only select boys and very, very few girls were taught to read and write. The less privileged were taught by their parent in the trade that they worked in.

Girls Education In Ancient Egypt

As in many other cultures of the time, girls did not go to school. Instead they stayed home and were taught how to cook, weave, etc. by their mothers. They also helped in the fields. A very select few who were to become doctors or lawyers were taught to read and write. Only one woman ever became pharaoh, Hatshepsut.
A privileged Egyptian girl writing

Education of Common Boys in Ancient Egypt

The upbringing of boys who were commoners was left largely in the hands of their fathers. If your parents were farmers, you might work in the fields. If you dad was a carpenter, you might help him build boxes. You might have to give the animals water, chisel stone, polish pottery, or pound papyrus into paper, all depending on your familys trade. You would be taught only A picture of an the skills they had learned.
Egyptian boy

Ancient Egyptian Children Becoming Scribes

Scribes were highly valued members of Egyptian society. They studied for many years to learn to read and write. Scribes had great opportunities as accountants, priests, doctors, or government officials. One scribe, Horemhab, even became pharaoh. Only boys could become scribes. Some speculation denotes that there were female scribes, but that has not yet been proven true.

Ancient Egyptian Children Becoming Scribes (Continued)

Education was hard; there was a lot of work, and a boy had to obey his strict superiors. This was because the teachers had the burden of educating Egypts future. And this was taken very seriously. Boys were taught by officials from the local courthouse that the school was built behind. For punishment, beatings and other physical discipline was common. The youngest students at school did not have papyrus to write on, they used clay pieces. It wasnt until they were mature and old enough that they were allowed to use papyrus.

Ancient Egyptian Children Becoming Scribes (Continued)

There were two types of writing taught hieratic and hieroglyphics. They also taught subjects such as arithmetic. The student sat Indian style and held his writing board in his lap. Among his writing materials were sharpened reeds, a scribal palette with red and black inkwells, and a water jug in which to dip the reed.


Ancient Egyptian Children And Their Meals

What do children eat today? For breakfast, maybe cereal? For lunch, a peanut butter sandwich? For dinner, a hamburger and fries? In Ancient Egypt, children also had their favorites. These foods were slightly different than those eaten by their parents and other adults.

Ancient Egyptian Children And Their Breakfasts

Breakfast had to be hearty, because the Ancient Egyptians did not eat lunch. The meal would consist of fruit, such as grapes, apples or figs, and/or Honey Flat Bread. Beer and water were Figs drunk by adults and Children.

Ancient Egyptian Children And Their Suppers

Unlike breakfast, more meats and fish, considered luxuries, were eaten at supper. The meats eaten were beef, gazelle, and birds, preferably geese. Like breakfast, fruits, bread, water and beer were also an integral part of their suppers.


Ancient Egyptian Children And Their Snacks

The Ancient Egyptian elders usually treated the children to many treats. They were based on fruits, especially figs. Fig tarts were favorites. The Ancient Egyptians used honey instead of sugar to sweeten their treats.
Fig Newtonssimilar to Egyptian fig tarts Honey

Ancient Egyptian Children And How they Cooked and Ate

The Ancient Egyptian Children, and their elders, ate with their hands (the tips of their fingers). Storage jars, bowls, pots, pans, ladles, sieves, and whisks were all used in the preparation of food. Most of the commoners used dishes that were made of clay, while the tableware of the wealthy was often made of bronze, silver, or gold. Food was baked, boiled, stewed, fried, grilled, or roasted.
Reconstructed Kitchen

Ancient Egyptian Children And Their Free Time

Even though Ancient Egyptian Children had a lot of responsibility, their parents were sure to always give them lots of free time. The children were always encouraged to have fun, for the wise Egyptians knew to let them enjoy childhood. For their children, the Ancient Egyptians developed games that are still played in nations across the world today.

Ancient Egyptian Children And Their Childhood Games

Leap-Frog, Tug-O-War, and Hide-N-Seek were just a few of the games they played that are still very popular today. The boys also played Soldiers, and the girls had a game in which you hold hands and go around and around in a type of spinning dance.
A modern game of Tug-O-War

Ancient Egyptian Children And Board Games

The most popular game by far was Senet, a game very similar to the modern backgammon. But, it was mostly played by adults. Other games of the time included Dogs and Jackals, 30 and 50 squares, and Ouija. Most board games had meanings beyond the game. Senet was a very religious board game, and Ouija was used to predict Senet the future.

Ancient Egyptian Children And Fitness Games

Boys preferred team sports, such as Egyptian hockey, while girls fancied games that were less fiercely competitive. Balls were the most popular object used in these games, and were made of a leather skin filled with chaff. Boys also played a spear-throwing game in which you had to hit a target on the ground.
Egyptian Field Hockey

Ancient Egyptian Children And Their Childhood Toys

Wood, ivory, stone, ceramics, and bone toys ranging from toy animals to spinning tops were made for Ancient Egyptian Children. Mechanical toys were all the rage back then. Special wooden dolls were made for girls. They were not just toys, they were friends that were buried with the child if she died. These dolls were taken everywhere, and were treated like human beings.

Ancient Egyptian Children Just Them and the Nile


Sunset on the Nile

The Nile River was not only used for agricultural and other essential purposes. It was also the best place to take a swim, though you had to be wary of Nile Crocodiles, hippos, and frogs. Egyptians were very good swimmers, and enjoyed it very much. Royal and noble children often took swimming lessons. The Nile, the canals and the lakes were ideal places to fish. Much of the fishing was enjoyed as a break from harder work, as well as being a way of collecting food for the family.

Ancient Egyptian Children And Their Gardens

Some families had a garden like people do today. The wealthiest families had palm trees and ponds in their gardens, filled with Nile River water courtesy of a small channel. The whole family would often go out and rest in the garden while servants fanned them.

Ancient Egyptian Children And Their Parties

Parties were usually reserved for the wealthy. They were not just enjoyed by adults. Lots of children would be there, and they would have much fun. The very best food was cooked at these parties. The Ancient Egyptians were terrific hosts. The entertainment was most likely to be acrobats, performing animals, or musicians.

Ancient Egyptian Children And Family Hunting

Hunting was a family activity. One painting in a tomb shows a family, sailing through weeds on a boat. The father stood at the bow, holding a stick to hit a bird when it came by. Ancient Egyptian Hunters The most popular weapons were lassos, throwing sticks, and bows and arrows. The peasants chased after gazelle, oxen, hares and ostriches.