Daily Family Life/Role of women
- The people of ancient Egypt highly valued family life. They treasured children and regarded them as a great blessing. In the lower class families, the mother raised the children. The wealthy and nobility, had slaves and servants that helped take care of the children by attending to their daily needs. If a couple had no children, they would pray to the gods and goddesses for help. They would also place letters at the tombs of dead relatives asking them to use their influence with the gods. Magic was also used as an attempt to have children. In event that a couple still could not conceive a child, adoption was also an option.
- Although women were expected to obey their fathers and husbands, they were equal to men in many ways. They had the legal right to participate in business deals, own land, and were expected to represent themselves in court cases. Women even faced the same penalties as men. Sometimes wives and mothers of pharaohs were the "real" ruling power in government, though they ruled unknowingly to common people. Queen Hatshepsut was the only woman who ruled out right by declaring herself pharaoh. An Egyptian wife and mother were highly respected in this ancient society.
- Young boys learned a trade or craft from their fathers or an artisan. Young girls worked and received their training at home with their mothers. Those who could afford it sent their sons, from about the age 7, to school to study religion, reading, writing, and arithmetic. Even though there is no evidence of schools for girls, some were home taught to read and write and some even became doctors.
- Children were expected to look after their elderly parents. Upon their parents death, the sons inherited the land, while daughters inherited the household goods such as furniture and jewelry. If there were no sons in the family, there was nothing preventing the daughters from inheriting the land.
- Although women were expected to raise the children and take care of the household duties, there were some jobs available to them. Women ran farms and businesses in the absence of their husbands or sons. Women were employed in courts and temples as acrobats, dancers, singers and musicians. Wealthy families hired maids or nannies to help with household chores and the raising of the children. Noblewomen could become a priestess. Women also worked as professional mourners and perfume makers.
Clothes and Accessories
- Cleansing rituals were very important to the Egyptians. Most people bathed daily in the river or out of a water basin at home. The wealthy had a separate room in their home to bath. Servants would pour jugs of water over their master (the equivalent of a shower). The runoff water drained away through a pipe that led to the garden. Instead of washing with soap, a cleansing cream was used. Kind of like body lotion.
- People rubbed themselves daily with perfumed oil. Perfume was made from flowers and scented wood mixed with oil or fat, and was left in a pot until the oil had absorbed the scent. The perfumed oil was used to prevent the skin from drying out in the harsh climate. At parties, servants put cones of perfumed grease on the heads of the guests. As the grease melted, it ran down their face with a pleasing cooling effect.
- Men, women and children of all ages and classes wore makeup. Mirrors of highly polished silver or copper were used to aid with the application of makeup. Eye paint was made from green malachite, and galena -- a gray lead ore. They were ground into a powder and mixed with oil to make eye color called Kohl.(think ancient eye-liner) The Kohl was kept in jars and applied to the eyes with a small stick. The upper and lower eyelids were painted with the black cosmetic that extended in a line out to the sides of the face. It was believed the makeup had magical and even healing powers. Some even believed that wearing it would restore poor eyesight. It was also used to fight eye infections and reduce the glare of the sun.
- Other cosmetics used included colors for the lips, cheeks and nails. A type of clay called red ochre was ground and mixed with water, and applied to the lips and cheeks. Henna was used to dye the fingernails yellow and orange. Makeup was stored in special jars and the jars were stored in special makeup boxes. Women would carry their makeup boxes with them to parties and keep them under their chairs.
- Everyone in Egypt wore some type of jewelry. Rings and amulets were especially worn to ward off the evil spirits and injury. Both men and women wore pierced earrings, armlets, bracelets, and anklets. The rich wore jeweled or beaded collars, called a wesekh, necklaces, and pendants. For the rich, jewelry was made of gold, silver, or electrum (gold mixed with silver) and inlaid with semi-precious stones of turquoise, lapis lazuli (a deep blue stone), and carnelian (a copper or reddish orange stone). The poorer people wore jewelry that was made of copper or faience (made by heating powdered quartz).
- Egyptian clothing styles did not change much throughout ancient times. Clothes were usually made of linens ranging from coarse to fine texture. During the Old and Middle kingdoms, men usually wore a short skirt called a kilt. Women wore a straight fitting dress held up by straps. The wealthy men wore pleated kilts, and the older men wore a longer kilt. When doing hard work, men wore a loin cloth, and women wore a short skirt. Children usually ran around naked during the summer months, while in the winter, wraps and cloaks were worn. Noblewomen sometimes wore beaded dresses.
- During the New Kingdom, noblemen would sometimes wear a long robe over his kilt, while the women wore long pleated dresses with a shawl. Some kings and queens wore decorative ceremonial clothing with feathers and sequins. Most people went barefoot, but wore sandals on special occasions. The king wore very elaborately decorated sandals, and sometimes decorative gloves on his hands. Clothing styles were often chosen for comfort in the hot, dry climate of Egypt.