As is the case for all societies at any period in the past, what remains are the belongings of the wealthy and, more especially, royalty. While the magnificent buildings, art and artefacts tell us a great deal about the sophistication and wealth of the Ancient Eygptians –they tell us little about daily life of the ordinary people.
However, it is certain that wealthier Egyptians and nobles enjoyed an opulent lifestyle. Comfort and hygiene featured strongly in their lives. They had strong family values and most wealthy households employed servants or slaves to carry out the mundane tasks.
Here are some brief snippets showing the world of the rich:
Wood was in short supply in Egypt, but the wealthy could afford exotic imports, such as Lebanese cedar or ebony. Carpenters were skilled craftsmen and decorated their work with fine inlays and friezes.
The arts of glass-making and enamelling were well known to the Egyptians. They also made fine white and coloured porcelain of a comparable quality to that made in China. Houses of the wealthy were decoreated with many fine art pieces.
Egyptian jewellery was striking in the originality of its design. Skilled metalworkers fashioned all manner of shapes by welding thin strips of metal into intricate designs using molten sulphur. Gold (beaten or moulded) and fine jewels, such as turquoise and amethyst, were commonly used. They were embellished with fine ceramics and painted glass which, to the Egyptians, were almost as expensive as semi-precious stones.
The houses of the rich were quite large, often occupying two stories, and were made from bricks covered in white painted plaster. They were raised on platforms as protection against damp. Most also had a small, shady garden with an ornamental pool. Inside they were highly docorated with frescoes and enamelled wall paintings.
Keeping up Appearances
Most Egyptians took pride in their appearance, especially the wealthy who could afford the finest materials. Both men and women had their hair cut short, but wore elaborately braided and decorated wigs. The wealthier they were, the more elaborate their headdresses were. Both sexes seem also to have used cosmetics, in particular eye make up.
Houses were quite comfortably, if simply, furnished, making great use of rare woods and fabrics imported from abroad. Most furniture was quite elaborately carved, such as lion-claw feet on tables and chairs. Beds, complete with stuffed mattesses, also had head and foot rests (see the photo) and reclining back boards.