Egyptian Furniture

Wood had to be imported from far away – cedar from the Lebanon, ebony from Africa – so furniture was rare and expensive. The ancient Egyptians did not use very much furniture because of this.

The rich had beds but most ordinary people slept on mud benches covered with mats. Instead of pillows, there were headrests made of ivory, wood or pottery.

In wealthy homes there were chairs to sit on, and three legged stools were also popular. There were no cupboards or wardrobes. Clothes and household goods were kept in wooden chests and boxes, while foodstuffs such as oil and grain were stored in pots and baskets. Trays of food or jars of drink were put on tall stands.

Egyptian Houses

Ancient Egyptian houses were built out of mud-brick then plastered and whitewashed to reflect the sun. The Egyptians built their houses with the walls sloping inwards to make them strong enough to resist floods or earthquakes.

ancienthouseHouses had tiny windows to keep them cool and shady and to keep burglars out. The homes of wealthier families had their inside walls plastered and decorated with brightly-coloured paintings or hangings. Some even had vents on the roof to send cool breezes through the house – an ancient kind of air conditioning!

Houses in towns were built close together, but in the countryside there was room for people to have gardens. There were huge differences between the homes of the rich and the poor.

The enormous villas of the rich were set in great estates. They had many rooms, and separate stables, storerooms, workshops and kitchens, while most houses just had a small yard at the back with a clay oven and a grindstone. Wealthy homes even had bathrooms and toilets, but most people had to wash in the river.

There was very little furniture but most houses had built-in benches to sit and sleep on.

The Egyptian Family

familyThe family was very important to the ancient Egyptians. Paintings in tombs often show the different generations enjoying each other’s company. The Old Kingdom sage Hardjedef advised his readers: “If you would be a worthy man, set up home and marry a sensible woman, so that a son will be born to you.”

People did not expect to live to an old age, so they usually married quite young compared to today and tried to have plenty of children to live after them.

When a boy reached adulthood he left his parents’ house and set up his own home. Girls usually lived with their parents until they married. Marriages were usually arranged for political reasons, especially in the highest levels of society but the more ordinary people generally chose their partners.

In the early times, a couple often moved in together as no religious or legal ceremony was required but in later periods it was usual to have a marraige contract drawn up in case of arguments about children or property.

It was no unusual for people to remarry, either because their partner died or because the couple split up. Divorce was quite common and the marriage contracts would specify how much a man would pay his wife if he divorced her.

An ancient Egyptian household could be quite large. As well as the head of the family, his wife and their children, it was not uncommon for grandparens, unmarried aunts and sisters to live in the family home. The whole family shared one living and sleeping space yet the family members lead quite separate lives.

Boys went to school or work as soon as they were old enough, but girls helped their mothers around the house, learning the skills they would use in their own homes.