Ancient Civilizations: The Egyptian Way of Life

Contributor: Suzanne Riordan. Lesson ID: 13073

Would you like to live in ancient Egypt? What would you eat, drink, and wear? What kind of home would you live in? Find out, then write a diary entry as an ancient Egyptian, and make a tomb painting!

categories

World

subject
History
learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

If you've ever seen pictures or videos of the treasures unearthed from ancient Egyptian tombs or even visited a museum that had them on display, were you filled with a sense of wonder? Did you think about how much effort was put into the resting places of these people or how important they must have been in their societies?

Recently, archaeologists made another amazing discovery. Watch Egypt unveils 'one of a kind' 4,400-year-old tomb, expect more finds from FRANCE 24 English News:

 

Discoveries like these help us to take a peek into the past, thousands of years ago, and find out what life was like for the ancient Egyptians.

What else do we know about their lives?

If you lived in ancient Egypt, much of your life would be determined by your class, or place in society.

The priest, who was buried in the tomb shown above, was in one of the higher classes. These people were considered very important, and as much honor was paid to them in death as in life. However, people on the lower levels of society would not have had such fancy graves.

Let's take a closer look at the Egyptian social pyramid.

Social Classes

These are the Egyptian social classes, from highest to lowest:

Since most of the Egyptians were of the lower classes, let's look at some aspects of the lives of merchants, craftsmen, and peasants.

Homes

ruins of an ancient Egyptian city

Most Egyptians lived in little villages along the Nile Valley. They didn't want to build their houses too close to the Nile, though.

  • Can you guess why?
The Nile flooded every year, so they had to build on higher ground that wouldn't get covered with water. In the early years, they made their houses from reeds and shaped them like beehives. Later, they used bricks of dried mud. Typical houses had rooms on the roof, so they could enjoy the cool breezes.
 
People of the lowest classes made their own furniture. Those with more money could buy them in the markets.
 
School
 
Egyptian children had to grow up quickly. They married young, sometimes at 12 years old! Few went to school. If they did, it would be to learn a trade. Some lucky children were able to go the Scribes school to be trained for that job. They were lucky because they could learn to read and write, and that let them move quickly up the social ladder!
 

Clothes

Egypt is a very hot country, so most of their clothes were light and cool. Children often ran around with no clothing at all, and the upper classes wore more clothes than those of the lower classes.

Their clothes were often made of linen, a lightweight material made from flax plants. Much of their clothing was simply draped across their bodies and didn't need much sewing. Women wore simple sleeveless dresses with shoulder straps, and men wore a short kilt (a man's skirt). However, they did sometimes make more fancy garments.

Most early Egyptian clothing was white, but they later learned how to dye garments blue, green, red, or brown.

Would you like to see an Egyptian lady's dress that is over 5,000 years old? Check out See the World's Oldest Dress by Traci Watson at National Geographic!

Food

The staple of the Egyptian diet (meaning the thing they ate the most) was bread. They drank beer made from barley and ate vegetables, fish, and fruits. Some people kept bees and used the honey to sweeten their food. They ate with their fingers, sitting at low tables. They cooked outside or on the roof of their house to keep from overheating it.

Egyptian hieroglyphics depict pouring of beer

Image from Ancient Origins®, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Money

The ancient Egyptians didn't use money. They had a barter (trading) system. For example, they might trade a cow for some grain, or a pot for a blanket. Bread and beer were the most common things traded by the poor. They had a strict system to make it fair: the bread had to be baked from the same exact recipe and the beer poured into containers of the exact same size.

Entertainment

For fun, they played music, danced, and played board games. They had a variety of musical instruments including harps, flutes, rattles, and tambourines. They played a game called Senet, which is one of the oldest known board games.

Senet board game

They also played many of the same sports we enjoy today, such as:

  • many kinds of ball games
  • a game similar to hockey
  • wrestling
  • weightlifting
  • archery
  • rowing
  • gymnastics
  • track and field events like running, long jump, and javelin throw
  • swimming
  • hunting and fishing

ancient Egyptian wrestling

Image by Ernest Wallis et al, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Art

The ancient Egyptians were highly skilled sculptors and painters. Take a look at some of their art at the Smithsonian's Ancient Egypt site.

  • Which is your favorite?
Now, head over to the Got It? section and see how much you remember about the Egyptians' social system!

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