Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery Education Resource People in the Past Spring 2006

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1 Daily life in ancient Egypt revolved around the River Nile and the fertile land along its banks. The yearly flooding of the Nile enriched soil, brought good harvests and wealth to the land. Most ancient Egyptians worked as field hands, farmers, craftsmen and scribes. A small group of people were nobles. Together, these different groups of people made up the population of ancient Egypt. Sandals Comb Corinthian Perfume Jar Cleopatra Coin King of Upper and Lower Egypt Ushabtis Storage Jar Mummy and Sarcophagus Papyri Mirror Glossary 1

2 Ancient Egyptian people often went barefoot but wore sandals on special occasions. Sandals were normally made of palm leaves, braided papyrus or leather and were held on to the foot by plaited or woven thongs between the first two toes. Sandals were a luxury item used only by rich Egyptians whilst slaves and poor people went barefoot. Sandals would have protected the feet from the hot desert sand and sand flies. They may have been painted or covered with decorations such as beads. When the tomb of King Tutankhamen was found one of the first items brought out from the tomb was a box containing sandals and slippers for him to use in the afterlife. Describe these sandals and compare them to shoes we would wear today. 2

3 Combs have been found in the earliest tombs in ancient Egypt, they are usually single or double-sided and made from wood or bone. The hot dry atmosphere in Egypt helps to preserve wood that was normally imported from other countries. Most children in ancient Egypt would not have used a comb, as they would have had their hair shaved off. Even after thousands of years our combs still look like this one. Describe this comb and consider what colour it would have been originally. Describe what you used to comb your hair with today, and compare it to the one in the picture. Why do you think that wood is scarce in Egypt? Craftsmen using special tools would have made combs; can you describe tools they may have used to make them? 3

4 This small perfume jar was made in Corinth, Greece in the 6 th century BC. It is made from clay and has a painted geometric design. Jars such as these were used to hold rare expensive exported Greek perfume. The Corinthians manufactured small painted pots that were suitable for shipment in large quantities. This beautifully decorated pottery was highly valued abroad and was sold across the Mediterranean. The tiny pots were used to hold oil, perfume or ointments. Items of value such as this small jar were used for trading with other countries, therefore pottery is important in archaeology. It can tell us much about the people who made and used it and the area where it was found. 4

5 This is a coin of Cleopatra who ruled jointly with her brother Ptolemy XIII from 51 BC. However, she became sole ruler with the help of her ally Julius Caesar. When Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC she returned to Egypt. In 41 BC Cleopatra met and fell in love with Mark Antony, who in 31 BC was defeated by his rival Octavian (later known as Augustus). The lovers committed suicide - Cleopatra choosing death by snake bite. Coins bearing Cleopatra s portrait provide some of the few surviving authentic images of her. The Glasgow coin is famous as being the very best surviving coin and it depicts a striking portrait of one of the world s most powerful women. 5

6 This is a plaster cast of a wall from a temple in Aswan, Egypt which was built in the years BC. The scene shows the pharaoh Ptolemy VI Philometor and his wife Cleopatra II bringing gifts to three gods. This plaster cast has hieroglyphics, symbols and images on it. Hieroglyphics, which are a form of picture writing, were used by the ancient Egyptians to tell stories. Could you learn to write your name using hieroglyphics in class? Consider who would have visited the temple? Although this is a plaster cast, the original temple in Egypt would have been carved from stone or marble. Most Egyptian temples and tombs were painted with bright colours similar to those that you can see on the sarcophagus of the mummy Shep en Hor. 6

7 These are also known as shabtis or answerers and many are often found in ancient tombs across Egypt. The ancient Egyptians believed that these mummiform figures would come alive in the afterlife and work for them as gardeners helping to grow crops for them. Ushabtis are small figures that can be made from stone, wood or faience. Faience is a form of pottery, decorated with colourful opaque glazes, usually blue in colour. Most ushabtis have their arms crossed and some have hieroglyphs painted on them. Most ushabtis have striking faces, especially the females who appear to wear lots of make-up. These figures were extremely important in ancient Egyptian culture as agriculture and the yearly floods sustained life. Describe why the river was important in Egypt. Discover the name of the great Egyptian river. 7

8 This storage jar is from El Amarna in Egypt. It has a blue painted floral motif and dates from the New Kingdom period, BC. This city, on the banks of the River Nile, was occupied for less than 20 years. Most pottery from El Amarna was made of red clay from the River Nile. The potters would spread it with their feet to smooth any lumps, shape it on a potter s wheel, paint it and then fire it in a kiln. Both men and children from most families would be involved in pottery making, with the children helping to gather clay from the banks of the River Nile. Describe the jar and consider how it would stand and what might have been stored in it. 8

9 In this sarcophagus lies the mummified body of Lady Shep en Hor. It is from Thebes in Egypt and dates back to 600 BC. Can you work out how old the mummy is? The sarcophagus is made from painted wood and is decorated with pictures and hieroglyphics. In ancient Egyptian times, rich people were often mummified and buried in special coffins called a sarcophagus. Parts of their bodies were often removed and stored in special jars. They would need these later when they entered the afterlife. Look up the name of these special jars and describe what they were used for. This mummy and sarcophagus have survived so long due to the very hot dry climate in Egypt that has helped to preserve the Lady Shep en Hor. Consider other famous Egyptian mummies, and where they were found in Egypt. 9

10 Papyrus is an early form of paper made from the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus. The plant can grow to 5 metres high and was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt. Papyrus is first known to have been used by ancient Egyptians. A sheet of papyri is made from the stem of the plant. The stem is cut lengthwise into thin strips of about 40cm long, and the strips are then laid over each other at right angles and water is added. While still moist, the layers are pressed together, mashing the different layers into a single sheet. After drying, the sheet of papyri is polished with a rounded object, possibly a stone. Consider the different processes in making papyrus. How long do you think it took to make papyrus? 10

11 This mirror is made of bronze, highly polished to allow people to see their reflection. It was made and used by ancient Egyptians between BC; this period is also known as the New Kingdom. Although this mirror has a modern wooden replica handle, the handles of ancient Egyptian mirrors were often highly decorative and carved. Images of papyrus plants were common motifs, as were female forms, which appeared on handles from the New Kingdom period onwards. Both men and women wore make-up in ancient Egyptian times. This mirror would have been expensive and would need polishing regularly. Consider who would have polished the mirror and what would they have used to maintain the reflective surface. 11

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