How did the ancient Egyptians live? This is what houses in the kingdom of the pharaohs looked like

How many rooms did a typical house in ancient Egypt have? What were the rooms for and how were they equipped? How did the living environment of an ordinary family differ from that of a rich man? Historian Charlotte Booth describes the life of the Egyptians using the example of Thebes in the 14th century BC

Most of the population lives in very simple buildings, built from clay loam stone extracted from the Nile. The roofs of these houses are made of tree branches.


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It does not happen that someone lives alone or that a room in single-family homes is available for rent to newcomers. Most country houses are small, about four rooms and usually only 40 square meters. Don’t be surprised to find out that they are inhabited by three generations, maybe even twelve.

Home for people and animals

In addition to human inhabitants, many houses also house rodent-repelling cats, a guard or hunting dog, ducks or geese (for eggs and later meat), and goats (for milk). So houses are usually not quiet, secluded harbours. The same goes for large, upper-class villas, where pets are kept in open courtyards.

Egyptian house with four rooms. Illustration from the book

Animals are the key to self-sufficiency and a very valuable commodity. The owners therefore keep a close eye on them.

First room. Column of wealth

[W typowym domu o czterech pomieszczeniach] the first room can be entered directly from the street. It often houses a large breast bed, sometimes decorated with the image of the divine lion-headed dwarf Besa and the pregnant crocodile goddess Ta-Uret.


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The first room – the place where the visitor first enters – is visually the most pleasant. Many people have a column in this room if possible, or two if they’re prone to ostentation. The columns are a sign of wealth and especially the stone columns are impressive. It is therefore not uncommon to paint wooden columns so that they look granite and arouse the admiration of their neighbors.

The houses are either elongated (a narrow corridor leads from the first room to the second and so on) or square. It depends on the availability of land and how you expand your property over the years. You do not need permission from the authorities. It is enough to have the land and resources needed to build.

The text is an excerpt from Charlotte Booth’s book. How to survive in ancient Egypt (Pozna 2022 Publishing House).

Family room

The other room usually has a large platform for sitting during the day and sleeping at night. Various blankets and pillows can be spread on this platform for convenience.

Since the space is intended for family gatherings, ancestors are also welcome there, which is why, according to tradition, blind doors are placed here, dedicated to a favorite deity or ancestor, painted on the wall or carved into it.


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Through these blind doors, the household allows the ancestral spirits to enter and participate in everything that happens in this room.

Depending on your needs. third room

The third room, directly accessible from the family room, is a multi-purpose room, used according to the needs of the family. It can be a workshop, warehouse or workshop.

An Ordinary House in Ancient Egypt
An ordinary house in ancient Egypt in the (relatively successful) imagination of the game developers Assassin’s Creed: Origins

Craftsmen here carry out private orders, women sew clothes and shoes for sale. This room can be a ladies bedroom at night. †

Kitchen in an Egyptian house

The last and arguably the most important room is the kitchen, usually at the back of the house. It has no roof and resembles a walled courtyard. Beside one of the walls is an earthen stove and pits have been dug in the floor for the storage of amphorae.


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Some kitchens also have a grain storage silo, which can be a valuable convenience in times of famine.

Light, smoke, soot

In general, the small openings at the top of the walls in the first room are the only source of natural light in adobe brick houses.

Sculpture (model) of an Egyptian house from the 18th century BC in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (License No. CC0).
Sculpture (model) of an Egyptian house from the 18th century BC in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (License No. CC0).

The walls in this room are slightly higher than others. This means that houses can be quite smoky if oil lamps are on and a stove is burning at the same time. This can sometimes cause soot to build up on the walls.

Houses of the Rich

The main difference between these average homes and those of the wealthy is the combination of more extra living space and adding a yard where you can grow vegetables. †


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The homes of the wealthy often face north to take advantage of the refreshing north wind. Of course, this isn’t always possible, and if it isn’t, a hallway is built from the imperfect entrance to the second, facing north, to give guests the impression that the location is perfect.

In large villas there can be up to thirty rooms, including a columned foyer, as well as rooms for women from home or servants with their families, and a garden with a small lake for fishing.

Source

The above text is an excerpt from Charlotte Booth .’s book How to survive in ancient Egypt† It was published in 2022 by Wydawnictwo Poznańskie.

The title, preamble and subheadings come from the editors. The text has undergone an elementary proofreading.

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