|Child Working in Garden - Tomb of Menna|
When writing in English we write from left to right across the page, but Egyptian schoolboys could right from top to bottom or across the page. If writing across the page, the text could be started from either the left or right. The way they would know which way to read the text was to look at which way the animal, bird or people signs were facing; if they were facing right, the text was to read from right to left. Writing was regarded as sacred by the Ancient Egyptians as they believed it had been given to them by the gods, so texts had to be perfect, with no mistakes and neatly presented. The schoolboys would use brushes made from reeds to do their work, which they would dip into either black or red ink. The ink, along with the reed pens, was stored in a pallet that was generally made from wood, although more elaborate ones were crafted in ivory or gilded. Black ink was made from soot and water and other colours were made from mixing water with ground up minerals.
|Hieratic Text Copied by Schoolboy|
These privileged young men would have been trained in archery, hunting, chariot driving, swimming and fighting with sticks. Pharaohs had always been portrayed as accomplished warriors and athletes, but by the time of the New Kingdom the heir to the throne was shown and described engaging in amazing feats of arms and athleticism. Most of these images probably portrayed rituals rather than real life events, but the Egyptians doubtless looked up to their kings as physically powerful and fearless fighters.
|Palette of a Scribe|
Children from poorer families started working and being useful from an early age. So you can see images on tomb walls of children helping with the harvest, herding animals, fishing and many other tasks. They would have been trained by a close family member such as their father or uncle, and would have been expected to contribute economically to the household from very early on. Girls were not educated as formally as their brothers, although there is evidence that royal princesses were taught to read and write. However, they would be taught by their mothers how to do all the daily household tasks and maybe also how to sing, dance and play instruments. These skills were especially useful for the girls who went to be a singer or a dancer in one of the many temples.
So the life of an Ancient Egyptian schoolboy was regimented and they were expected to be diligent, respectful and follow the path laid out for them by their family. Much more was expected of them at an early age than would be today, but life expectancy was typically only between thirty and forty. Children had to grow up faster and work hard to make their mark in a world that could be tough and unpredictable.
Hieratic text image Wafulz on Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
Child Working in Garden - Tomb of Menna image Wikimedia Commons Public Domain
Palette of a Scribe image Wikimedia Commons Public Domain