Analysis Of Ancient Egypt Wealth
From the 4th millennium BCE, Ancient Egyptians formed one of the greatest classical civilizations. Why? Because while Europe countries were stuck in the Stone Age phase, Egyptians advanced themselves in building palaces, studying mathematics and learning to write on papyrus papers. Egypt or Ancient Egypt was divided into three kingdoms: Old kingdom (c.2700-2200), Middle Kingdom (c.2050-1785) and New Kingdom (c. 1575- 1075).
Like every country, Ancient Egypt had several characteristics that made it special amongst other countries. To begin with, Ancient Egypt had a stable food supply. The Nile river was one of the major, important sources of their food, as well as many other things such as molding mudbricks from Nile’s mud. Due to their dry climate and soil preservation, building houses was not hard for them. One major thing was their social structure, it consisted of seven main classes. Starting at the bottom with peasants (who worked as field hands, farmers that harvested food from the Nile), going up we had artisans who worked as either sculptures or architects, scribes who recorded important events, priests who ran all religious events, government officials who helped the pharaoh with running the nation and lastly, at the top of the social chain, the pharaoh who ruled Egypt. Although artisans and peasants were considered to be at the bottom of the social structure, they made up the majority of the population and one of the main reasons why ancient Egypt was able to thrive. They were able to make Ancient Egypt thrive because they were known to be great builders and great artists. As artists, their artworks were recognized to be two-dimensional paintings in which on one hand it portrayed humans with their eye on the side of their heads, and on the other hand, it portrayed their everyday life, important event, wars, and inspiration from nature’s true forms. As builders, they optimized their crafts and techniques to the level of perfection. One of their most striking technical achievement was the massive stone building used to construct the great pyramids. However, Egypt was seized by Alexander the Great and later by the Romans. Both Greek and Roman conquerors were significantly influenced by Egyptian culture, art, and philosophy. The following paragraph will cover Ancient Egypt’s characteristics and some analysis (based on John R Harris’s text) on several Egyptian furniture such as the bed, the chair, and the table.
Being one of the greatest classical civilizations, their complexity as a civilization helped them in creating a lot of things, mainly furniture. Egyptians used to build permanent houses out of timber or sunbaked mudbricks and filled them with useful and decorative items. What is remarkable about them is that their furniture is still recognized to this day, and people still get fascinated by their fine looks. Most of their furniture was made of decomposable materials like wood and reeds. Apart from wood and reeds, other main materials used were papyrus, timbers, acacia, sycamorfig, tamarisk, sidder, cypress, and juniper. And for decorations, a sheet of gold, foil, and leaf was mostly used for luxurious furniture. Social class played an important role in the availability of furniture in one’s household. In general, having multiple pieces of furniture means that the person is considered to be a novelty, however, the poorer pretty much did everything while sitting on the floor. They basically sat, ate, slept and worked on the ground using woven reed or straw mats, blankets for comfort and belongings stored in woven baskets.
To distinguish Ancient Egyptian furniture from another type of furniture, one should look at the characteristics of their richly, elaborated home décor. Their furniture was mainly about, first of all, being aristocratic, only available to people who could afford them because the materials were not cheap. Second, Egyptian furniture had a wide range of items that one could decorate his/her entire house with from stools, chairs, tables, beds and chests’ and all manufactured by the people. Third, they were considered to be monumental. It does not mean only their large scale but how they inspire awe and fear of authorities to people. Fourth, their visual impact that grabbed people’s attention through their graphic components. Fifth, the use of symbolic representations that are mostly used in decorative ornaments. Sixth, their folding furniture, and peculiarity of beds. What’s an advantage about their folding furniture is that it was so convenient to travel with them like the folding bed and stool. And finally, their love for ebony or cedar in their furniture. Having those two, gave the people who own such furniture a status symbol.
Egyptians were excellent craftsmen. They employed many techniques such as plain butt joint, mitre joint secured by dowels, shoulder mitres and dovetails.
Moving now into the analysis of specific pieces of ancient Egyptian furniture such as the bed, the chair, and the table. According to what John R Harris mentioned in his text and what I previously mentioned, Ancient Egypt was divided into kingdoms or went through three kingdoms. Each kingdom had its furniture that changed its appearance with time and with the kingdom.
To begin with, beds in all three kingdoms changed a little bit, varying from ordinary beds with simple legs to beds with quality that has animal legs such as lion paws. Beds were made from crude, timber affairs corded with grass or fibers. However, they got more refined by having a rectangular frame and short legs that are simply shaped or in the form of bull’s feet; which gradually changed into a lion’s paws (placed in a way as if the bed was walking). Sometimes at the end of the timbers, some carving in the form of papyrus culms was found. The frame of the bed was frequently covered with a leather or skin, slanted or curved or raised higher by using occasionally long legs at the head so that whoever is sleeping would not slide off. The footboard was not an essential item to have at the end of the bed. But if it existed they were often decorated lavishly with carved openwork figures (such as rising sun or deities, whom Egyptians saw as protectors of the household), inlays and gilding. The bedding consisted mainly of linen, which could be folded to form a mattress. Pillows were not used as much rather the head was supported on a crescent-shaped headdress, sometimes engraved with the owner’s name. The headdress was occasionally covered by a linen pad to provide comfort.
Chairs like other furniture were available to the wealthiest people. The higher the status, the taller and fancier the chair was. Chairs were usually made out of wood. Some chairs are affordable to the lower class but had rough leg and rail construction, with slatted backs. But those who cost, their frame was spanned with cord or thongs, to which the leg and the back were made separately and then assembled. The back was straight or rounded and slightly sloping with vertical supports behind. Pads of linen or cushions of linen or leather stuffed with feathers were added to some to bring greater comfort. Besides chairs, Ancient Egyptians had stools. They were much lower than today’s standard height. Stools were mostly made of wood, and covered with papyrus or painted white or covered with some thin wooden laths. Two types of stools were distinguished in the old kingdom. The first type was with square legs and arched bentwood braces and backless. The second type consisted of a frame decorated in the back with papyrus culm terminals, and legs were shaped like the bull’s feet and changed later into the lion’s paws. The most common stool was the folded one with crossed legs which usually terminated with a duck’s head or lion’s paws. The seat of the stool was mostly covered with a skin or leather stretched over curved battens. Armchairs had similar designs like the chair with arms located at the elbows height and somewhat concaved in profile. Chairs that featured scenes, inlays, heads, animals, carvings and valuable materials such as gold and ivory were only common amongst the ruling families.
Last but not least the Tables. Tables were invariably small in height. Their use was simply to raise stuff off the ground but larger tables to seat several people around. Food was served on a circular stone platter that had small support or foot. This support later on developed into an offering table with a tall pedestal made from either wood or metal and sometimes served during funerals. Baskets (made of palm fiber, halva grass, coiled spirally bound by a sewing strip, shaped either circular or oval with domed lids served many purposes according to its varying size), trays and bows were also supported on ring stands made of pottery or papyrus. Vessels were placed differently in both kingdoms. At first, they were placed on four-legged stands and racks of papyrus, wood and sometimes metal. Later on, they were placed on long legs. Tables had many variations of legs. They could have four, three or one. They were used either for food or games. A popular game that they used to play was called “game of snake “. It was played on a one-legged table inlaid, carved and shaped like a snake.
In conclusion, Egyptians believed that it was a necessity to secure all necessary belongings for the afterlife and sealed them in their tombs after they died.
Due to their great abilities in building/creating objects and their hot dry climate, both factors helped preserve most of the items and helped with their survival during excavation. Besides, compared with European civilizations, Ancient Egyptians were identified to be complex, advanced, and reflective in their philosophy, religion, and inspiration seized by the law of nature and its forms, and a strong historical awareness of their culture and traditions. Egypt went through several kingdoms and each kingdom had its characteristics in the impact of their furniture. Middle kingdom’s decoration became more refined, featuring sacred animals head such as cow, lions, and hippopotamus as well as inlays or paint. And in the period of New Kingdom, furniture design focused on grandiose items that aimed to fit in with the extravagant temples and tombs’ decorations.
In other words, Ancient Egypt’s furniture will remain to this day an ancient civilization acknowledged to its majestic pieces, its greatness at preserving its furniture and to be great at letting that furniture reflects the splendor of time they lived in.