Life in Ancient Egypt

The marketplace was already crowded when the farmerís wife arrived to do her daily shopping.  She carefully wove her way through the crowd, gripping her basket tightly.  In her basket were goods to trade for her familyís supper.  Finely woven mats and some sweet honey cakes would buy her a fine, fat goat, and maybe even a debenís worth of oil.

In The Marketplace 
Egyptians At Home 
How Do We Know That?

In The Marketplace
Each ancient Egyptian city had an outdoor marketplace where people went every day to shop for food and supplies.  In these marketplaces, Egyptian farmers and craftsmen set up stalls for selling their goods.  Farmers often sold barley, emmer wheat, fruit, vegetables and flax for making linen.  They also sold cattle, goats, ducks and geese.  The craftsmen filled their stalls with pottery, sandals, jewelry, furniture and toys.

The ancient Egyptians did not use money; so all purchases were really trades.  Egyptian shoppers brought homemade items such as mats, cloth, cakes and bread to barter for the supplies they needed.  For example, a woman with a duck could barter her duck for a necklace.  Many of these exchanges were based on an Egyptian unit of measurement called the deben.  Goods were placed on one side of a scale and metal debens were added to the other side until both sides balanced.  This weighing process helped keep trading fair, so a debenís worth of dates could be traded for a debenís worth of wheat.  Today a deben would weigh about three ounces.
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Egyptians At Home
Common Egyptian homes were of a very simple, square design.  They were usually built very close together, and grouped along the banks of the Nile.  The houses were made from mud bricks that were mixed with straw and baked in the sun.  Mud homes did not last long and often began to crumble.  When this happened, Egyptian builders flattened the remains and built a new house over the old one.

Mud houses were cool and airy.  The outside walls of these houses were painted white to reflect the sun.  Inside, high windows helped to circulate air and keep out hot sunlight.

Just inside the front door of most Egyptian houses was an entrance hall that led to a living room.  Smaller rooms were sometimes built behind the living room.  Behind those was usually a small, outdoor kitchen, with branches for a roof.  The branches allowed the cooking smoke to escape.  Stairs often led to a flat roof where families worked, socialized and slept in the hot summer.

Egyptian houses contained very little furniture.  Woven mats, small tables, stools and wooden beds with carved wooden headrests were the furnishings of the common Egyptians.
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How Do We Know That?
Many Egyptian tombs contain models of clay houses with farmyards in the front.  The model houses were put in tombs to provide the deceased with food and shelter in the Afterworld. 

A New Kingdom craftsmanís house was excavated at Deir el Medina.  It had four small rooms and a backyard cooking area.
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