Daily Life in Ancient Egypt [Preview]

Workmen and their families lived some 3,000 years ago in the village now known as Deir el-Medina. Written records from the unusually well educated community offer fascinating descriptions of everyday activities

Although some aspects of the schooling system in Deir el-Medina diverged from the typical approach to education, the residents of the village apparently agreed with widespread notions about what should be taught and why. Teachers in this workmen's village might train stonecutters in between days on the job, writing on flakes of limestone (the material most available to them), but they still instructed their students in the great classics of Egyptian literature, with the goals of passing on wisdom and ensuring a successful career. As one village scribe wrote to a young pupil: "Set your heart very firmly on writing, a useful profession for the one who does it. Your father had hieroglyphs, and he was honored in the streets."

ANDREA G. McDOWELL, who holds a J.D. and a Ph.D., has written extensively on law and other aspects of life in Deir el-Medina. She taught Egyptology at Leiden University, the University of Oxford (where she was a junior research fellow at Somerville College) and Johns Hopkins University before attending Yale Law School. She is now an associate professor of law at Seton Hall University School of Law. Her current research is on law in the California gold rush and, more generally, on the origins and development of property rights.

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