Nile River

Egyptian Food


Daily Life

A Nobleman´s Day Life

A Farmer´s Day Life

Glass Beads, "Fabulous Fakes" and the Birth of Costume Jewelry


Ancient Egyptian Eye Makeup

Sexuality in Ancient Egypt


Egyptian Queens: The Royal Harem

Cobra Snake





The Nile River has always been the backbone of Egypt. The mighty river flows for some 4,000 miles from the mountains of Equatorial Africa (Blue Nile) and Lake Victoria (White Nile) before it empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Without the Nile River and its annual inundation Ancient Egypt would never have come into being. Its fertile valley was renewed every year with rich silt deposits laid down during the flooding.

Nilometers were placed at various points along the Nile in order to monitor the changes in the water level. It was recorded that at the start of the flooding the clear waters would turn a turbid red.

As the agriculture of Egypt revolved around the Nile, so did the social life of the ancient Egyptians. During inundation when there was less to do, people had more time for recreational activities, they played games, held sporting tournaments and regularly feasted.

When the River Nile receded the appearance of the land had radically changed and there was a great rush to restore boundaries. There were many disputes as markers had moved, banks had collapsed, and distinguishable features had disappeared.


The river was also the chief means of transport.It was their highway, making roads superfluous, except between close villages. Virtually everything moved by boat.


The Nile, for the most part, is a gently flowing river and in the time of the ancients, was crammed with fish. It's easy flow made fishing very popular. Everyone enjoyed fishing, from the young to old, peasant to noble.


The Egyptians believed that the Nile was the centre of the world. And the place from which it originated was, ‘the beginning of the world'. In Lower Egypt, in the area of the Nile Delta, the river splits into two great arms. The area between the two was densely populated from the earliest times. Many of the major cult centres developed in this region. Even the soul of a deceased had to cross the Nile before he could enter the kingdom of the dead.


The ancients utilised every aspect of the river, and the achievements of both man and the Nile down the ages, deserves praise. The River Nile was the fundamental and protecting force of a great nation. Of all the great rivers, the Nile blessed its people with the most reliable and predictable cycle of seasons.



The Ancient land of Egypt was one of the most fertile valleys in the world and supported one of the world's greatest civilisations. Rich soil, provided by the river's annual flooding, deposited thick silt over the land providing sometimes two, or even three, harvests a year. Herodotus, a famous Greek historian, once wrote that Egypt was the Gift of the Nile.

Bread was the staple diet of most Egyptians. The average kitchen was usually situated at the rear of the house, or on the roof. Mostly it was in the open, but may have been partially shade. Egyptian food was cooked in simple clay pots, using wooden utensils and stored in jars.

Beer was the national drink and was also made from barley. To improve the taste the Egyptians would add spices and it was usually stored in labelled clay jars. The importance of beer to the ancient Egyptians should not be underestimated as it was esteemed so highly that it was regularly offered as libation to the gods.

Wine for the upper classes was made from local vineyards. After the harvest was gathered, the workers would tread the grapes, and the juice collected Other wines were made from pomegranates or plums.

Even the poor people of Ancient Egypt ate a fairly healthy diet including vegetables, fruit and fish. But it was only the larger plantations that grazed animals, mainly because the average farmer had to use his limited land to grow crops. Poultry was mostly roasted for the table, but meat was mainly the privilege of the rich. Seasoning included; salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, sesame, dill, fennel, fenugreek, seeds etc.

All of the big festivals of the year were religious and organised by the temple priests. The biggest of these was the festival of the god Amun that lasted a whole month. Music, dancers, singers, acrobats and jugglers would accompany the religious procession. Much feasting and partying went on with a great deal of wine and beer being consumed. There would be; music, singing, story telling and the younger members of the family would dance to entertain the guests.

Although the ancient people did not write down their recipes, or use cook books, the ingredients needed to make most of the dishes are well known, many of which are still used in Egypt today.



To understand the everyday life of ancient Egyptians, archaeologists draw on many sources. The most valuable sources include tomb paintings, reliefs, and the objects included in tombs that the Egyptians used in their daily life. Artifacts from the few towns that have been excavated and hundreds of documents written by the ancient Egyptians shed additional light on their life. Much of the day-to-day running of their households, however, remains obscure.

The nuclear family was the fundamental social unit of ancient Egypt. The father was responsible for the economic well-being of the family, and the mother supervised the household and cared for the upbringing of the children. Although Egyptian children had toys and are occasionally depicted at play, much of their time was spent preparing for adulthood. For example, peasant children accompanied their parents into the fields; the male offspring of craftsmen often served as apprentices to their fathers. Privileged children sometimes received formal education to become scribes or army officers.

The few furnishings in the ancient Egyptian home were simple in design. The most common piece of furniture was a low stool, used by all Egyptians including the pharaoh. These stools were made from wood, had leather or woven rush seats, and had three or four legs. Most kitchens were equipped with a cylindrical, baked clay stove for cooking. Food was stored in wheel-made pottery. The basic cooking equipment was a two-handled pottery saucepan.

The ancient Egyptians embellished their usually plain clothing with elaborate costume jewelry. Both men and women wore jewelry such as earrings, bracelets, anklets, rings, and beaded necklaces. They incorporated into their jewelry many minerals including amethyst, garnet, jasper, onyx, turquoise, and lapis lazuli, as well as copper, gold, and shells. Because the Egyptians were very superstitious, frequently their jewelry contained good luck charms called amulets.

Cosmetics were not only an important part of Egyptian dress but also a matter of personal hygiene and health. Many items related to cosmetics have been found in tombs and are illustrated in tomb paintings. Oils and creams were of vital importance against the hot Egyptian sun and dry winds. Eye paint, both green and black, is probably the most characteristic of the Egyptian cosmetics. The green pigment, malachite, was made from copper. The black paint, called kohl, was made from lead or soot. Kohl was usually kept in a small pot that had a flat bottom, wide rim, tiny mouth, and a flat, disk-shaped lid.



One bright morning in ancient Egypt, a nobleman woke up in a bed covered in fine linen sheets.

He opened his eyes and looked around his bedroom.

He saw the cabinet where his clothes were kept, his wife's cosmetic box, and a lamp for lighting the room in the evening.

His thoughts were disturbed by the servant who entered the room. The servant helped him to wash and shave.

Then, the nobleman dressed in a kilt made of fine linen and sandals made of leather.

Meanwhile, the nobleman's wife got up.

She washed and dressed with the help of another servant. The nobleman's wife wore a dress made of fine linen and jewellery made of glass.

She applied some kohl to her eyelids and went downstairs.

The nobleman and his wife had a small meal of bread and fruit. They sat on cushions and ate from a low table.

Then, the nobleman left the house for an appointment with the overseer of his lands.

The nobleman's wife supervised the preparations for the banquet they were hosting that evening. Her children were dressed and fed, then brought to her by a servant.

The overseer of the nobleman's fields told the nobleman what the harvest would be like for the year.

He also told the nobleman how many cattle and geese had been counted in the fields the day before.

The nobleman was pleased. They shared a meal of bread, meat and beer.

In the early afternoon the nobleman's wife went out into the garden to escape the heat of the day.

She enjoyed the shade of the trees while she watched her children play with their toys.

Later in the afternoon the nobleman's wife began preparing for the evening banquet. Her servant brushed and curled her favourite wig.

She took out her most beautiful clothing and her jewellery made of gold and semi-precious stones.

The nobleman returned to the house and got ready for the banquet. Then he and his wife began greeting their guests as they arrived.

Their guests were offered cones of perfumed wax and lotus flowers by servant girls. They ate the finest meats, breads, cakes, wine, figs and dates. They were entertained by musicians and dancing girls.

At the end of the evening, they said goodnight to their guests and went to bed.



One bright morning in ancient Egypt, a farmer woke up in a bed covered in a coarse linen sheet that had been woven by his wife.

He opened his eyes and looked around his bedroom.

He saw the shelf where his clothes were kept and a basket.

The farmer got out of bed and washed and shaved.

Then, he dressed in a kilt made of coarse linen and sandals made of reeds.

The farmer's wife was already awake. She had washed and dressed in the early morning light. Then she had gone into the next room to wake the children and begin her daily chores.

She wore a dress made of coarse linen. Around her neck was an amulet of the goddess Tawaret on a piece of papyrus string.

The farmer, his wife and their children sat down to a small meal of bread and fruit. They sat on a bench and ate on reed mats.

Then, the farmer got up and went to work in the fields near his house.

His wife lit the cooking fire and began grinding the wheat to make bread.

It had been a good year for the farmer and there was a large harvest.

Today he would have to take a part of his harvest to the temple to pay for the use of the temple land.

He filled several baskets with his harvest, loaded them onto two donkeys and set out for the temple with his two field workers.

The farmer and his workers left the baskets at the temple where they were counted and their contents were added to the storeroom.

On the way back to the fields they shared a mid-day meal of bread, meat and beer.

The farmer's wife spent the day grinding wheat and baking bread. In the afternoon she walked to the river with her children to collect water.

In the evening, she prepared a small dinner of bread, meat and beer for her family.

As it grew dark outside, the farmer lit the small oil lamp. The farmer and his wife put their children to bed, blew out the lamp and went to sleep.



The Ancient Egyptians costume, for the most part, was very simple and practical, consisting mainly of folded linen. And for over a period of three thousand years the changes in Egyptian clothing were minimal.

Linens of various thickness were used to make clothing, the finest being a semi-transparent gossamer-like linen which was very much favoured by the Ancients.

Men generally wore white linen wrap-over kilts, or skirts, that reached anywhere from thigh to ankle. They were usually rectangular in shape and tied at the waist. For the most part the men are usually shown bare-chested but sometimes they can be seen wearing a jerkin style top, most likely for warmth.

The robe was another favourite of the Egyptian man. It came in various designs, but was generally long and flowing.

The richer you were, obviously the more elaborate your clothing became. Pharaoh is often shown wearing a highly decorative and colourful kilt, plus a 'Khat', a linen headdress in blue and white stripes.

Women's garments were mainly full length, starting from the shoulder and going down to the ankle. These dresses were worn, in particularly, by the noble and royal women of the court and were made from the lightest bleached-white linen.

However temple dancers, acrobats, and workers often wore short kilts like the men, or sometimes only thin strips of linen, or beads, tied around their waists. On a more general note, wigs, jewellery, cosmetics and headdress were used by both sexes.

Both sexes shaved their heads as well as their bodies for cleanliness, so wigs were worn as decorative apparel. The wearing of wigs went on for thousands of years.

Egyptians loved to wear jewellery. Neck collars were very popular and made from clay beads, gold, glass and semi-precious stones. Peasant women also wore jewellery but it was of a far poorer quality. Amulets, usually in the form of their favourite gods and goddesses, were also very common.

Creams and oils were used to stop the ancient Egyptian's skin from drying out in the hot desert sun. Eyeshades and lip paints were made from different minerals. Favourite colours for eye makeup were green and black.

Headdress came in all shapes and sizes but by far the most elaborate belonged to Pharaoh, although it would be more correct to describe these as crowns.




All clothes were almost always made of linen which is made from flax.

Flax: a plant having small leaves, blue flowers and stems about two feet tall.

Flax was pulled out of the ground, not cut.

This backbreaking work was done mostly by men.

Half-ripe flax stems made the best thread.

If the stems were too ripe, they were used for mats and rope.

Flax stems were soaked for several days.

The fibers were separated.

Then the fibers were beaten until soft.

The spinner attached the fibers to the spindle.

The fibers were twisted into strong thread.

The weaving was done on a loom.

A loom is a frame made of two beams held by four pegs in the ground.

White linen needed constant washing. It was washed in the river or canal, rinsed, then pounded on a stone, and, bleached in the sun.

Linen clothes needed to be repleated every time they were washed.

To do so they pressed the linen into grooves on a wooden board and let it dry.


Egyptians took a lot of care over their appearance.

Since there were no new styles they took pride in keeping themselves and their clothes spotlessly clean.


Workers wore loincloths made of animal hide and linen. They also wore simple tunic dresses.

Loincloth: a piece of material fastened around the waist and worn by men.

Most of the slaves worked naked.


Men or women wore long see-through robes that were pleated.

Better-off people wore wide clothes of white cloth.

Wealthy people did not wear more jewelry or fancier clothes to show wealth. They did wear gold jewelry and the most transparent clothes.


Women did not dress without washing (rich people had a tiled area for washing). After washing, they rubbed themselves with scented oil then they placed a large rectangle of linen over their heads, gathered the loose corners up and tied them in a knot below the chest.

The usual toilet articles were tweezers, razor and comb.


They wore a new wig each day (both men and women wore wigs).

Wigs were made from human hair or wool.

They wore curled wigs for special occasions.


Whether you were rich or poor you wore jewelry.

They wore rings, necklaces and ear studs.

Ear studs: earrings.

The jewelry was made of gold or colorful beads.

Necklaces were made with turquoise and lapis lazuli stones.

Lapis Lazuli: a deep-blue stone used for ornaments.


Both men and women made up their eyes and lips.

Eyes were rimmed, eyebrows were painted and lashes were darkened with a black powder called kohl.

The red cheek powder was called ochre.

They used a dye called henna to redden their nails and hair.

They mixed powdered minerals with oil to get colors.

At parties women wore a cone of scented fat on their heads that slowly melted making their heads smell nice.


People usually went barefoot and carried their sandals, wearing them only when needed.

The sandals were made of palm fiber or braided papyrus.

Papyrus: tall water plant that grows in the Nile Valley.


Priests washed several times a day and they had to remove all body hair to be pure enough to approach the god.

They could not wear leather sandals or wool clothing (considered unclean).

They wore a leopard robe when serving the god Amun.

In many cults (churches), they wore no wig.


Glass Beads, "Fabulous Fakes" and the Birth of Costume Jewelry

The ancient Egyptians described their native country as "the black land," recognizing it as a font of fertile abundance in contrast to the harsh, unyielding deserts surrounding them. This fertility applied to more than just agriculture. The inventiveness and creativity of ancient Egypt still exerts influence and inspires awe today. The ancient Egyptians were trailblazers in many fields, but particularly in the field of beauty. Pioneers in the arts of adornment, including cosmetics and tattooing, they did not limit themselves to enhancement of only the body's natural charms. The ancient Egyptians were also brilliant innovators in the creation of jewelry.

The ancient Egyptians loved ornamentation. Jewelry was designed, crafted and worn with great care thought and care. In their typical holistic fashion, fine jewelry was valued not only for beauty but also for the magical and spiritual protection it provided for its wearer. Did the concept of purely ornamental adornment exist for the ancients? Did they make that distinction between amulets and jewelry? Many anthropologists believe not.

Minerals and metals were identified with specific deities as well as with specific spiritual and therapeutic values. Thus their words for lapis lazuli and turquoise were synonymous with joy and delight, respectively. Copper and malachite were identified with Hathor, gold connected to the solar deity.

The Egyptians did not confine themselves to a limited selection of materials: a very wide variety of minerals were crafted into jewelry including amethyst, cornelian, jasper, onyx and quartz crystal. Today these stones are classified as semi-precious versus precious gems like diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds. How or even whether the Egyptians classified these gems remains unknown: the distinction between precious and semi-precious, for us, has largely to do with scarcity and economic value. Connections between availability and economic value did also exist in ancient Egypt but we cannot assume that modern cultures and ancient Egypt share the same perceptions of what was precious. For instance, during many periods of Egyptian history, silver was valued more highly than gold, due to its relative scarcity. Just as in today's world, silver holds less economic value than gold, perhaps many of what are now considered semi-precious gems may have been perceived as quite rare and valuable in old Egypt. Many were obtained only with great effort and cost: lapis lazuli, which held great spiritual significance for the Egyptians was not obtained locally but imported largely from what is now Afghanistan.

Yet as regards the production of jewelry, the Egyptians seemed to have also been faced with some purely practical concerns: what to do should a desired gemstone be unattainable, unavailable or perhaps unaffordable? In typical ingenuous and innovative fashion, the Egyptians invented the art of the fabulous fake. The ancient artisans became so adept at crafting glass bead versions of precious stones that it can be difficult to distinguish the mimics from authentic emeralds, pearls and tigers-eye.

This innovation depended upon yet another revolutionary legacy from ancient Egypt: the development of glass. Debate ranges among modern scholars as to whether glass was initially manufactured in Egypt or in Mesopotamia (or whether it arose in both nations simultaneously yet independently.) Certainly the roots of glass in Egypt are ancient. Solid glass beads have been found in Egypt dating from 4000 BCE. According to bead experts Chris and Janie Filstrup, very simple beads consisting of a true glass glaze over a clay or stone cane have been discovered in Egypt dating back to 12,000BCE.

From their earliest roots, regardless of location, beads have held a spiritual and magical component. The English word bead, for instance, derives from the Old English bidden, meaning, "to pray." The Egyptian hieroglyph for bead also indicated "luck."

Glass making eventually evolved into a sophisticated art in Egypt, with shapes and hues becoming increasingly intricate. To the basic formula of sand (silica), soda and lime, cobalt was added to create a blue shade, copper for green, tin was used to produce a milky white while the addition of gold created red. The willingness to incorporate gold into a formula to enhance the beauty of glass indicates that glass was not merely considered a substitute for something precious, but was valuable in its own right.

Although fine glass would be created elsewhere (the glassblowers of ancient Hebron were considered brilliant innovators, for instance), the glass beads of Egypt were consistently perceived as the finest of the ancient world. Small, easy to transport yet valuable, they became favored cargo of far-ranging Phoenician traders; glass beads were exported all over the ancient world. Egyptian glass beads have been discovered as far afield as China.

The Egyptians did not find the same uses for glass that we do today. Glass was not used for windows or doors. Mirrors were made from polished copper. Cups, perfume "bottles" and unguent pots were most typically carved from alabaster or other stone. Glass was almost exclusively used for ornamentation of the body. Among the finest existing specimens of the Egyptian glassmakers' art are treasures found in King Tutankhamun's tomb. The famed vulture collar, for instance, laid upon the mummies' chest, was inlaid with hundreds of pieces of colored glass. (The Egyptians were also masters of cloisonné, fine inlay work.) Tutankhamun's "necklace of the sun" was created from glass beads intermingled with those formed from gold and cornelian.

The question debated by modern scholars is whether this glass jewelry was worth as much or more than that carved from genuine gemstones or whether what we witness is in fact the birth of costume jewelry: lovely and stylish, yet reasonably priced. Were mummies bedecked with glass to foil grave robbers or because the glass jewels held their own unique value and significance?

One school suggests that frustration with tomb raiders stimulated the art of glass imitation jewelry. By creating glass imitations, comparably worthless reproductions of precious gemstones, theft would be discouraged and the deceased left to rest in peace. Perhaps just as the shabti could transform into a worker in the next world, so a glass reproduction could ultimately assume the financial values and magical/therapeutic properties of the authentic material?

The opposing school suggests otherwise, their belief being that ancient Egyptians considered glass to be in the same league as precious gems and metals, that the process of creating glass stimulated special and priceless magical powers. This too is distinctly possible. Faience (an ancient form of glazed ceramic, often confused with or considered an ancestor to glass) also makes up a high percentage of grave jewelry/amulets. The process of creating faience was perceived as inherently stimulating power to the material, in particular a kind of super-fertility power, thus making it a favored material for the creation of amulets.

Certainly great care was taken with the glass jewelry. It is painstakingly handcrafted: a tremendous amount of workmanship and effort went into the creation of Tutankhamun's necklace and collar, for instance. There is nothing careless, haphazard or remotely disrespectful about the glass pieces. The craftsmanship is as detailed and patient as that given to any work of gold. Furthermore, while Tutankhamun's vulture necklace is encrusted with red and blue glass on one side, the body of the necklace is solid gold. Even considering that substituting glass for gemstones might have decreased economic value, the piece still remains a priceless and beautiful luxury.

Many of the glass-bedecked relics in Tutankhamun's tomb bear reference to Nekhbet, the ancient vulture goddess. Did a connection exist between the material and the goddess in the manner that bloodstone was associated with Isis? Bloodstone was a favored material for amulets beseeching Isis' favor; is there a similar association between glass and Nekhbet's protective powers? Not enough information or jewelry is available as yet for a definitive answer.

Beyond its beauty and its potential protective properties, an air of elegance seems to enshroud the production of glass in ancient Egypt. Unlike metal smiths, whose creations were desired even as the artisans were perceived as dirty, sweaty and smelly, there even seems to be something stylish about the glassmakers' profession. Circa 1480 BCE, Pharaoh Tutmosis III labored in a glass factory (presumably by choice) and is credited with inventing a new hue of blue glass.

From our vantage today, it's very difficult to consider the relative value of glass to gems. Centuries of associations and prejudices influence modern perceptions. Today, we crave and respect "the real thing." A common theme of old Hollywood movies is the disappointment when the seemingly priceless gem is discovered to be but "paste," a worthless imitation? A great imitation ultimately remains an imitation, a forgery. Did the Egyptians share this perception or did they perceive each material as distinct, valuable in its own right for its own specific properties?


Today costume jewelry is often perceived as what one wears when one can't afford the real thing. Its increasing respectability in the 20th century was perceived as a great social leveler; stylish ornamentation wasn't reserved solely for the haute-monde, although snobbishness about authenticity never disappeared.

Yet in a striking parallel to the grave-robber foiling scenario, costume jewelry has also served as a safety-promoter. I recall a period of time, some years ago, when crime was fairly rampant in New York City. Even the wealthiest women wore stylish, yet clearly economically valueless costume jewelry to avoid attention, reserving the precious gems for special- and guarded- occasions.

Artistic innovations in glass continued in Egypt up until the end of its political independence. By 1200 BCE Egyptian glassmakers were creating beads intricately patterned with geometric, human and especially floral designs. These flower beads reached their height of perfection in Ptolemaic Alexandria but would then pass out of fashion under Roman rule. Although exportation of glass beads continued for a while, glass jewelry became associated with the poor.

It would take another thousand years before glass would once again command respect and desire, when the art was revived in Venice. Millefiori, literally thousand flower beads, are still associated virtually exclusively with Venice today, although in terms of technique and style they are clear descendants of the ancient Egyptian flower beads. Venetian glass workers would eventually be confined, forced to ply their trade under lock and key on the guarded island of Murano, ostensibly to guarantee fire safety for the city of Venice but really to safeguard the secrets of glass, which the Egyptians discovered and perfected so long ago. (Revealing trade secrets in Murano was punishable by death.) Because the identification with Venice is so strong, the Egyptian roots of millefiori are largely overlooked. Happily, this is not so with other examples of ancient Egyptian craftsmanship. Revivals of cloisonné and powdered glass, based upon techniques pioneered in ancient Egypt, occurred in Europe during a period when fascination with ancient Egypt was at its height. Not only were the techniques recalled, they were often specifically used to create jewelry and objets d'art in what was then popularly perceived to be the "Egyptian style."

Fittingly, the Egyptian connection was made especially explicit with the newfound popularity of beadwork. No longer associated with the poor and rustic, beaded clothing, shoes and jewelry were suddenly chic, stylish and upscale in the 19th century. In the 1890's, a popular style of Western necklace paid tribute to the last pharaoh: the "Cleopatra" consisted of a row of turquoise from which hung a fringe of agate, coral and other semi-precious beads.



Cosmetics are as old as vanity. In Egypt their use can be traced back almost to the earlist period of which burials have been found, and continues to the present day.

Cleanliness and personal appearance were highly regarded by the ancient Egyptians. For the priests in the service of the gods cleanliness was strictly prescribed. Not only did they have to wash several times a day, but they also had to be clean shaven all over, to keep at bay parasites, such as lice, eggs of which have been found in the hair of mummies. Water was plentiful, but there is little evidence that the ancient Egyptians used natural soaps or tooth powder. In a hot climate deodorants were much in demand. To repel body odour men and women alike were advised to rub pellets of ground carob(?) into the skin, or to place little balls of incense and porridge where limbs met.

Around 1400 BC three ladies of the court of Tuthmosis III were buried with costly royal funerary equipment, which included cosmetics. Two of the jars contained a cleansing cream made of oil and lime. Some prescriptions for body 'scrub' are given in the medical papyri

The 'red natron' was presumably natron tinted by an iron compound in the earth where the natron was extracted.

An allegedly successful remedy to treat wrinkles consisted of': gum of frankincense I wax I; fresh moringa oil I; cyperus grass I; is ground finely and mixed with fermented plant juice. Apply daily.

A simple remedy of gum applied to the face after cleansing had a similar effect. If' the skin was marred by scars caused by burning, a special ointment was used to treat them and make them less obvious, as for example red ochre and kohl, ground and mixed with sycamore juice. An alternative treatment was a bandage of carob(?) and honey, or an ointment made of frankincense and honey.

Because of 'their healthy diet and the lack of sugar the Egyptians did not suffer from tooth decay, but their bread contained particles of sand from the grain and grit from the grinding stone, which caused their teeth to become excessively worn No evidence has been recovered to suggest that the Egyptians used a toothbrush in the manner of the miswak, a natural brush-cum-toothpaste from Salvadora persica, a tree native to southern Egypt and the Sudan. The root has been used for dental care by the Muslims since the days of the Prophet (PPUH). To improve on their breath the Egyptians chewed herbs, or they gargled with milk. Perhaps they also chewed frankincense like their descendants in the last century

As in other civilizations, the appearance of the hair was of paramount importance not only because of the visual effect, but also because of 'the erotic symbolism conventionally conneted with hair. Men and women alike wore wigs made of 'human hair on festive occasions, but they also tried to keep their natural hair in good condition. Jars of what could be compared with 'setting lotion' have been found to contain a mixture of beeswax and resin. These were remedies for problems such as baldness and greying hair. To treat the latter, blood of a black ox or calf was boiled in oil to transfer the blackness of the animal to the greying hair, or the black horn of a gazelle was made into an unguent with oil to prevent grey hairs from appearing. These remedies are slightly more agreeable than another consisting of putrid donkey's liver steeped in oil, though they all had the same magic effect. A far more efficient remedy would be an ointment made of juniper berries and two unidentified plants kneaded into a paste with oil and heated. The natural colouring matter in the plants would rub off on the hair, and the astringent properties of juniper stimulate the scalp. In order to make the hair grow, chopped lettuce was placed on a bald patch, if the baldness occurred after an illness, or the head was anointed with equal parts of fir oil and another oil or fat.

The toilet casket of any man or woman would contain a razor for removing body hair, although a number of creams were sometimes used for the purpose. One such consisted of the boiled and crushed bones of a bird, mixed with fly dung, oil, sycamore juice, gum, and cucumber; this mixture would be heated and applied, presumably to be pulled off when cold, with the hair adhering to it.

The almond shape of the black Egyptian eyes was underlined by the application of black kohl or green malachite. Eyepaint was also considered as a treatment to cure or prevent eye diseases. A great number of prescriptions deal with preventing ingrowing eyelashes.

To cool the eyes a finely ground green mineral (jasper or serpentine) mixed with water was applied to the lids. Alternative preparations were ground carob(?) and fermented honey, or emmer grains steeped in water overnight. An eye wash was prepared from ground celery and hemp.

Eyepaint for an overnight treatment made of kohl and goose fat or a paste was mixed from kohl, green eyepaint, lapis lazuli, honey and ochre in equal parts, applied to the lids. The green eyepaint was usually malachite, a green ore of copper; kohl was made of galena, a dark grey ore of lead. It w as kept in lumps in little bags of linen or leather and was ground on a palette to a fine powder. The powder was poured into vases or tube-shaped containers from which it was extracted with a thin stick. It was applied either with the moistened stick, as is done by Egyptian women today, or, for medicinal purposes as quoted above, mixed with some fatty matter.

Malachite was brought to the Nile Valley from the mountainous regions of Sinai, whereas galena was obtained either near Aswan in Upper Egypt or at the Red Sea coast. But both were also imported as luxury commodities from Asia and Arabia. However, no matter which remedy was employed, the Egyptians knew that nothing made the eyes brighter than falling in love: 'Like eyepaint is my desire. When I see you, it makes my eyes sparkle', says a girl in a love poem.

Some Egyptians appear to have dyed their fingernails, but the nature of the red colour used is unknown. It may have been henna. Red was also required to paint the lips. The lip gloss, possibly made of fat with red ochre or with one of the plants used for dyeing, was applied with a brush or spatula. Red colour was used to give glow to the cheeks. A rouge consisting of red ochre and fiat, possibly with a little gull resin, has survived: it was some four thousand years old. Rouge in the form of powder was marketed a few years ago as a product of ancient Egyptian origin. The recipe which inspired the manufacturers was presumably one of those used for the purpose of camouflaging a burn.



Gaze at the myriad portraits of ancient Egyptians and what looks back? Consistent meticulously and beautifully outlined and ornamented eyes. It is virtually impossible to find a portrait of an ancient Egyptian whose eyes are not decorated. During all periods and dynasties, eye makeup was a daily prerequisite for both men and women.

Although we know the Egyptians possessed the equivalent of our rouge, lip-gloss and nail polish, these were used only upon occasion, apparently as a matter of personal preference, style and fashion. The ancient Egyptian tradition of outlining the eyes with pigment to create an almond or feline shape and the importance placed upon this practice, however, transcends the Western concept of eye makeup. "Makeup" to modern Westernized ears has the ring of something frivolous, something optional. Although cosmetics were certainly used for the purpose of beautification, in ancient Egypt, eye makeup did more than paint a pretty face.

As we have seen to be typical of the ancient Egyptians, they took a truly holistic approach to the concept of eye makeup. Not only was it decorative and ornamental, the practice also served medicinal, magical and spiritual practices.

The Egyptians used two types of eye makeup:

· Udju was made from green malachite (green ore of copper) from Sinai. Sinai and its mines were considered under the spiritual dominion of Hathor, ancient goddess of beauty, joy, love and women. She bore the epithet "Lady of Malachite."

· Mesdemet , a dark gray ore of lead, was derived from either stibnite (antimony sulphide) or, more typically, galena (lead sulphide.) Galena was found around Aswan and on the Red Sea Coast. It was also among the materials brought back by Pharaoh Hatshepsut's famed expedition to Punt and was given in tribute by Asiatic nomads.

The packaging and preparation of eye makeup was quite different from what we are used to today. Today, we have the choice of liquid, powdered or cake eye makeup. If you find yourself all thumbs at applying liquid eyeliner, no problem, you can just purchase a pencil instead. We have a vast array of colors available to us. Although the nuances of color are virtually endless, very rarely do we know precisely what our makeup is made from, what's actually in the makeup or how it was made. Once the product is purchased, it's ready to be used: all you have to do is open the package and apply the stuff to your eyes.

In ancient Egypt, preparations were a little more extensive. The cosmetic material had to be powdered on a palette and then this powder mixed with a substance, (analysis indicates that these were usually ointments derived from animal fat) to make the powder adhere to the eye.

Eye makeup equipment (palettes, grinders, applicators) has been found among the earliest burials of the pre-dynastic period and seem to have been essential items for the afterlife.

Even the humblest graves consistently contain at least a simple palette. Small containers of galena have been found in tombs alternately stored in leather or canvas pouches, small jars, conch shells or within hollow reeds. What separated rich from poor was not the existence of makeup but the expense and luxury of containers and applicators. Everyone had galena powder however while the poor resorted to sticks to apply it, the wealthy had intricately carved and bejeweled containers of ivory or other precious materials.

That the Egyptians decorated their eyes with great aesthetic care is immediately obvious. Eye cosmetics bestowed beauty and style as well as other gifts, perhaps less immediately apparent to modern eyes.

Galena possesses disinfectant and fly-deterrent properties. It is believed to offer the eyes protection from intense sun. The medical papyri frequently prescribe mesdemet for assorted complaints of the eye.

Eye make up provided psychic protection as well. The Egyptian word for eye-palette seems to derive from their word for "protect." An unadorned and thus unprotected eye was believed vulnerable to the Evil Eye. Outlining the eyes thus became a personal protective amulet drawn right upon the skin; an amulet that once applied could not be lost or misplaced.

There may very well also have been further spiritual dimensions to eye makeup. Perhaps wearing malachite placed one solidly under Hathor's protection and Hathor was a very prominent goddess, with centers of worship throughout Egypt and as far a field as Byblos. In modern India, henna powder (mehendi) is believed to contain something of the essence of the goddess Lakshmi, who, like Hathor, was a powerful goddess of beauty, good fortune and benevolence. When henna is applied to the body, some small measure of Lakshmi's sacred presence and protection is to be imparted to the wearer. Thus the potential for transforming an everyday activity such as eye makeup application into a personal, sacred and protective ritual. The associations between Hathor and malachite were very strong. Perhaps applying the powder to one's body was to partake of something of the essence of Hathor herself. Certainly kohl, as galena is known today, contains spiritual significance to many modern North African women. It is a material and substance to be treated with awe and respect: in a Moroccan tradition, for instance, kohl serves as a reminder of the Kaaba, Islam's holy black stone housed in Mecca.

Galena is still used in Egypt under the name kohl . It is easily and inexpensively purchased in the marketplace. Outside of Egypt, it is easily purchased through vendors that supply accessories to Eastern dancers. Buy from reputable dealers only (and the little old ladies in the marketplace who mix up their own kohl may be the most dependable and reliable of all) to ensure that what you are purchasing is not made from cheap, harmful, eye irritating materials.

Although it is impossible to authentically and exactly reproduce ancient Egyptian perfumes, the kohl that is available today is basically the same thing that was familiar millennia ago. Applying kohl to your own eyes allows you to transcend the barriers of time. Even the kohl applicators and containers have not changed over the centuries. Real kohl usually comes in a little box containing a stick-like applicator and a compartment for the make up itself. An ancient Egyptian woman time-traveling to the present would surely find much to puzzle her but hand her a modern kohl container and stick and she would know exactly what to do with it. On the other hand, a modern woman, used to conventional methods of eye makeup application, might be a little perplexed by the box and stick. Learning to apply kohl the traditional way can be a little tricky as most modern people have been indoctrinated since early childhood about the dangers of putting a stick anywhere near the eye* but with a little practice, it's easy to get the hang of it.



Long before the Greek and Roman artists depicted and described the most intimate aspects of human behaviour the ancient Egyptians had been practising their sensual expression for centuries. Erotica flowed through all levels of society like the waters of the Nile and although the evidence is scarcer it is no less potent.

Ancient Egyptians believed that life, sexuality and rebirth were elements that went hand in hand.

Marriage seems to have been a voluntary affair and for the most part monogamous - mainly because polygamy, whilst not illegal, was expensive.

Adultery was considered a serious crime and carried severe punishments including the cutting off of the nose.

There is no doubt that prostitution flourished in ancient Egypt and that it played it's part in the scheme of things, whether it was being carried out at one of the well established pleasure houses, or under the guidance of the temple.

During the reign of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, known as the Amarna period, the king is regularly portrayed as a woman with small breasts, narrow waist and rounded hips. And, sometimes, it is difficult to tell him apart from his beautiful wife, Nefertiti.

The reputation of Egyptians as an incestual race is not a strictly deserved one. Although there are clear cases of royal families marrying close relatives it must be understood that this was done to secure the royal blood line and preserve peace and legitimacy, rather than for debauched reasons.

Love poems and erotic texts are numerous and it is obvious that the ancient Egyptian man was not afraid of demonstrating his love. He speaks through tales of gods, poetry, dreams and wisdom books.

Egypt, like many others societies, was strong on symbolism, for example the lotus flower and the mandrake represented love.

By and large the ancient Egyptian desired a large family, partly due to the high infant mortality rate, but mainly as proof of fertility.

Cleanliness and ornamentation were all important to the Egyptians. They would wash daily and both sexes removed unwanted hair from their bodies. Women curled their hair and shadowed their eyes.

Throughout the dynastic eras evidence confirms their intensity and enjoyment of all things sensual. The ancient Egyptians were a people comfortable with their sensuality and undoubtedly loved and celebrated life to the full.



The ancient Egyptians held marriage as a sacred bond. The family was broken down into roles that each would play in order for things to run smoothly. The father was the one who would work all day. In smaller households the mother was in charge of all things pertaining to the house. Cooking, cleaning and watching the children were all her responsibilities. Egyptians seem to have taken mates in what most often appears to be lifelong monogamous relationships. marriage and a close family played an integral role in ancient Egypt.

A bride would be young, about 14 or 15 years old. Her husband could be anywhere from 17 to 20—or older if he was divorced or a widower. The ancient Egyptians were encouraged to marry young, considering that the life span at this time was relatively short.

Many marriages were arranged with parental consent needed, as they have been in all societies, especially among the upper classes. But the abundance of love poetry between young people signifies that many couples did fall in love and choose each other as mates. Women played a large role in arranging a marriage. A suitor sometimes used a female go-between to approach the girl's mother—not her father.

Interestingly, one of the most affectionate titles you could call your love was "brother" or "sister" in ancient Egypt. This had nothing to do with sibling relations, but led many archaeologists and scholars to wrongly assume that most ancient Egyptians married their siblings. Actually, this usually occurred only among royalty—and was not a common occurrence.

The Wedding Day:

The day of the marriage was really quite simple. The bride merely moved her belongings into the home of her husband. He might be living alone or with his parents.

So what did the bride wear? She probably wore a long dress or tunic made of linen, which may have been covered from head to toe with bead-net. If she owned any gold, silver or lapis, she probably adorned herself with those, too.

Even though there was no official ceremony, knowing how much the ancient Egyptians loved music, dance and food, there were bound to be family celebrations in honor of the uniting couple.

Museums are filled with statues and paintings showing husbands and wives with their arms around each other's waists, holding hands or offering each other flowers or food. Love and affection was indeed a part of the Egyptian marriage, and our Egyptian bride could expect to be loved and respected by her husband.

Entering into a marriage was described as 'making a wife' or 'taking a wife', but it seems that the girl's father had the main say. If the girl had no father, an uncle would step in. In the absence of any preexisting agreement it seems that the girl's consent to a marriage was unimportant until the 26th dynasty, when brides also began to have a say.

The Marriage Contract

Most marriages had a contract drawn up between the parties. The poorer classes probably did not do this because they probably had few possessions to consider and also the cost of a scribe would have been costly. Marriage settlements were drawn up between a woman's father and her prospective husband, although many times the woman herself was part of the contract. The sole purpose of the contract was to establish the rights of both parties to maintenance and possessions during the marriage and after divorce if it should occur.

A standard marriage contract that had been found among the numerous records left by the ancient Egyptians. It contained:

The date (the year of the reign of the ruling monarch)

The contractors (future husband and wife)

The names of both sets of parents

Husband's profession (wife's rarely mentioned)

The scribe who drew up the contract

The names of the witnesses

The finished document was given to a third party for safekeeping or kept among the records of the local temple.

A man could marry as soon as he was physically mature and had reached a point in his chosen career that ensured his ability to provide for his wife and for the children they could expect. Most Egyptians were content to have only one wife. Marriage was an expensive matter for the man, and the whole contract system provided such far-reaching safeguards for the material rights of wives and children that most men could only afford one wife at a time.

Marriages were most often between people of the same social class, but there seems to have been little regard given to race or even nationality. It was not unusual for a northern Egyptian to marry a Nubian, or someone even from another country.

Marriage contracts do not generally tell the age of the parties, but we know from other documents that marriage almost always occurred after sexual adulthood. The average age for girls to enter puberty was 12 to 13, and around 14 for boys. Indeed boys, who had to achieve some work abilities in order to support a wife and future children, were usually 15 or over before contemplating marriage. If the marriage ended in divorce, the rights of the wife were equally protected. Generally, she was entitled to support from her husband, especially if she was rejected by him through no fault of her own. The amount might equal one third of the settlement or even more. If the bride ended up committing adultery (which was extremely frowned upon for both men and women), she still had certain rights to maintenance from her former husband. Monogamy, except for some of the higher classes and royalty, seemed to be the rule for most ancient Egyptian couples.

Particularly during the early periods of ancient Egypt, the future husband made a payment to the bride's father, usually amounting to about the cost of a slave. Later, this practice was abandoned and later the practice was reversed where often the father of the bride had to compensate the future husband for her upkeep. However, if divorce occurred, the husband was obligated to continue some support to his ex-wife, usually amounting to about one third of his earnings.

Marriages between kin were familiar among the common folk. Step-brothers and sisters married, as did uncles and nieces quite frequently, and cousins still more so.

Between very close blood-relations, however, it was wholly exceptional among ordinary people.

The tradition of brother/sister or father/daughter marriages was mostly confined to the royalty of Egypt In tales from Egyptian mythology, gods marriage between brothers and sisters and fathers and daughters were common from the earliest periods, and so Egyptian kings may have felt that it was a royal thing to do. However, there are also theories that brother/sister marriages may also have strengthened the king's claim to rule.

Divorce was as easily initiated as marriage. Divorce could be brought about by either party; it was a private matter and the government took no interest in it.

The most common reasons for a husband to divorce his wife included the inability to bear children, especially a son; the desire to marry someone else or that she simply stopped pleasing him. A woman could divorce her husband for mental or physical cruelty or adultery. In some cases, if the woman chose to divorce, she forfeited her right to communal property.

Once divorced, both men and women could remarry as soon as they wished. And from the archives we have found, it seems that they readily did. It's also apparent that our ancient bride, with the ease of marriage and divorce and the financial protection she generally received, had a better time of it than some brides in modern times.

All of this said, there are many indications that husbands and wives in ancient Egypt were often happy and in love. There are many touching portraits and statues of families including spouses and their children that reveal marital delight and warmth within the family.



In the private sections of the Royal Household were quarters devoted purely to the women of the Palace, including the first Queen, lesser wives and concubines. The ancient Egyptian word, which commonly referred to this part of the Palace, was ipet or per-khemret, which is often translated into, ‘harem'.

It would perhaps be more accurate to translate ipet or per-khemret into ‘private rooms or apartments', as opposed to the more public parts of a Palace where business was carried out.

Presiding over all proceedings of the household would be the first queen, who was most likely to be of Royal birth, sometimes a half or full sister to Pharaoh. She would have also been a woman of considerable personal wealth, influence, and, as the wife of the living god on earth, highly privileged.

Surviving texts describe ‘harems' as important economic organisations that received regular supplies of rations and were governed very much as a business. They were obviously powerful and independent establishments, both physically and economically, and it is not surprising that occasionally they would become involved in political intrigue.

One account of ‘harem treachery' involved the Pharaoh Ramses III (1184-1153 BC). It was devised by one of his lesser wives, Tiye who planned to dispose of the king before installing her son onto the throne. The details of the trial have been handed down nearly complete in the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, which was translated by M. Le Page Renouf. The fate of Tiye is not recorded on the surviving papyri but it is known that many were forced to commit suicide.

It is obvious that the Egyptian queens royal harem was an integral part of the palace's economy and stability. And sometimes a place of serious intrigue.



The Cobra is the most feared of all poisonous snakes. Cobra De Capello is Portuguese for ‘Hooded Snake'.At an average length of six feet, with a brownish skin, glaring eyes, darting tongue, hissing breath and spoonshaped hood, it rates as one of the most dangerous snakes in the world.

It is a silent, stealthy hunter feeding on insects, lizards, frogs and small mammals, such as rats and mice. The Cobra snake favours warm, dry regions where water is readily available. As the cobra grows it sheds it skin.

The cobra's venom glands are essentially modified salivary glands, through which the cobra injects its victim. Even given its dangerous properties the Cobra still remains the favourite of snake charmers. Death from cobra snakebite is one of the oldest fates of mankind. In ancient Egypt every ‘healer' was required to know the repertoire of spells for conjuring the poison of every serpent.

Pharaoh would often wear a representation of the wide hooded Cobra on his crown as an emblem of royalty. From this position the cobra was said to be able to defend the king.

In the ‘Book of the Dead' the Cobra snake is seen as the symbol of Earth. Whilst the Ouroborus sign (below) shows a snake swallowing its own tail bringing together both circle and serpent, which represents the round of existence.