Published: 15th August 2015
Publisher: Amberley Publishing
Author: Charlotte Booth
When we think of ancient Egypt, we think of the gods, the pharaohs and the pyramids. However, life for the average Egyptian was very different from this glorious perception and was not so unrecognisable from the lives we live today.
This book tells the history of the ordinary population of ancient Egypt, using the stories of real people – often strange, at times amusing and ultimately very recognisable. Booth introduces us to a number of fascinating people, including Taimhotep, who married a man twice her age and turned to the god Imhotep to help her to conceive a son; Naunakhte, who disinherited her children for neglecting her in her old age; Kenhirkhopshef, a man seemingly obsessed with making lists; and Paneb, the ‘bad boy’ of Deir el-Medina. History is made up of people and personalities, and each of these characters has a story to tell.
Quirky, well researched, interesting read and goes down as another off my 2015 Reading Challenge – A non-fiction book.
So much has been packed into this book with each section easily accessible. Good that there was a map at the beginning so when different areas were talked about you had an idea of where they were in relation to each other – also shows the distance some would have travelled to go from one settlement town to another.
The images inside of Deir el-Medina – which seems to be the main place spoken about throughout – show just how vast the area they lived in was. From just looking at the remains that are left you can get a feel for what it was like in its day, and that it would have been quite an imposing area to live in.
Many aspects of the Ancient Egyptians lifestyles are very similar to our own, showing that sometimes the old ways are the best. Took me a little longer to read than your everyday fiction book but I think that was due to the amount of information being given and letting it all sink in. I do love finding out about the history of the Ancient Egyptians and will always watch a documentary on the subject whenever there is one on TV as I find their way of life in general fascinating.
There were many interesting facts that I picked up along the way throughout this book that stuck with me from either being a little bizarre and quirky or just fascinating in seeing how aspects of the Ancient world still play a part in today’s society.
Passing the Time chapter – They seemed to have their own version of our present day Gladiators competitions where two men would try and knock each other down with polls. Only difference is that they were on boats, rather than podiums, on the River Nile and they would have to knock the other into the water, only then would they win. There was however a side of danger with this sport, once in the Nile there could be a high chance of being eaten by a crocodile or if your opponent got a bit too competitive they could harm you while trying to knock you down with the pole.
Household Religion chapter – The Ancient Egyptians had many gods and it is surprising how the stories go with how many times they could die and be reborn – usually being made out of clay. The story of Isis, Nephthys, Osiris and Seth is the main focus in this chapter and it goes round quite a few times with who dies and comes back. So much so that I did have to re-read to make sure I followed the correct path they were taking.
Love, Sex and Marriage chapter – I have to say the dream interpretations that they had for the very wide rarity of dreams they could have were just brilliant. They were very different between whether you were male or female. For a man to dream he is having intercourse with either his mother or sister this is good (friends will stay close or he will inherit something) whereas if he dreams he is having sex with his wife in the sun this is bad (maybe it’s the whole in the sun bit rather than being with their wife but either way the gods will see his miseries if he does). For a woman they are that much stranger. If she is dreaming that she is married to her husband she will be destroyed and if she embraces him she will experience grief. Then there are a few about if an animal has intercourse with them and if this happens mostly she will be either punished or is likely to die soon. The interpretations between the sexes is very different and you have to wonder whether they were thought up by men or women – either way I think most women at the time would have been wise to keep quiet about what they were dreaming about.
Childhood chapter – Adulthood started so much sooner for the children of Ancient Egypt than it would today, they were barely in their teens before they would be put to work. The boys would, more often then not, follow in their father’s footsteps and the girls would start to take on more roles within the family household. This did not stop them from having fun and playing games just like children of today though, only difference is that it did not last as long.
Working for a Living chapter – The everyday jobs that existed at the time are what you would expect them to be – farmers, labourers, scribes, priesthood and being in the military – where they were usually paid in food rations or with goods rather than with money. But the one I found most interesting was that women could become professional mourners. It appears that women of the deceased’s family would not be able to show their grief in public as it would be ‘considered unseemly’, so they would hire professional mourners to show their grief in their place. Most professions would be past down from father to son, mother to daughter, so it would seem if you didn’t like what your parents did for a living you didn’t have many options of what you could, or more likely would, be doing.
Overall a very informative read that isn’t too heavy to get through so if you are interested in what the everyday life of the Ancient Egyptians was really like then check it out.
4 out of 5 stars