Craft of Ancient Egypt

Craft of Ancient Egypt

Replica of Fourth Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus

Crafts of Ancient Egypt
The abundance of materials that required different processing, and the early development of technology in the deepest antiquity, have already made it necessary to distinguish specialists who worked not only for themselves but also for exchange and form the craft of Egypt. Wood and metals were brought to Egypt from the surrounding countries, as well as such colored stones as malachite and lapis-lazuli, besides Egypt is extremely rich in its local stone, both ornamental and building: all shades of green and red, jasper, green amazonite , emeralds, rock crystal, colored quartz, serpentines, diorite and porphyry, granite of various breeds, sandstone of extraordinary hardness, slate, soft limestone and gorgeous alabaster were extracted and broken in the mountain chains on both sides of the Nile valley. In addition, Egypt had good clay, and the desert and its oases supplied pure quartz sand and sodium salts, important in some industries.

Stone-cutters and wood-cutters

The tools of the Egyptian artisan were extremely simple: for drilling stone vessels from alabaster and other rock rocks, and for making statues, he used a hand drill; emery played a great role, as well as sand and emery powder polished and finished the finished things.

The ax with the wooden handle and the stone and then the bronze blade, the saw, the adzo and the chisel are the usual tools of the woodworker, but this little Egyptian knew how to work not only simple furniture, but also the finest work of the box and the so-called “spoons” for grinding and spirits, a headrest and a wooden statuette, often fastened from separate pieces of wood. And by the same simple tools they made monumental funeral statues of the hardest rock, or of soft limestone, which was then painted.

Craft of Ancient Egypt

Replica of Nefertari’s bust


The Egyptians were excellent metalworkers: they knew gold, silver, copper very early, even in prehistoric times. They learned early to make alloys of gold with silver (in Egyptian “jam”) or with copper, giving it a reddish shade, and since the Middle Kingdom, copper and tin have been alloyed, receiving bronze.
The metal melts in the crucibles, and the flame is inflated with the help of foot bellows. The molten mass pours out into molds that, after cooling, are broken and scraped together with the slag, the pure metal goes into processing to the master, which forges it to the desired shape by malleting, after which it is minted or engraved. Sculptural works are cast in the form, sometimes in parts, which are then fastened together. To make the statuette easier and to spend less expensive material; The method of casting on a wax or porous mass form is used.

Potters and glassmakers

Extremely similar in technology was the work of a potter and a glassmaker. It used to be said that Egypt has its own good clay, but it has never played a role in Egypt as much as in Mesopotamia, because if clay is almost the only ornamental material in Mesopotamia, Egypt has a large amount of stone. From the clay rectangular bricks were made with an admixture of palm fiber, then a brick for strength began to burn and, what is very important for determining the time of its manufacture, it stamped out the name of the king at which it was made. Utensils in the deepest antiquity were made without the help of a potter’s wheel, by hand, but already with the first kings the machine began to be used. The most ancient dishes were fired by overturning it into the heat down the neck. Therefore, the throat of such a vessel was swallowed and blackened. Subsequently, this black line along the edge of the throat was applied artificially.

Craft of Ancient Egypt

Copy of the golden throne of Tutankhamen

Clay as a cementing agent was part of the mass of the so-called Egyptian “faience”, which was made of quartz sand with an admixture of lime and clay, wrung out in a mold, dipped in a raw form into a colored glass powder and then fired, with molten glass covering the “faience” glass film. This was how expensive utensils, cups and vases were made in the shape of a fish or a lotus flower, as well as figures of “respondents-ushashti”. It was already possible to make glass in Egypt at the dawn of history, more than 3,500 years before Christ, but the Egyptians were not able to blow glass and processed a molten, viscous mass of glass by hand, rolling it onto a mold that, after manufacturing the desired object was removed by scraping. Glass and glass glazes were always colored and opaque, and had to replace such precious stones as blue lapis-lazuli, or bright blue turquoise.

Craft of Ancient Egypt

Nefertari to Hathor, goddess of the sky, love, femininity, beauty, fertility, fun and dance.


With the craft of a metal worker, a stone cutter and a potter, the work of a jeweler is very closely connected. In Egypt, a very big role was played by jewelry – bracelets, earrings and in particular necklaces that were part of the costume of the Egyptian, as his necessary component. Necklaces dropped from beads and links, gold, silver, drilled from various stones, or pressed in the form of “faience” mass, and glazed with glass. Egyptian jewelers made particularly elaborate things from the Egyptian cloisonne “enamel”, that is, from the tiniest pieces of colored stones and glass that were densely embedded in nests from a thin golden plate soldered on the surface of the object that they wanted to decorate.

Textile and tanning

Clothing in Egypt was prepared from linen cloths. The Egyptians knew how to treat flax fiber even before the first kings, that is, probably already at the very beginning of the fourth millennium BC. In the oldest graves many times found a rough canvas, in which the corpses were wrapped. Egypt was especially famous for its delicate fabrics like modern batiste, which were exported from Egypt through the city of Pelusium in the Delta. The French word “blouse”, which also translated into Russian, is nothing but a distortion of the word “Pelusium”, which was called linen cloth, exported through this harbor. Usually the clothes were white, yellowish-white, but sometimes it was woven with colored patterns. On their feet wore sandals woven from reeds in the same way as mats ripped, or made of leather.
The situation of artisans and workers

The hard work of the artisan was obviously not paid well enough and was of little appeal to anyone who had the opportunity to avoid it. In Egyptian inscriptions, we often meet with praise for the honorary position of the “scientist”, the scribe who knows the letter: “There is no estate that would not be manageable, only a scientist manages himself,” Egyptian sage Douauf says in his lecture.

Craft of Ancient Egypt

Papyrus from Luxor

And along with this: “I never saw a blacksmith receiving errands, or goldsmiths with a message, but I saw a blacksmith behind his work, at the opening of his stove. His fingers were like crocodile skin, he stank more than fish dregs. The worker who works by the ted is tired more than the one who plows: the tree is his field, his hoe is the bronze adze. At night, when he is free, he does more than his hands can and at night he burns the fire. The stonemason is looking for work on a hard stone. And when she is full, his hands are broken and he is tired. When he sits down at dusk, his thighs and his back ache. A weaver at his workshop is worse than a woman. His thighs are pressed to the stomach and he does not breathe air. He gives the gatekeeper bread, so that he let him out into the light … It’s bad for the shoemaker: he always begging … he chews the skin. ” From this inscription it is clear that some categories of craftsmen did not work freely, but involuntarily, under the supervision of the overseer, because the weaver must be bribed with the porter’s bread, so that he let him out of the stuffy workshop where he could not breathe from the flying linen fiber, and where he hours, sitting, crouched at work. “The shoemaker chews the skin,” that is, he has nothing to eat so much, that he chews only when he pulls the teeth with his teeth.

Craft of Ancient Egypt

The labor of the artisan and the worker is paid in kind, depending on the length of the working day. Among them there were many serfs who belonged to private individuals or entire institutions. Artisans and workers formed “detachments” under the command of the “chief of the detachment” – the overseer, who distributed the work and gave rations. From the record of one of such overseers of the epoch of Pharaoh Ramses IX (1142-1123 BC), we learn that four times a month his “detachment” consisting of metalworkers, carpenters, etc., receives a large number of fish, the main food an Egyptian worker. Monthly a ration of pods (beans, peas) is given, a certain number of “vessels”, apparently with butter and beer, firewood and grain. However, the issuance of wages was regularly late, or was incomplete. I had to complain to high-ranking officials, apparently through their associates: “We were given bread rations today (grain), the same” commander of the detachment “wrote,” we gave the boxer (vizier) two boxes and a written instrument “- obviously a bribe to him reported to the commander about the needs of the detachment. It was sometimes necessary to strive for the issuance of wages through strikes. Under Ramses III (1198-1107 BC), the detachments of the workers of the Necropolis (the city of the dead on the west bank of the Nile) “left its walls”, responding to all the persuasions and “great oaths” of priests and officials: “we came here from hunger and thirst, we have no clothes, no suits, no fish, no vegetables. Tell Pharaoh, our good lord, write to the Vizier, our superiors, that the food supplies be delivered. ” But more than once the workers had to “sit down by the necropolis”, because the rations were still delayed again and again.