Ancient Egyptian Culture & Society
Ancient Egyptian culture and society was very well-organized and divided according to class, status, wealth and locale. Each nome (or province) had its own temple, deity, beliefs, capital, practices and even ethnic origin.
People who were born into a social class usually stayed in it till death. Wealth, social status and even careers were inherited. The individual’s roles in life heavily depended on his/her family’s class.
Most of the population was working class, but unfortunately the majority of the information on this class comes from the tombs of the elite.
Not much information was recorded directly by them since they were usually illiterate and could not afford luxurious tombs and monuments that would last till now.
The information we do have that comes from the tombs and temples is sometimes biased or incomplete. But Egyptologists have gathered enough research to paint a picture of what the ancient Egyptian culture and society was like.
The Egyptian Social Pyramid chart shows the division of social classes. In summary it is: Pharaoh –> Vizier –> Priesthood –> Army Generals –> Officials –> Mayors –> Working Class –> Criminals & Slaves.
Contrary to popular beliefs, there were no slave-workers in ancient Egypt. Slaves didn’t build the pyramids. However, captured enemies and criminals were sometimes forced to become slaves, though their children were not bound to slavery and they were often freed.
Ethnic Groups in Ancient Egyptian Culture and Society
What “race” the ancient Egyptians were is an even hotter debate topic than how and who built the pyramids. I always get asked about whether modern-day Egyptians are at all genetically related to their ancestors or whether we’re just made from the stuff of invaders.
Other than having DNA tests, suffice to say that many of us feel a deep connection to this long-lost past and don’t feel it’s necessary to prove blood relations.
But it is very interesting to follow the evolution of this debate. It is so controversial and brings up so much discomfort!
I won’t attempt to discuss it here, but it seems that most scholars now agree that the ancient Egyptians were more or less indigenous to North-Eastern Africa by the time they settled along the Nile and became “Egyptian” 🙂 But of course, we need to note that North Africa is still in Africa.
It’s also been noted that there were immigrants, traders and invaders during the dynastic period of ancient Egypt and that they did integrate with the Egyptians at some point.
Of course if there was war or conflict, that integration didn’t go too smoothly, but otherwise they were given pretty much the rights of regular Egyptians.
The Working Class of Egypt
Ancient Egyptian culture and society is mostly preserved in the monuments, statues, temples and tombs… this made knowing the elite classes easy. They loved to tell their stories in order to live forever.
But, the working class is what made these monuments. The working class fed the population, built the temples, cleaned the houses, served the nobles, washed the clothes, entertained the masses, etc…
Click on the following links to learn more about:
Until today, all over the globe, it’s the salt of the Earth that make the world go round!
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