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Ancient Egyptian Family Life: Children

By Yona Williams    9/12/06

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The way that family life was conducted and respected was a very important aspect of Egyptian culture. They placed a great deal of emphasis on the value of family. This is especially seen through the treatment and regard for their children, which were handled like gifts from above. This article will explore the way ancient Egyptians dealt with family life, as well as the roles of children.

 

Egyptian Children

 

Within lower class families, it was the mother who was responsible for rearing the children. This was not the case in families blessed with wealth and noble status. The role of raising the children was then delegated to various servants and slaves, which serviced the children on a daily basis. For example, if a child wanted a drink of water or anything they desired, the servant was the one who would be responsible for retrieving this item.

 

Children were looked upon as a great bestowment. When couples remained childless for a long period of time, they would pray to the gods for assistance in this matter. They also believed if they wrote letters to their ancestors that they would be able to “put in a good word” with the gods. Childless couples wrote their pleas for a birth in their household and would slip then in the tombs of relatives that had passed away. If their prayers and pleas were not answered by this method, then they would turn towards the power of magic. If all else failed, did you know that the practice of adoption existed during this time? This was a common act after couples continued to fail at conceiving a baby of their own.

 

The Role of the Young Children

 

When it came to the role of young children, boys were expected to learn a trade or craft, much like the ones their fathers pursued. Sometimes, an artisan would teach the young lads a thing or two. Wealthy ancient Egyptian families often sent their sons to school. Only those with money were able to achieve this educational luxury. It was there that the young boys were taught various subjects, including arithmetic, writing, reading, as well as religion. Schooling for the boys began around the age of seven. As for young girls, they stayed at home, where they worked and received training from their mothers. There is no evidence suggesting that schools for young girls existed during these times. They learned to read and write from their mothers within the household. Evidence of female doctors exist, who received all of their training solely within the home front.

 

The Role of Older Children

 

As their parents grew older, it was the responsibility of the children to keep an eye out for their aging mother and father. When their parents passed away, the sons would assume control of their family’s land, while the daughters were given the household furniture and family jewelry. If a couple did not produce any sons, then the land would become the daughter’s property. Documentation suggests that women became the sole heirs to large houses in addition to their land.

 

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