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Ancient Egypt

Craftworkers in ancient Egypt

Craftsmen in the workshop of a pharaohCraftsmen in the workshop of a pharaoh Over time, the farmers of ancient Egypt were able to produce more food than they needed just for themselves. This enabled some people to do types of work other than farming. Many of them set up workshops and became craftworkers. Often a son would learn his father’s craft and follow him into his workshop. Some craftworkers worked for the pharaoh or Egyptian nobles, to make items for their tombs or temples. Despite only having simple tools to work with, the craftworkers of ancient Egypt were highly skilled. There were stoneworkers, carpenters, potters, glassworkers, leatherworkers, spinners and weavers, metalworkers and jewellers.

Deir el-Medina

Most ordinary people of ancient Egypt were farmers living off the land, but some lived in towns, villages and cities. The village of Deir el-Medina was built to house the tomb-builders of the Valley of the Kings and their families. The workers included masons, carpenters, artists and other craftworkers. Their houses were made of mud bricks, but conditions were cramped: people lived several to a room. Storage cellars were dug beneath the houses. The windows were small and set high in the walls to keep the homes secure from thieves. 

Craftworkers' housesCraftworkers' housesBecause the weather was usually hot and dry, roofs and outdoor kitchens were used as extra living and working spaces. Jobs such as drying fish, washing clothes, cooking and baking were all done outside. The streets of Deir el-Medina were narrow and gave access only to some of the houses. People simply walked across the flat roofs, using steps and makeshift ladders to climb from one level to another.

Craftworkers were paid not with money but with goods such as vegetables, fish, milk and firewood.

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