Education
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Education

 

   
By Jessica, 6Lp

 

In ancient Egypt, parents would instil in their children various educational principles, moral attitudes, and views of life from a tender age. They would receive their basic education in the bosom of the family. This was about all of the schooling that girls would get; for boys it would be supplemented by proper training in whatever line they chose, or was chosen for them. Ancient Egyptian education covered both the general upbringing of a child and their training for a particular vocation. The upbringing of boys was left mostly in the hands of their fathers; the mothers were responsible for the upbringing of the girls. Parents made their children familiar with their ideas about the world, with their religious outlook, with their ethical principles, with correct behaviour toward others and toward the super-natural beings whom everyone believed in. They taught them about folk rituals and so forth. The educational principles of ancient Egypt were written on papyrus commonly known as the Books of Instruction. The advice given in these "books" was designed to make sure of personal success in agreement with the needs of the state and the moral conduct of the day. It was better to tell the truth and be fair and honest than lie and do the wrong thing because the consequences would be terrible. The Books of Instruction had rules for the well-ordered life and elements of morality that include justice, wisdom, obedience, humanity and restraint. The books mostly took the form of verses addressed by a father to his son as he stepped into his shoes or started to help his aging. Most of these books were put together by senior officials. Many copies of these scrolls have been made since they also served as teaching texts in the schools for scribes.

 

In Ancient Egypt the child's world was not as clearly separated from the adult's as it tends to be in modern Western society. As the years went by, childish pastimes would give way to imitations of grown-up behavior. Children would more and more frequently be found lending a hand with the less difficult tasks and gradually developing useful skills and knowledge from their elders.

       

In Ancient Egypt the child's world was not as clearly separated from the adult's as it tends to be in modern Western society. As the years went by childish pastimes would give way to imitations of grown-up behaviour.

 

    Children would more and more frequently be found lending a hand with the less onerous tasks and gradually acquiring practical skills and knowledge from their elders.

 

    By precept and example, parents would instil into them various educational principles, moral attitudes and views of life. Thus from a tender age they would receive their basic education in the bosom of the family. For girls, this was usually all the schooling they would get, but for boys it would be supplemented by proper training in whatever line they chose, or was chosen for them.

 

    Education, of course, covers both the general upbringing of a child and its training for a particular vocation. The upbringing of boys was left largely in the hands of their fathers, that of girls was entrusted to their mothers. Parents familiarised their children with their ideas about the world, with their religious outlook, with their ethical principles, with correct behaviour toward others and toward the super-natural beings in whom everyone believed. They taught them about folk rituals and so forth.

 

 

    Educational principles are summarised in a number of ancient Egyptian treatises now commonly called the Books of Instruction. The advice given in them was designed to ensure personal success consonant with the needs of the state and the moral norms of the day.

    Truth-telling and fair dealing were enjoined not on any absolute grounds, but as socially desirable and at the same time more advantageous to the individual than lying and injustice, whose consequences would rebound against their perpetrator. The Books of Instruction contain rules for the well-ordered life and elements of morality that include justice, wisdom, obedience, humanity and restraint.

 

 

 

- The Court School of Books 2- The Instruction House 3- Government Department Schools
4- The House of Books 5- The Royal Stable of Education and Writing 6- The House of Silver
 

Subject Taught at Schools

Boys were sent to Schools from the age of Five till Fourteen

 
  • Reading Writing

  • Mathematics

  • Swimming

  • Sacred Song

  • Song & Dances

  • Manner & Morals

Educational Chart

Elementary Schools

College ------------------Civil Service ----------------Departmental ----------------Priesthood

                                      Schools

Universities

Specialization

Schools , Elementary Education

1- The Court School of Books

2- Instruction House

3- Government Department Schools

4- The House of Books

5- The Royal Stable of Education and Writing

6- The House of Silver

 

Famous Universities

1- University of Onu, Heliopolis

2- University of Ptah, Memphis

3- University of Tahuty, Hermopolis

4-University of Waset,  Thebes

5- Per Ankh, The House of Life

 

Heliopolis, the Holy City of Ra

University of Ra

Subjects taught

  • Applied Mathematics

  • Astronomy

  • Physics

  • Geometry: Mesuration : Surveying  and Volumetric Problems

 

Per Ankh, House of Life

Subjects taught

Theology Philosophy Literature Art
Book of Life Astronomy Sculpture Medicine
Sacred Writing Hieratic / Demotic Alchemy Botany
Sacred Animals Heka, Magic Spiritualism Liturgy

Temple of Ra

Subjects taught

Theology History Literature Art
Cosmography Applied Mathematics Geometry Geography
Hieratic / Demotic Spiritualism Sacred Music Heka, Magic
Wisdom Astronomy Sacred Writing Medicine
Mathematics Liturgy    

 

Universities of Mennefer

The Hikuptah University

Subjects taught

 
Astronomy Cosmography Theory of the Epicycles Theology
Engineering & Construction The Arts Medicine Alchemy
History Law    

 

Per Sekhemet Faculty of Medicine

Subjects taught

Anatomy Surgery Pharmacology Diseases & Curses
Healing Heka / Magic Alchemy Gynecology
Urology Dentistry Intestine & Chest Eyes Diseases

There were six  books for Medicines

  • Anatomy

  • Illnesses & Cures

  • Surgical Instruments

  • Eyes Ailment & Cures

  • Gynecology & Urology & Cures

 

Faculty of Art

Subjects taught

Art Painting Sculpture Architecture
Animal Science Geography Science Wood & Metal Work
Dance Music Botany Hieroglyphics

 

University of Becoming

Subjects taught

Hieroglyphics Geography Music Ritual Dancing
Hieratic Medicine Law Cosmography
Architecture Surveying Theoretical Geometry Practical Geometry
Sculpture Painting    

 

University of Ptah

Subjects taught

Mathematics Architecture Engineering Geometry
Geography Agriculture Engineering Law Alchemy Physics
Literature History Economy Philosophy & Wisdom
Diplomacy & Foreign Affairs      

 

Per Ankh, House of Life

Subjects taught

Theology Philosophy Literature Art
Book of Life Astronomy Sculpture Medicine
Sacred Writing Hieratic / Demotic Alchemy Botany
Sacred Animals Heka, Magic Spiritualism Liturgy

 

Temple University Ptah Priesthood

Subjects taught

Theology History Literature Art
Cosmography Applied Mathematics Geometry Geography
Hieratic / Demotic Spiritualism Sacred Music Heka, Magic
Wisdom Astronomy Sacred Writing Medicine
Mathematics Liturgy Pharmacy  

 

Khemenu University

Per Tahuty

Subjects taught

  • Science of Arithmetic & Mesuration

  • Pure Mathematics

  • The Laws of Music

  • Oratory & Drawing

  • Botany

  • The Theological Code

  • A system of Medicine

  • Ingenious Art of Painting Words and Speaking to the Eyes

There were also Eight volume Books called the Tahuty Books

 

Per Ankh, House of Life

Subjects taught

Theology Philosophy Literature Art
Book of Life Astronomy Sculpture Medicine
Sacred Writing Hieratic / Demotic Alchemy Botany
Sacred Animals Heka, Magic Spiritualism Liturgy

 

Temple University & Priesthood

Subjects taught

Theology History Literature Art
Cosmography Applied Mathematics Geometry Geography
Hieratic / Demotic Spiritualism Sacred Music Heka, Magic
Wisdom Astronomy Sacred Writing Medicine
Mathematics Liturgy    

 

University of Thebes

Waset

Subjects taught

Astronomy Cosmography Botany Theology
Theology The Arts Medicine Alchemy
History Law Sacred Geometry Philosophy

 

 

Per Ankh, House of Life

Subjects taught

Theology Philosophy Literature Art
Book of Life Astronomy Sculpture Medicine
Sacred Writing Hieratic / Demotic Alchemy Botany
Sacred Animals Heka, Magic Spiritualism Liturgy

 

Temple University & Priesthood

Subjects taught

Theology History Literature Art
Cosmography Applied Mathematics Geometry Geography
Hieratic / Demotic Spiritualism Sacred Music Heka, Magic
Wisdom Astronomy Sacred Writing Medicine
Mathematics Liturgy    

 

Understanding Hieroglyphs

Hieroglyphs, characters in any system of writing in which symbols represent objects (such as tools, animals, or boats) and ideas (such as motion, time, and joy). The ancient Greeks first used the term hieroglyph (meaning "sacred carving") to describe decorative characters carved on Egyptian monuments. The term is now mainly used to refer to the system of writing used by the ancient Egyptians.

Signs with the phonetic value of one consonant

A
i
a
w
b
p
f
m
m
n
r
h
H
x
X
z
s
S (sh)
q
 
k
g
t
T
d
D
Signs with the phonetic value of two consonants (a selection)
di
Dw
mA
mr
nb
pr
kA
Sd
st
tp
wa
TA
xa
nw
mn
tA
xt
zA
wr
pA
wn
mr
rw
HA
Signs with the phonetic value of three consonants
bAw
xnt
xtm
Htp
iwn
Dsr
 
 
nTr
anx
mwt
 
 
 

Archaeological discoveries suggest that Egyptian hieroglyphs may be the oldest form of writing. The earliest evidence of an Egyptian hieroglyphic system is believed to be from about 3300 or 3200 BC, and the Egyptians used hieroglyphs for the next 3,500 years. They were most prevalent during a 1,700-year period when the Egyptians spoke and wrote Old Egyptian (3000 BC-2200 BC) and Middle Egyptian (about 2200 BC-1300 BC). Only a small portion of the Egyptian population, primarily royalty, priests, and civil officials, used hieroglyphs because they were difficult to learn and time consuming to create. Ancient cultures in China, Mesopotamia, and the Americas used similar writing systems, but these systems were not related to Egyptian hieroglyphs.

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS AND FORM  
The hieroglyphic system used in ancient Egypt had between 700 and 800 basic symbols, called glyphs. This number grew in the last centuries of ancient Egyptian civilization, because of an increased interest in writing religious texts. Egyptians wrote hieroglyphs in long lines from right to left, and from top to bottom. They did not use spaces or punctuation.

Egyptian glyphs are divided into two groups: phonograms, which are glyphs that represent sounds, and ideograms, which are glyphs that represent objects or ideas. The Egyptians constructed words by using a combination of the two types of glyphs. Readers must generally use both phonograms and ideograms to determine the significance of a word or phrase.

Phonograms represented the sounds of single consonants and combinations of consonants. A phonogram that represents the two consonant sounds s (on the right) and r (on the left) is:

The Egyptians did not write vowels, so it is impossible to know exactly how they pronounced hieroglyphic texts. When speaking, they may have expressed vowel sounds to distinguish various words that, in writing, look identical.

Ideograms could represent either the specific object written or something closely related to it. For example, the hieroglyphic symbol of a pair of legs might represent the noun movement. When combined with other glyphs, the symbol could represent the verb to approach, or the concept to give directions.

 

The Egyptians usually constructed their hieroglyphs by putting phonograms at the beginning of a word, followed by an ideogram, which is called a determinative when used in this fashion. The determinative specified the category to which the word belonged, such as motion words or animal words, and clued the reader in on the intended meaning. Following are several examples of hieroglyphs with the sounds s and r that combine phonograms and determinatives:

 

When speaking, the Egyptians might have differentiated between these words by adding vowel sounds—for example, by saying sor, ser, or sur. Because they did not write vowels, however, they used the determinatives that appeared to the left of the phonograms to specify each word’s meaning. Writing phonograms and determinatives in different combinations enabled the Egyptians to develop thousands of words without having to create a single distinct glyph for each thing, action, or concept.

USING HIEROGLYPHS  
The ancient Egyptian word for hieroglyphs, literally translated as "language of the gods," indicates their importance. Priests used hieroglyphs to write down prayers, magical texts, and texts related to life after death and worshiping the gods. When preparing their tombs, many people had autobiographies and hieroglyphic guides of the afterworld written on the surfaces of tomb walls and on the insides of coffins. The Egyptians believed that these texts helped guide the dead through the afterlife.


The use of hieroglyphic inscriptions was not limited to religious purposes. Civil officials used them to write royal documents of long-term importance, to record historical events, and to document calculations, such as the depth of the Nile River on a specific day of the year.


The Egyptians also used hieroglyphs to decorate jewelry and other luxury items. They carved the symbols into stone or wood, and incised or cast them in gold, silver, and other metals. They painted hieroglyphs on various surfaces, sometimes putting down simple figures in black ink, and other times using detail and bright colors. Occasionally artists carved semiprecious stones or rare woods into hieroglyphic shapes and then inlaid them into walls or pieces of furniture.

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT  
A standardized form of hieroglyphs developed rapidly in the earliest years of Egypt’s Early Dynastic Period (2920 BC-2575 BC)). Little change in the system took place during the following 2,600-year period of Egyptian civilization.


Hieroglyphs were very time consuming to create, so the Egyptians developed a cursive script called hieratic in the early years of hieroglyphic use. The characters of the hieratic script were based on the hieroglyphic symbols, but they were simplified and little resembled their hieroglyphic origins. Hieratic was used for the bulk of writing done with reed pens and ink on papyrus. In the 7th century BC the Egyptians began using a script called demotic, which was even more simplified than hieratic. After this point hieroglyphs continued to be used in carved inscriptions on buildings, jewelry, and furniture, but hieratic was used for religious writings, and demotic for business and literary texts.


A major change in hieroglyphs took place under the Ptolemaic Dynasty (305-30 BC), when Egypt was ruled by a Greek dynasty. During this time the Egyptians created many new glyphs. Priests were especially interested in writing religious texts in more mysterious and complex manners. The priests often used new glyphs to form specialized codes and puns understood only by a group of religious initiates. After the Romans conquered Egypt in 30 BC, the use of hieroglyphs declined, and eventually their use died out. The last firmly datable hieroglyphic inscription was written in AD 394.

DECIPHERING HIEROGLYPHS  
After the fall of ancient Egyptian civilization in 30 BC, the meaning of hieroglyphs remained a mystery for about 1,800 years. Then, during the French occupation of Egypt from 1798 to 1801, a group of French soldiers and engineers uncovered a large stone now known as the Rosetta Stone. This stone bore an ancient inscription containing the same text written three different ways—in hieroglyphs, in the demotic script, and in ancient Greek. The stone was taken to Europe, where scholars translated the ancient Greek and used the information to decipher the other two texts.


French Egyptologist Jean François Champollion was the first modern person who was able to read hieroglyphs. It had been noted that certain groups of hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone were surrounded by a carved oblong loop. The loop, called a cartouche, separated the names of kings and queens from large bodies of text. Champollion knew enough of hieroglyphs to confirm that the cartouches on the Rosetta Stone contained the name of one of the Greek rulers of Egypt, Ptolemy V. As Champollion examined more cartouches, he observed that some of the glyphs matched between Ptolemy’s cartouche and the other cartouches. Champollion determined that certain glyphs in the cartouches phonetically spelled out the names of certain Greek rulers of Egypt. Using this knowledge and an ingenious reading of ideograms in other cartouches, he deciphered the names of the native rulers Ramses and Thutmose.

Champollion’s discovery showed him definitively that there were two categories of glyphs, phonograms and ideograms. Champollion then began to use this information to decipher the large body of Egyptian hieroglyphs on objects that had been taken to Europe. In 1828 he led a group of artists and architects to Egypt with the goal of drawing pictures of tombs, temples, and monuments and copying down as many hieroglyphic inscriptions as possible. He later translated the hieroglyphs from the drawings. The work of deciphering the hieroglyphs went on after Champollion’s death and continues up to the present day, continually providing new information about life in ancient Egypt.

 

Hieratic

© Copyright 1998, Jim Loy

Hieratic is script hieroglyphics. Below are some of the more popular signs in hieroglyphics, followed by the hieratic version (some with one or two options). Many of the characters changed over the centuries, too. These are all read from right to left. Hieroglyphics were usually from right to left, but sometimes written left to right. But, Hieratic was always written right to left.

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Egypt - the House of Life

In ancient Egyptian writings and architecture, the House of Life is an institution aligned with kingship, preserving and creating knowledge in written and pictorial form. One example survives in archaeology, in the city of Akhenaten at Amarna: there excavators found bricks stamped with the hieroglyphs for 'House of Life' from a building complex adjacent to the Storage Chamber of Documents of Pharaoh (for storing state correspondence). The complex was roughly equidistant from the central city royal palace and temple to the sun-god. In the ruins excavators retrieved fragments of papyrus with coloured vignettes, possibly showing figures of deities (preserved in the Ashmolean Museum, unpublished pending conservation and study).

 

the 'House of Life' in Amarna (click on the image for a larger picture) seal impression with the word pr-ankh - 'House of Life', found at Amarna

The earliest references to a House of Life come from royal decrees of the late Old Kingdom (about 2200 BC) mentioning 'the requirements of the House of Life', but not providing any information on its scope. Two stelae (inscribed stones from offering-chapels) of the late Middle Kingdom (1850-1700 BC) record a man named Keku with the title 'scribe of the House of Life' beside a colleague with the title 'chief physician'; the word 'scribe' illustrates the connection between the institution and writing. In the Late Period there may have been a House of Life in each of the main temples throughout Egypt.

In the mid-first millennium BC, the restoration of the House of Life is recorded in inscriptions of high officials with the title 'chief physician' (Peftauawyneit and Wedjahorresnet). This indicates that the books copied and compiled there included writings for good health (compare the list of surviving papyri for earlier periods).

The title 'foremost of the House of Life' appears on inscriptions for the goddess Seshat (meaning 'Writing') and the god Khnum (creator of physical forms).

In the Late Period and Ptolemaic Period, every year, at the end of the season of the Nile Flood, at each temple the staff carried out the ritual of making a mud figure of Osiris, in which seed was germinated before its burial. A manuscript recording the ritual was found at Abydos, and is now preserved in the British Museum (papyrus ESA 10051+10090: for the start of the manuscript and its findplace, see Herbin 1988). This manuscript gives many details on the construction of a House of Life at Abydos, and may apply to the House of Life attached to Late Period temples throughout Egypt. These in turn may be modelled on the House of Life at the palace, centre of ancient Egyptian kingship.

As an institution of ancient Egyptian kingship and its temples, the House of Life could not easily survive the conversion of the country first to Christianity and then to Islam, at least not in its specific ancient Egyptian form. There is, though, a linguistic echo in Coptic (the phase of the Egyptian language as spoken and written in Christian Egypt) in the word sphransh, meaning 'interpreter of dreams' and derived either from the ancient Egyptian 'scribe of the House of Life' or perhaps from a rare title 'teacher of the House of Life'.

These conclusions are drawn from the list of references to the House of Life in ancient Egyptian inscriptions and manuscripts (Gardiner 1938

List of sources in the principal modern study of the House of Life (Gardiner 1938)

  1. statue of chief physician Wedjahorresnet, now in the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, the Vatican, part of the description of the life of Wedjahorresnet: 'His Majesty King Darius commanded me to return to Egypt ... to establish the bureau of the House of Life [for the exercise of] healing, after being ruined; the foreigners brought me from land to land and delivered me back to Egypt as the Lord of the Two Lands had commanded. I did as His Majesty had commanded me; I founded them with all their men of books, I provided them with all their personnel consisting of nobles, not a poor man's son among them. I placed them in the charge of every learned man, so that they [might teach?] all their work. His Majesty commanded that they be given all good things so that they might carry out all their work. I supplied them with all their powers, with all their requirements which are in writing as they were previously. His Majesty did this because he knows all the power of this art to cause anyone sick to live, to establish the names of all gods in their temples and in their offerings and the conduct of their festivals forever.'
  2. two royal decrees of Pepy II found at Koptos, exempting the staff of the temple of Min from supplying the 'requirements of the House of Life'
  3. a block from a temple or chapel of king Sankhkara Mentuhotep III at Tod bears the hieroglyphic inscription 'Khnum foremost of the House of Life'
  4. the stela of the treasurer Mentuhotep from Abydos (Cairo CG 20539, reign of Senusret I) includes among his titles the phrase 'keeper of secrets of the House of Life'
  5. in the tomb-chapel of Iha, overseer of the private rooms of the king, at Beni Hasan, the titles of Iha include the phrases 'overseer of writing in the House of Life, a man to whom all sacred matters are revealed'
  6. a man named Keku is identified as 'scribe of the House of Life', alongside a chief physician called Ameny, on a late Middle Kingdom stela from Abydos (Cairo CG 20023)
  7. uncertain - a title read by some as 'captain of the House of Life', on a late Middle Kingdom stela from Abydos (Leiden no.49, V 67); the correct reading may be 'captain of the Treasury'
  8. hieroglyphic inscription 'House of Life' stamped onto mud bricks of a building in the city of king Akhenaten at Amarna (two rooms, Q 42.19 and 20 on the excavation plan) 400 metres south of the great temple, 100 metres east of the small Aten temple and the House of the King, in the central city
  9. among the hieroglyphic inscriptions in the tomb-chapel of Amenwahsu, scribe of god's books in the Amun domain, at Thebes (Theban Tomb 111, Dynasty 19), the title 'scribe of the House of Life' is given once to Amenwahsu himself; he is also called 'one who outlines the inscriptions of gods and goddesses in the House of Life'
  10. in the Theban tomb-chapel of Amenwahsu (see no. 9), the title 'scribe of the House of Life' is given to two of his sons, Didia and Khamipet; on a stela now in Tubingen, Khamipet is identified as 'scribe of god's books of the Lord of the Two Lands and as 'one who outlines the inscriptions of all gods in the House of Life' and 'god's father (a category of priest) of Ra-Atum in the House of Life'
  11. title 'scribe of the House of Life' held by a man named Yuty, principal individual in the hieroglyphic inscriptions on a stela now in Turin (Egyptian Museum 177)
  12. uncertain - a title possibly to be read 'deputy of the House of Life' but more probably 'deputy of the Treasury', in a hieroglyphic rock inscription on the island of Sehel (copied by de Morgan 1894: 95 no.150bis)
  13. in the hieratic documents from the trial following a conspiracy against king Ramesses III, two of the condemned hold the title 'scribe of the House of Life'
  14. hieroglyphic inscription of Ramesses IV at Abydos, recording the king investigating the records (?) 'of Thoth who is in the House of Life; I have not left unseen any of them all, in order to search out both great and small among the gods and goddesses, and I have found ... the entire Group of Gods, and all your forms are more mysterious than theirs' ('your' addressing the god of the dead, Osiris, principal god at Abydos)
  15. earlier of two hieroglyphic rock inscriptions of Ramesses IV in Wadi Hammamat, the desert road from the Nile Valley to the Red Sea at the latitude of Koptos; the king is described as 'excellent of understanding like Thoth, he has entered the inscriptions like the creator of them, he has seen the writings of the House of Life'
  16. later of two hieroglyphic rock inscriptions of Ramesses IV in Wadi Hammamat (see no.15), including the following passage 'His Majesty charged the scribe of the House of Life Ramesses-ashahebu, the scribe of Pharaoh Hori, the priest of the temple of Min, Horus and Isis in Koptos Usermaatranakht, to seek out the missions of the Place of Truth (the tomb of the king, and the community of its craftsmen) in the mountain of bekhen-stone, after they had been found to be exceedingly beautiful, being great monuments of miracle-stone'
  17. titles and name 'scribe of god's books in the House of Life, king's intimate of the Lord of the Two Lands, overseer of works in the temple of Amun on the west of Thebes, Ramessesnakht', in a hieroglyphic rock inscription on the island of Sehel (copied by J de Morgan 1894: 93 no.130), Ramesside Period
  18. title 'scribe of the House of Life of the Lord of the Two Lands' held by a man named Parenen, son of the principal individual in the hieroglyphic inscriptions on a New Kingdom (about 1550-1069 BC) stela now in Vienna (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Egyptian Department, stela 51); the other titles of Parenen are 'scribe of god's books of the Lord of the Two Lands', 'festival-leader of Osiris', and 'first stablemaster, protector of the one who is in the palace'
  19. title 'scribe of the House of Life' held by two men, named Amenwah and Iny, in the hieroglyphic inscriptions on a New Kingdom stela now in Bologna (Civic Museum, Egyptian Department, no.1942)
  20. damaged and uncertain - reference on a New Kingdom statue Cairo CG Statuen III, 162
  21. damaged and uncertain - reference in a New Kingdom inscription Leiden D 83
  22. in the hieratic reference compendium known in Egyptology as the Onomasticon of Amenemipet, the man to whom the composition is ascribed bears the title 'scribe of god's books in the House of Life, skilled in his office'; in the section of the compendium referring to titles, this title occurs between the king's scribe and lector-priest who acts as Horus, and the series of priestly titles; Ramesside Period or Dynasty 21
  23. in a hieratic incantation for good health, the god Horus who is in Shenut is called 'lord of words, great one in the House of Life, founder in the House of Books' (Papyrus Leiden 347, column 3, line 2), Ramesside Period
  24. a section in a series of hieratic incantations for good health bears the title 'first formula of all water charms, of which the supervisors said - do not reveal it to others, a true secret of the House of Life' (Papyrus Harris = British Museum ESA 10042, column 6, line 10), Ramesside Period
  25. hieroglyphic inscription beside an image of the amulet of Isis in a shrine 'I am Isis the great, mother of the god, lady of the House of Life, amid the Good House (the embalming tent)', on a coffin in Brussels, no.290, Dynasty 21
  26. 'contingent of the House of Life', in a hieroglyphic inscription on the gateway of king Osorkon II at Bubastis, giving scenes of the sed, the main kingship festival (Naville, Festival Hall, pl.8)
  27. hieroglyphic inscription on a statue of the chief physician Peftjauawyneit (now Louver A93), recording the restoration of the Osiris temple at Abydos under king Wahibra (Apries), including the following passage: 'I renewed the House of Life after ruin, I established the sustenance of power and of things of Osiris, I put all its regulations into order'
  28. demotic petition from year 9 of Darius I, on a papyrus now in Manchester (Papyrus Rylands IX), in which a man named Petiese recalled how his great-greatgrandfather in the reign of Psamtek I had imported a stone stela from Aswan to Teudjoi to be inscribed with his good deeds, for which he 'caused the granite-workers, the engravers, the scribes of the House of Life, and the draughtsmen to be fetched' (column 7, line 16)
  29. in the same petition as no.28, Petiese recalls that his grandfather was persuaded by his colleagues to accompany king Psamtek II to Syria with the words 'you are a scribe of the House of Life, so there is nothing they can ask you for which there is not a suitable answer' (in other words, which you cannot answer) (column 14, line 21)
  30. hieroglyphic inscription on a magnificent quartzite statue of the Late Period, now Louvre A94, identifying the man depicted Nakhthorheb as 'director of the masters of heka (words of power) in the House of Life'; his main title is 'chief lector-priest'
  31. in a Late Period or Ptolemaic Period hieroglyphic rock inscription on the island of Sehel, known as the Famine Stela, the narrative relates an episode set in the court of king Djoser, in which his principal official Imhotep seeks an explanation for seven years of famine, and asks 'that I may enter the Mansion of Life, and unroll the 'Souls of Ra' (sacred books) and lead my action according to them': here in archaising style, 'House of Life' is replaced by the Old Kingdom institution 'Mansion of Life', though that seems to have been connected with food supply management, and not to be related to the House of Life - by the time of this inscription, there was no longer an administrative branch called 'Mansion of Life', and therefore a contemporary reader would have identified the institution here readily as the House of Life
  32. in a Late Period or Ptolemaic Period hieroglyphic inscription on a stela, the narrative relates an episode set in the reign of king Ramesses II, concerning a foreign princess called Bentresh (so-called 'Bentresh Stela'); when princess Bentresh falls ill, and an envoy comes from her country to seek help, Ramesses summons the 'personnel of the House of Life and the officials of the Residence'
  33. a hieratic papyrus from Abydos, now in the British Museum (ESA 10051+10090), records rituals, including one book to be written down on the first month of Flood, day 20, with the following instructions: 'you must not divulge it; whoever divulges it is to die of a sudden death and instant severing; you must keep far away from it; by it one lives or dies. It is to be read (only) by a scribe of the institution whose name is in the House of Life'. Column 6, line 5 to Column 7, line 7 give an elaborate description of the House of Life to be made in Abydos, illustrated by a diagram.
  34. a Ptolemaic Period funerary composition known from numerous sources, and perhaps with the ancient name 'Book of Traversing Eternity', includes the passage 'your heka (words of power) are effective around the House of Books; your provisions come into existence from the House of Life'
  35. a version of the passage cited in no.34 on a damaged hieroglyphic stela found at Hawara reads '.. of the chamber of books, you are transfigured from the House of Life, your name is pronounced by the personnel of the House of Life in the reading of its transfigurations' (the word sakhu 'transfigurations' refers to funerary compositions, ritual writings for immortalising a person); on the same stela, an Appeal to the Living (to recite funerary formulae for the dead person) includes the invocation to 'all [scribes?] of the House of Life'
  36. a hieratic papyrus of the Late Dynastic Period to early Ptolemaic Period records the ritual for overthrowing Aapep, embodiment of evil, and includes the note 'this is a secret book in the House of Life, not to be seen by any eye, the secret book of the Overthrow of Aapep' (Papyrus Bremner Rhind column 29, line 16)
  37. hieroglyphic inscription on a stela dated after year 21 of Ptolemy IV, from Mendes, recording the identification of a new sacred ram of the creator-god as worshipped at Mendes; 'His Majesty sent to the temples of Upper and Lower Egypt to fetch the [personnel] of the House of Life, being the pure-priests of the provinces and the priests of [...], and of the learned men who are in their cities; when the personnel of the House of Life saw it (= the ram), they recognised its markings according to the festival-book'
  38. Ptolemaic Period bilingual decrees in Greek and Egyptian tend to open with a formulaic phrase as follows: 'on this day a decree: the temple overseers and priests, the priests who enter into the holy place to adorn the gods with their clothing, together with the scribes of god's books and the personnel of the House of Life and the other pure-priests who come from the two sacred halves of Upper and Lower Egypt'; in demotic the 'personnel of the House of Life' is rendered 'scribes of the House of Life', and in Greek the word is hierogrammateis 'sacred writing scribes'
  39. on line 34 of the Decree of Canopus, a bilingual decree from the reign of Ptolemy III, orders for the dead princess Berenice the singing on specific days 'of hymns outlined by the personnel of the House of Life, given to the overseer of instruction of the singers, and a copy written on a roll (i.e. book) of the House of Life'; the Greek version does not mention the House of Life, and simply uses instead the word 'sacred'
  40. on line 32 of the Decree of Canopus (see no.39), the crown placed on the statue of the dead princess Berenice comprises symbols that give a cryptographic rendering of her name 'in its forms in the writings of the House of Life'
  41. on line 37 of the Decree of Canopus (see no.39), it is specified that the words of the decree are to be 'carved on a block of stone or metal in writing of the House of Life, writing of letters, writing of the Far Islands' i.e. in hieroglyphic script, in demotic script, and in the script of the Aegean - Greek; other bilingual decrees use the term 'writing of god's words' for hieroglyphs
  42. a hieroglyphic inscription on a stela from Armant records that the Buchis bull, sacred bull of the local god Mont, born in year 19 of king Ptolemy VI, was installed in year 24 at Thebes in the presence of the god Amenipet and of the king himself, who had travelled for this ceremony 'with his entourage, the priests, the pure-priests, the personnel of the House of Life, and all the multitude of the entire <land>'
  43. the hieroglyphic inscriptions on a Ptolemaic Period stela (Louvre C 232) record that it was dedicated by a man called Imhotep, with the titles king's scribe, priest of Mehyt-amid-Abydos, and 'priest of Thoth amid the House of Life'; the Appeal to the Living (to recite funerary formulae for the dead person) begins 'Every pure-priest who enters god's words, who is skilled in writing, and enlightened in the House of Life, who finds the [inscriptions?] of the gods, who enters the documents of the House of Books, who interprets the mysteries of the Souls of Ra (= sacred books), who is skilled in the work of the ancestors, who opens the heart to what is on the wall, who carves chapels and interprets mysteries when coming to Rosetau (= the cemetery), everyone who enters the sacred land'
  44. the hieroglyphic inscriptions on a Ptolemaic Period stela (now in Vienna) record that it was dedicated by the same Imhotep, with the same title 'priest of Thoth amid the House of Life', as in no.43
  45. the hieroglyphic inscriptions on a Ptolemaic Period stela from Akhmim (Cairo CG 22070) record the owner as a man named Ahmose, with the titles 'robing-priest, who is in the chamber, hesek-priest, dancer, chief lector of Min, shaven-priest, overseer of the desert(-cemetery), overseer of pure-priests of Sekhmet, priest of Thoth amid the House of Life'
  46. the hieroglyphic inscriptions on a Ptolemaic Period stela from Akhmim (Cairo CG 22017) record the owner as a man named Horwennefer, with titles including 'keeper of secrets of god's words', 'learned in every chest of the House of Life which is in the Min temple', and 'overseer if teaching of the children of priests, pure-priests and those with entry', and 'scribe of god's books'
  47. the hieroglyphic inscriptions on a Ptolemaic Period stela from Akhmim (Florence Archaeological Museum, Egyptian Department, no.7641) record the owner as a man named Pahat, with the titles 'robing-priest, scribe of the House of Life'
  48. the hieroglyphic inscriptions on a Ptolemaic Period stela (British Museum ESA 808) record the owner as a man named Wennefer with the titles 'hesek-priest, who is in the chamber, king's scribe of the House of Life'
  49. the hieroglyphic inscriptions on a Ptolemaic Period stela (formerly in Hartwell House) record the owner as a woman whose father Padiiset held titles including 'servant of the great god of the House of Life (= Thoth?)', ' overseer of pure-priests of Sekhmet', 'scribe of god's books'
  50. a hieroglyphic inscription on one of the walls of the Ptolemaic temple of Horus at Edfu records that a procession 'proceeds to the hall of the House of Life', where 'every ceremony of the House of Life is performed' and 'the interpretation of the naming is made in evening time' (Chassinat, Edfou V, 135, 44-45); for another part of the festival, there is similarly a 'procession to the hall of the House of Life, and the mission is carried out by the priest'
  51. the hieroglyphic inscriptions in the chamber identified as the House of Books of the Ptolemaic Period Edfu temple include one reference to Osiris as lord of Abydos and 'he who initiated the House of Life in the work of its lord'
  52. in one hieroglyphic inscription in the Ptolemaic Period Edfu temple, the goddess Seshat ('Writing') is called 'lady of plans, lady of writings, foremost of the House of Life'; in the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak the same goddess is said to be 'amid the House of Life'
  53. the god Khnum is said to be 'foremost of the House of Life' in hieroglyphic inscriptions in Edfu and Esna temples, Ptolemaic and Roman Periods
  54. seven builder-gods are said to be 'foremost of the House of Life' in hieroglyphic inscriptions in Edfu temple, Ptolemaic Period, in one instance with the words 'we equip the House of Life with sacred [things?]'
  55. a demotic literary tale, the First Tale of Setne Khamwase, records that one main character in the story had 'no pursuit on earth except walking on the cemetery hill of Memphis, reading the writings that were in the tombs of the Pharaohs and on the stelae of (= written by) the scribes of the House of Life'
  56. in a later part of the Tale cited in no.55, Setne goes to the 'cemetery hill of Koptos with the priests of Isis and the high-priest of Isis; they spent three days and three nights searching in all the tombs that were on the cemetery hill of Koptos, turning over the stelae of the scribes of the House of Life, and reading the writings that were upon them'
  57. in the First Tale of Setne cited in no.55, at the birth of the son of Setne it is said that ' he was listed in a document of the House of Life' (compare no.33 for name-lists in the House of Life
  58. a demotic literary tale, the Second Tale of Setne Khamwase, records that 'the child Siosiri began to learn words of power (?) with the scribes of the House of Life in [the temple of Ptah?]'
  59. in the Second Tale of Setne cited in no.58, 'scribes of the House of Life' are accused of sorcery
  60. in the Bohairic Coptic version of the episode in the Book of Genesis, in the Bible, chapter 41, 8, 24, the title used for the men unable to interpret the dream of Pharaoh is sphransh, which Battiscombe Gunn considered an abbreviated late form of the old title sesh-per-ankh 'scribe of the House of Life'

Additional examples in Gardiner 1938: 178-9:

Hieratic papyrus Cairo CG 58027, copy of a ritual to protect Pharaoh in the night: column 3, line 14 the book 'must not be seen by any eye except that of the king himself, the chief lector, or the keeper of antyu-gum in the House of Life'; column 4, line 1 reference to 'the great and secret ointment of the House of Life'

Ptolemaic Period hieroglyphic inscription on a block from the temple of Mont at Tod, epithet of the god Khnum 'lord of the House of Life, who is amid Esna'

Dynasty 21 coffins from the second cache of burials at Deir el-Bahri, examples of Isis and Nephthys as 'mistress of the House of Life'

Ptolemaic Period hieroglyphic inscription at the temple of Horus of Edfu, attributing the decoration of the temple walls to the 'great artists of the House of Life' (Chassinat, Edfou VII, 12, 2)

Demotic ostraca in Berlin: no.12980, from Elephantine, mention of a 'scribe of the House of Life'; no.6540 reference to a House of Life

Ptolemaic Period stela in the British Museum: the title written in hieroglyphs 'protector of the place of the living Apis-bull' is rendered in demotic 'scribe of the House of Life'

Two instances of the title 'scribe of the House of Life' in Griffith, Demotic Graffiti of the Dodecaschoenus, I, 304

 

In Ancient Egypt the child's world was not as clearly separated from the adult's as it tends to be in modern Western society. As the years went by childish pastimes would give way to imitations of grown-up behaviour.

Children would more and more frequently be found lending a hand with the less onerous tasks and gradually acquiring practical skills and knowledge from their elders. 

By precept and example, parents would instil into them various educational principles, moral attitudes and views of life. Thus from a tender age they would receive their basic education in the bosom of the family. For girls, this was usually all the schooling they would get, but for boys it would be supplemented by proper training in whatever line they chose, or was chosen for them. 

Education, of course, covers both the general upbringing of a child and its training for a particular vocation. The upbringing of boys was left largely in the hands of their fathers, that of girls was entrusted to their mothers. Parents familiarized their children with their ideas about the world, with their religious outlook, with their ethical principles, with correct behaviour toward others and toward the super-natural beings in whom everyone believed. They taught them about folk rituals and so forth. 
 

Six pottery bowls containing different coloured pigments

Two scribal palettes with ink wells and brushes

   
Six pottery bowls containing different coloured pigments

Roman, 1st century AD
From Hawara, Egypt

Colours from Egypt and Rome

 

Two scribal palettes with ink wells and brushes

From Egypt
18th Dynasty, 1550-1450 BC

Written in black and red


Educational principles are summarized in a number of ancient Egyptian treatises now commonly called the Books of Instruction. The advice given in them was designed to ensure personal success consonant with the needs of the state and the moral norms of the day. 

Truth-telling and fair dealing were enjoined not on any absolute grounds, but as socially desirable and at the same time more advantageous to the individual than lying and injustice, whose consequences would rebound against their perpetrator. The Books of Instruction contain rules for the well-ordered life and elements of morality that include justice, wisdom, obedience, humanity and restraint. 

They mostly took the form of verses addressed by a father to his son as he stepped into his shoes or started to help his aging parent. Similar admonitions were delivered by a king to his heir. Most of these books were compiled by senior officials: humbler scribes, like Ant, only played a part in later times. 

Many copies were made of these Books of Instruction, since they also served as teaching texts in the schools for scribes. Seven complete and five partial texts have survived, while the existence of others is known from fragments. The one which appears to be the oldest is by the celebrated, vizier, architect and physician to the 3rd-dynasty pharaoh Djoser. 

This text has not survived, but is mentioned in the Harper's Song in the tomb of King lnyotef. Another is the Instruction Compiled by the Noble and Royal Prince Hordjedef for His Son. The two authors of these very ancient books were held in such esteem as to be deified. Of other educational treatises perhaps 3 the most important is the Instruction of Ptahhotep, City Administrator and First Minister during the reign of His Majesty Djedkare Isesi, Ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt during the 5th dynasty. The following passages deal with the art of 'elegant and effective speech'. 

You should only talk when you are sure you know your subject. He who would speak in council must he a word-smith. Speaking is harder than any other task and only does credit to the man with perfect mastery ... 

Be prudent whenever you open your mouth. Your every utterance should be outstanding, so that the mighty men who listen to you will say: "How beautiful are the words that fly from his lips" 

Nevertheless Ptahhotep rates fair dealing higher than learning: You may tell a wise man from the extent of his knowledge, a noble man by his good deeds. 

In contrast to the hierarchic structure of Egyptian society in those days, this injunction to respect the opinions and knowledge of simple folk has quite a democratic ring: 

Do not boast of your knowledge, but seek the advice of the untutored as much as the well-educated. 

Wise words are rarer than precious stones and may come even from slave-girls grinding the corn. 

Ptahhotep urges his readers to exercise justice and warns against intriguing for self-aggrandizement, bribery, extortion of debts from those unable to pay and insatiable accumulation of property. His manual abounds in concrete advice on how to behave in various situations - at banquets, in the exercise of high office, towards friends, wives, petitioners, paupers and so on. 

The spiritual high-point in this genre is reached in the Instruction of Amenemope at the end of the 2nd millennium BC, some of which is closely comparable with passages in the Old Testament Book of Proverbs. It includes, for example, this call for justice and forbearance toward the poor and widows: 

Do not move the boundary-stone in the field nor shift the surveyor's rope; do not covet a cubit of your neighbor's land nor tamper with the widow's land-bounds. 

Covet not the poor farmer's property nor hunger after his bread; the peasant's morsel will surely gag in the throat and revolt the gullet 

If the poor man is found to owe you a great debt, divide it three ways; remit two parts and let the third stand. That, you will see, is the best way in this life; thereafter you will sleep sound and in the morning it will seem like good tidings; for it is better to be praised for neighborly love than to have riches in your storeroom; better to enjoy your bread with a good conscience than to have wealth weighed down by reproaches. 

Never let a powerful man bribe you to oppress a weak one for his own benefit. There is a similar foretaste of Christian morality where Amenemope urges consideration toward the afflicted: 

Mock not the blind nor deride the dwarf nor block the cripple's path; don't tease a man made ill by a god nor make outcry when he blunders. 

In the surprisingly developed moral code revealed by these excerpts, virtue will be rewarded for reasons that can be summarized as follows: behave justly toward your god, your king, your superiors and your inferiors too; in return you will enjoy health, long life and respect. 

When judging the dead, god will deal with you in accordance with your past conduct. Those you leave behind, too, will be glad to acknowledge your good deeds by reciting life-giving words and by bringing gifts to ensure you life eternal ... The supreme aim of the Egyptian moral system was to help maintain harmony and order in the world created by god and maintained by the king. 

Alongside the inculcation of general rules of morality there was, of course, formal vocational training. Young men did not usually choose their own careers. Herodotus and Diodorus refer explicitly to hereditary callings in ancient Egypt. 

This was not in fact a system of rigid inheritance but an endeavor, as one Middle Kingdom stele puts it, to pass on a father's function to his children. Several other sources confirm that this happened with the consent of the king or his plenipotentiaries. Thus we find throughout Egyptian history a tendency for even the highest offices to remain in the same families. 

Towards the end of the Middle Kingdom, for example, there was a virtually dynastic line
of viziers, and in the Ramessid period the offices of the supreme priests of Amun were
passed on from father to son. It was in any case common practice for an official to take on
his son as an assistant. so that the succession became more or less automatic. This was
also the implication of joint rule at the royal level. A son was commonly referred to as 'the
staff of his father's old age', designed to assist him in the performance of his duties and
finally to succeed him. Even if the Instructions of Ant declare that 'offices have no offspring.

From an early age they would be going out to the fields, boys and girls alike, to lend a hand in simple tasks like gathering and winnowing the corn, tending poultry and in time cattle, and so forth. Fishermen, boatmen and others would also take their young folk along with them for practical experience. 

Pictures of craftsmen at work, on the other hand, rarely show children present. There is one of a boy handing a leg of meat to a butcher; other examples show a lad helping an older man to smooth down a ceramic vessel, and a boy playing in a row of musicians. In the army youngsters were used as grooms and batmen. 

Writings of the Roman Period contain some interesting data about the training of weavers and spinning-girls. A test was probably given at the end of the apprenticeship. At this time weavers usually sent their children to be taught by colleagues in the same trade. The master undertook, if he failed to get his pupil through the whole course, to return whatever payment the father had advanced for the apprenticeship. 

Kingdom each scribe taught his successor - usually his son - individually. From the First Intermediate Period onwards there is evidence of whole classes run for trainees in this field. In the New Kingdom they existed in the capital city of Thebes (there was one in the Ramesseum, for example, and a second purportedly at Deir el-Medina) and in later times such institutions were run at other centers too. These were not of course true schools in the sense of independent bodies with full-time teachers. All major offices such as the royal chancelleries, military headquarters and the 

The ancient Egyptians nevertheless held education in high regard and saw it as a privilege. A few talented individuals without formal schooling still managed to acquire sufficient knowledge to shine in their own field. And there were of course plenty who tried, as everywhere, to compensate for their lack of education by intriguing or currying favor in high places - sometimes as high as royalty. 

     
    Scribe Ramose
     
     
Scribe’s pen and ink set, Egyptian Museum, Berlin.    
     
     
     
Scribe Ramose  

 

 
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