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THE EGYPTIANS - PART 2
Egyptian Tools Painted on a Tomb Wall
Ramses II. is bombastically called "Horus, the mighty bull, beloved of the goddess of truth, lord of the 'vulture and serpent' diadems, protector of Egypt, subduer of the barbarians, the golden Horus, rich in years, great in victory, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ra strong in truth, chosen of Ra, son of Re, Ramses beloved of Ra."
Similarly the queen is called "the consort of the god, mother of the god, the great consort of the king," god and king being interchangeable terms. She was usually of royal blood, often own sister of the king, his equal in birth and place "Mistress of the House." Crown prince and princes came next in order. The upper classes consisted of "the nearest friend" of the king, and friends of various grades, generals, high priests, officers, physicians, overseers, district chiefs, presiding judges, keepers of the seal, master builders, treasurers, fan-bearers, scribes, and many others: Officialdom ramified in numberless class gradations, whether the order was priestly, military, literary, architectural, mechanical, or agricultural. Advancement went by royal or other favor.
The Great Pyramid and the Sphinx
The middle class of the kingdom remained in the background, and is less known because its members could not, like the kings and nobles, erect those enduring tombs from which knowledge of the times is obtained. After the removal of the necropolis from Memphis to Abydos during the period of the Middle Kingdom, and owing to the growth of the practice of erecting memorial stelae, the monuments of untitled persons begin to appear, giving a conception of their number and position. They possessed households similar to those of officials, and in many ways appear to have been their equals. They were merchants, traders, artisans, free workmen, weavers, potters, carpenters, joiners, smiths, etc. The lowest class was composed of the slaves, native or taken in war, who were hewers of wood and drawers of water, performing all menial offices. They were mere chattels, belonging to temple, necropolis, or landed estate, and were often organized as a part of the military establishment. Closely allied to them were the shepherds; the pariahs of Egyptian society.
Wall Carvings on a Temple Wall
Employments. -- Each administrative department had its own "troop" of laborers under its own overseer, who kept minute tally of work performed, rations distributed, and of absentees. The troop, not the individual, was the unit. All artisans as well as the slaves were regarded superciliously by the scribes and held in lower repute than the agriculturists, though the products of their skill still command admiration. Weavers, working with papyrus reeds or with linen thread, produced baskets, mats, boats, or the finest linen cloths; joiners, though handicapped by lack of good raw material, nevertheless produced creditable work by the use of instruments most simple in their character. Potters through all periods reproduced patterns tenaciously and with little variation, but atoned for the rudeness of much of their work by the fineness of their products in faience, the glazing of stone objects being specially noteworthy.
Metal workers used gold, silver, bronze, iron, and tin, the source whence tin was derived being problematical. A bronze is mentioned which was an alloy of six metals. Objects in bronze and iron have been found among the remains of the Old Kingdom, though the earliest bronze statue is one of Ramses II. The sources of most metals were the mines of Nubia and Sinai. In value silver exceeded gold, and a mixture of the two is frequently mentioned. The processes of agriculture are well portrayed on the walls of the tombs. The plow was simply a sharpened stick dragged through the ground by oxen; the hoe a broad blade fastened to a handle, a second cord midway of each preventing too great a strain. The seed once scattered was trampled in by animals. Harvesting was done by a short sickle; the grain was carried in sheaves to the threshing-floor, where the hoofs of cattle performed the required labor. Winnowing was done with shovel and wind, and the grain was stored in conical receptacles open at the top, to which the bearers mounted on ladders. Supplementary irrigation was by a well-sweep similar to the modern shaduf.
These labors were so essential a part of Egyptian life that the future life was portrayed under exactly the same circumstances, happiness consisting essentially in the degree in which personal performance could be avoided. Cattle of all sorts, asses, sheep, pigs, and goats existed in immense herds, and were tended by slaves and peasants whose occupations and lives in marshy districts so far removed them from civilization that they were regarded with detestation (Gen. xlvi. 34). Their disrepute is the more remarkable in view of the evident pride with which landed proprietors enumerated their flocks.
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