Queen Nefertari while playing chess [Photo Courtesy: Ancient Egypt in our Heart official Facebook page]
CAIRO – 15 December 2017: Today, ancient Egyptians captivate the minds of people around the world because of their extraordinary contributions to civilization. Egypt Today presents a glimpse on women in ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egyptians gave evidence that their civilization was built by men and women together. The vital role of women is documented on the walls of their temples and tombs.
Women's Role in the Home
Throughout time, women have been known for their kindness, strength, intelligence and love. Ancient Egyptians respected the role of women in the home, how they raised children and created stable and safe homes, according to scholar Joshua J. Mark, author of “Women in Ancient Egypt” published on Ancient History Encyclopedia website.
“Love your wife and make her happy as long as you live,” said one of ancient Egypt's most celebrated thinkers Ptahhotep. Ptahhotep clarified that a women's happiness would reflect in the atmosphere of the home.
Women in ancient Egypt mainly took care of children and their homes; however, sometimes they would work with their husbands in different professions like agriculture and wine making. Women also had financial rights similar to men.
FILE – Ancient Egyptian Family
FILE – King Amenhotep IV and Queen Nefertari with their children
FILE – Mother taking care of her child
Mother holding her child while baking bread [Photo Courtesy: Al Osrah Ayam El Faraa’na Book by Zahi Hawas]
Women making beer [Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]
Women and men harvesting crops [Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia]
FILE - King Tutankhamen and Queen Ankhesenamun
Women's Rights in the Ancient Egyptian Society
Women in ancient Egypt participated in different sports and games and they also danced and played music to keep their bodies fit and strong. Such was the equality with which they were treated in their time.
Women had the freedom to choose their husbands, indicating their position in society. Ancient Egyptians did have some restrictions on marriage, members of the royal family were not allowed to marry members of the public, to maintain the purity of the royal bloodline, according to “Al Osra Ayam El Faraa’na” (Family in the Times of the Ancient Egyptians) by prominent Egyptian author and archaeologist Zahi Hawass.
Despite this restriction, a number of marriages between royalty and commoners did occur such as the marriage of King Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye.
The most famous love stories from ancient Egyptian history are those of Isis and Osiris, at the center of Egyptian mythology, and King Tutankhamen and Queen Ankhesenamun.
The love story between King Ramses II and his Queen Nefertari is shown in the decorations and paintings on her amazing tomb.
Painting from Queen Nefertari’s tomb [Photo Courtesy: Ancient in Our Heart Official Facebook page]
Seneb the dwarf and his family [Photo Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art]
Isis Goddess [Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]
Religion & Mythology
Ancient Egyptian mythology includes many religious myths dedicated to the female goddess like Ma'at the Goddess of Wisdom and Hathor the Goddess of Beauty, beside the most celebrated goddess in ancient Egyptian history, Isis.
Ancient Egyptians made sacred spaces for women, like the Valley of Queens which consists of a number of amazing tombs for the queens of Egypt, provided with various accessories, clothes, cosmetics, perfumes, and religious texts as companions through the afterlife.
Also, women participated in different religious rituals in temples such as singing and chanting.
Ma'at Goddess [Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]
Hatshepsut [Photo Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art ]
A number of queens ruled ancient Egypt like Hatshepsut and Cleopatra, and other queens shared the responsibilities of the throne with their husbands.
“The role of the principal or great wife varied with the pharaoh. In the case of Queen Tiye (1398-1338 BCE), the wife of Amenhotep III, she regularly took part in the affairs of state, acted as a diplomat, and even had her name written in a cartouche, like a king,” according to Mark.
“Nefertiti (c. 1370-1336 BCE), the wife of Akhenaten, cared for their family while also helping her husband run the country. When her husband essentially abandoned his duties as pharaoh to concentrate on his new monotheistic religion, Nefertiti assumed his responsibilities,” according to Mark.
Icon of Beauty
Woman in ancient Egypt were iconic beauties and some of the first to wear makeup. Ancient Egyptian women were known for their thickly lined eyelids and red lipstick, still an iconic look today. They also dyed their hair with different natural materials like henna.
FILE - Ancient Egyptian Cosmetics
Ancient Egyptian Eye Makeup [Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia]
Ancient Egyptian Dancers and Musicians [Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia]