Sci.CORPS Interpretation Guide
Science Career Orientations and Readiness Program for Students
Big Idea: Aspects of daily life in Ancient Egypt change and evolve throughout its history;
customs do not remain constant.
Engagement: Cart with replicas of interesting Egyptian artifacts and activities to discuss
with visitors and tap into broader themes.
Assess prior knowledge:
Ask visitor general questions about each category, for example, “What do you
think Ancient Egyptians looked like?” “Of these writing samples, which one was
employed by Ancient Egyptians?” “Do you know what Egyptians wrote on?” “Do
you know what this stone (malachite) might have been used for?” “Do you think
Egyptians smelled good or bad?”
Spot any overgeneralizations or incorrect assumptions and elaborate on how the
person might only be partially correct, or incorrect.
Introduce New Ideas:
Have kids make words with hieroglyph stamps to teach about Egyptian
Play senet to introduce Ancient Egyptian games
Ask the visitor if an interpreter were to drop dead right now, would he/she
know how to mummify him?
By referring to statues or carvings depicting Ancient Egyptians, speak about
their attire and make-up.
Ask questions that probe visitors away from overgeneralizing Ancient Egyptian
life, (ie “Did Egyptians only write in one way or in many ways?”)
Information in blue is related to items on the cart
Information in green is related to items in the exhibit
Predynastic Period: 5000-2950 BCE
Early Dynastic Period: 2950-2680 BCE (or 1st and 2nd Dynasties)
Old Kingdom: 2686-2160 BCE (3rd Dynasty to 8th Dynasty)
First Intermediate: 2160-2055 BCE (8th Dynasty to 10th Dynasty)
Middle Kingdom: 2055-1640 BCE (10th Dynasty to 14th Dynasty)
Second Intermediate 1640-1588 (14th Dynasty to 18th Dynasty)
New Kingdom: 1558-1085 BCE (or 18th to 20th Dynasty)
Third Intermediate 1085-760 (or 20th to 26th Dynasty
Late Period: 760-332 BCE (26th to 31st Dynasty)
Graeco-Roman Period: 332-392 CE
Old Kingdom Middle Kingdom New Kingdom
Men and women generally kept their hairstyles short. Women often wore chin
Egyptians wore clothes made of primarily linen. The weaving of the plant “flax”
into linen was performed on a horizontal loom, which was laborious and time-
Men wore relatively short kilts
Women wore long linen dresses
Eye makeup was green and black.
Green make-up was made from the stone malachite, an oxide of copper
o Malachite was brought to the Nile Valley from the mountainous regions of
Sinai, a triangular peninsula in Egypt. It was used for eye cosmetics and
o Malachite was associated with the goddess Hathor, who personified love,
motherhood and joy. A malachite necklace commonly represented fertility
and abundance of the Nile.
o Make-up was produced by grounding the malachite down and applying
with a moistened stick or mixed with fatty matter to apply.
Black eye paint, kohl, was usually made of a sulfide of lead called galena
The length of men’s kilts lengthened, and they began to accompany it with a
sleeveless shirt or sash thrown over the shoulder. (note: picture in “Burial
Customs” section of the exhibit with a man in a medium length kilt with a sash, as
well as the women’s white linen dresses)
Wigs by this time have become longer and more elaborate. Women’s hair was
often decorated with flowers or ribbons.
Clothing became more intricate with more complex pleats and ripple patterns
Gradually, the cloth thrown over the men’s shoulders evolved into the trend of
wearing short sleeves, then long sleeves
Green eye makeup was superseded by black make-up
Linen weaving was now performed on a vertical loom, making it easier and more
Many Egyptians wore cones of solid perfume sitting atop their wigs, thought to
melt gradually in the heat. Recent speculation has lead to the idea that the cones
were a mere depiction of scented wigs, however, as melting fat all over ones body
and wig seems undesirable. (note: picture in “Domestic Life,” depicting women
with cones on their heads)
Egyptians shaved their heads to avoid lice and wore wigs instead.
Expensive wigs were made entirely of real hair. The cheapest were made entirely
from plant fibers.
Children (both male and female) had their heads shaved except for a side lock of
hair until puberty. The s-shaped lock was depicted by the hieroglyph symbol for
The Egyptians were very conscious of the way they smelled. Perfumes were made
from the essence of plants (i.e. henna, cinnamon, iris, roses, lilies, etc.) mixed
with oil, wax or fat
Priests could not minister to the gods in an unclean state and so they removed hair
from every part of their bodies
Ancient Egyptian jewelers were superb craftsmen who often incorporated
symbolic and amuletic motives into their design.
Precious stones were used to make jewelry including lapis lazuli (imported from
Afghanistan), carnelian, amethyst, turquoise, and steatite. (note: jewelry in
o Jasmine Blossom Necklace (New Kingdom)
o There are six (originally nine) large and 48 small flower beads
o Although this necklace is made of common and inexpensive material, the
simple elegance of the beads is characteristic of the finest Egyptian
Glass was often to emulate gemstones because it was easier to work with
Gold was the preferred metal, considered the “skin of the gods.” (note: gold alloy
earrings in “Domestic Life”)
All minerals and metals were assigned a deity and spiritual values (malachite was
associated with Hathor, divine cow goddess of sky, love, beauty, music)
In a recent report in Analytical Chemistry, a journal of the American Chemical
Society, scientists argue that the toxic, lead-based eye make-up had
This was helpful in periods when the Nile flooded, in which particles spread
and entered the eyes of the Egyptians, causing diseases and eye inflammation
The Egyptians believed the cosmetics were magical with healing powers, not
The dose/toxicity was ideal—too low to harm the Egyptians, but high enough
to kill bacteria.
Ancient Egyptians viewed physical deformity favorably. In fact, it was even
considered a mark of divinity.
Numerous figurines and amulets of dwarfs or misshapen bodies have been
Physical Deformity often elevated an individual to a higher social status ie.
dwarfs often obtained positions of seniority to pharaohs, entitled to elaborate
Even if a deformity was acquired, one could still gain social elevation
Artists did not attempt to ‘beautify’ deformity (such as a hunchback) which
suggests that there was a prevailing attitude of cultural acceptance of it.
Many of the divine protectors in their pantheon were deformed, e.g. Bes, the
protector of households, who was a dwarf with a large head. The fact several
gods were deformed may be the reason Egyptians rejoiced it in humans.
Prejudice towards physical deformity is thought to have originated in the
Ancient Greek culture, where there was a noticeable change in attitude.
Aristotle proposed a law to prevent parents from raising deformed children.
In Hesiod’s Works and Days and Plato’s Laws, the importance of a sound and
robust body is strongly emphasized.
Interpretation information-Burial Customs/Religion
Egyptians were buried with goods believed to be useful to them after death. This
included at least the most practical items: bowls, pots, combs, food. Wealthier
Egyptians were buried with jewelry amongst other valuables. (note: in “Archaelolgy”
section, evolution of burial goods and tombs)
Egyptians believed life continued after death, and mummification served to preserve
earthly body for afterlife.
In the Predynastic era, Egyptians were buried directly in the sand. The heat and
dryness dehydrated the bodies, naturally mummifying them. (note: mummy in the
Soon, coffins were utilized to protect the body from animals. Realizing that the
original mummification process was interrupted, the Egyptians created a new system
of mummification to preserve the bodies.
Egyptians laid the body down and slit the abdomen open,
Washed it with palm wine,
Removed the lungs, liver, stomach, and intestines, and placed them in canopic
jars, (the heart was not removed from the body, as the Egyptians believed it would
be needed in the afterlife)
Removed brain by breaking the bone between the naval and cranial cavity,
inserted a hook to stir the brain into a liquid, and pored it out through the nose.
(ironically, the brain was believed to have little value).
Poured hot resin into the cavity to seal it.
Placed body in natron (sodium carbonate decahydrate, a salt mixture found in dry
lake beds) for approximately 40 days. This dehydrated the body, preventing
bacteria growth and decay.
The body was finally wrapped in linen and given magic amulets to protect it in
Clear difference between burials between low and high classes
Upper class burials often involved rectangular wooden or stone coffins,
sometimes inscribed. Some pottery, tools, and jewelry.
Coffins in common burials were less common and coffins were never inscribed.
Jewelry was not common.
Canopic Jars, commonly carved from limestone or pottery, stored and preserved
the viscera of their owner for the afterlife
o There were 4 jars, each charged with the safekeeping of particular human
organs: the stomach, intestines, lungs, and liver
o In the Old Kingdom, the jars had plain lids
The primary ruler of the underworld was Anubis (statue on cart), associated with
mummification and protection of the dead.
Two types of burials are established: court and other
Court-type: Dead is treated like Osiris (statue on cart), now the primary ruler and
judge of the underworld. Royal insignia (emblems) are placed next to the body.
Anthropomorphic coffins (like the one in the chamber to the side of the exhibit)
become more common, parts of it often covered in gold. Jewelry is especially fine
during this period. Canopic jars were now made with lids depicting human heads
Other: Standard coffin. Shabtis (or shawbatis), little figurines designed to serve
the owner in the afterlife, become present. (note: figurines in “Burial Customs”
and shabti figurine on cart) Tomb often accompanied by statue of owner. Some
Religious texts written on objects such as papyrus, pots, or coffins.
Contracted position of body (note: mummy of the woman) becomes less common
Preservation advanced by removing water using large quantities of dry natron salt
packed around the body
Sometimes a turpentine-like enema was injected, called oleo-resin which would
dissolve (instead of remove) the viscera and the fluid would flow out of the body
Hollowed out abdominal cavities were sometimes stuffed with linen or sawdust
soaked resin to maintain the shape of the body
At least 1 shabti (often more) and Book of the Dead (funerary text that included a
description of the ancient Egyptian idea of the afterlife and a collection of hymns,
spells, and instructions of how to pass through obstacles in the afterlife) were in
most elite tombs
Once the incision in the abdominal cavity was sewn up, the body was rubbed in a
mixture of cedar oil, gum, wax, and natron; after being dusted in spices, the body
was sealed in one final layer of resin
Poorer tombs had few goods, due the expense of the tomb itself.
Canopic jar human head lids were replaced by the four sons of Horus, each
responsible for protecting a certain organ
o Duamutef, the jackal-headed god representing the east, contained the
o Qebehsenuef, the falcon-headed god representing the west, contained the
o Hapi, the baboon-headed god representing the north, contained the lungs.
o Imseti, the human-headed god representing the south, contained the liver.
Hieroglyphs 3200 BC – AD 400
Introduced around 3250 BCE and ended around 394 CE (3600 year duration)
It is commonly believed by scholars that the Egyptian hieroglyphs were produced
shortly after the existence of Sumerian script, and were also under the influence of the
Sumerians when establishing their own language. However, there is no known
Sumerian text found earlier than hieroglyphs.
Consisted of logographic (symbols that represents words) and alphabetic elements, as
well as determinatives, which clarify meaning of a word. Hieroglyphs consisted of
approximately 500 characters
Thought to originate the same time standard hieroglyphs, simply handwritten.
Cursive hieroglyphs were employed by scribes who wrote with pen or ink on papyrus.
o The plant used to produce paper, Cyperus papyrus, grew along the banks
of the Nile
o Other minor applications: Manufacturing of boats, rope and baskets
o The Method of Papyrus Paper Production:
The stalks of the papyrus plant were harvested.
Next the green skin of the stalk was removed and the inner pith
was taken out and cut into long strips. The strips were then
pounded and soaked in water for 3 days until pliable.
The strips were then cut to the length desired and laid horizontally
on a cotton sheet. Other strips were laid vertically over the
horizontal strips resulting in the criss-cross pattern in papyrus
paper. Another cotton sheet was placed on top.
The sheet was put in a press and squeezed together, with the cotton
sheets being replaced until all the moisture is removed.
Finally, all the strips were pressed together forming a single sheet
of papyrus paper.
Cursive hieroglyphs have a strong resemblance to standard hieroglyphs, but less
detailed. It is very rare to find a written document with the same level of detail as
They can be found in “The Book of the Dead”
Not to be confused with hieratic or demotic, the more “true” cursive Egyptian texts.
Hieratic 3100 BCE-3 AD
Cursive writing system. It was employed to save time from writing time
consuming hieroglyphs, typically written with a brush and ink on papyrus.
It is also thought to have been developed alongside hieroglyphs, not as a
Hieratic was written in columns as well as rows. After 1800 BCE,
columns were used only in religious texts.
Each hieratic sign has a hieroglyph counterpart.
Hieratic was used for administrative documents, accounts, legal texts, and
letters, as well as mathematical, medical, literary, and religious texts.
Meanwhile, hieroglyphs were used for permanent writing, such as
tomb/temple or monumental inscriptions.
In a sense, hieratic was more important than hieroglyphs because it was
“the language of the people,” used as everyday text.
Hieratic was the primary writing system taught to students (hieroglyphics
were only taught to students with a higher education).
Bear in mind, however, that education was limited and literacy in common
people was very low.
Demotic 650 BCE–5th century CE
Demotic was originally used only for administrative, legal, and commercial texts,
while hieroglyphs and hieratic were reserved for other purposes.
Demotic later gained popularity in the Graeco-Roman period, becoming more
frequent in religious and literary works.
30 BCE to 452 CE: with the Roman rule of Egypt, demotic took a considerably
deep retreat from public life.
Coptic 4 CE to the 100 CE
-Final stage of Egyptian language
-During the first century, the Egyptians adapted the Greek alphabet which soon
developed into Coptic writing system (adapted Greek alphabet with the addition
of six to seven signs from the demotic script to represent Egyptian sounds the
Greek language did not have)
-Coptic no longer has an official status in Egypt, but it used as a liturgical
language in the Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholic churches.
o A stone slab, generally taller than it is wide used for
o Incorporates lines of hieroglyphic writing
o Contains the name of the stela owner and family either carved or painted
o Different types of carving: raised relief and sunk relief
o Raised Relief: the surface of the stone is removed from around the desired
image (takes longer to complete than sunk relief)
o Sunk Relief: the image is carved directly into the surface
o Stela of Neb-Neteru
o Neb-Neteru was the overseer of the Double Granary
o He is depicted without a fashionable wig, next to his wife and a
unidentified male attendant
o The stela is unusual, as it utilizes both forms of relief in one tablet
o The area at the base of the offering table might offer some
explanation as to why both reliefs were used
o The cone object beneath the table appears to be a foot outline in
o The sculptor might have originally planned to have Neb-Neteru in
the center in sunk relief. The left might have therefore been too
cluttered, or perhaps there was an additional person planned to
stand beside Neshi (his wife) who was later deleted.
o Whatever the reason, the artist decided to revise the composition
with Neb-Neteru and his wife in raised-relief further to the right.
Egyptian life depended on the Nile
The Nile river flooded from April to October, bringing in mountain water from
Dams were built at right angles to the flow of the Nile river; canals were built on
either side of the river
The parameters of fields were marked by boundary stones, which had to be
replaced frequently after the inundation
Agricultural tools were usually lightweight, made of wood (ploughs were attached
to cows’ horns
For irrigating higher soil, a shadouf was used (a three meter/10ft pole with a
container to collect water, and a counterweight to lift it)
Crops grown included: wheat, barley (for the making of beer, which was later
supplanted for wine by the Roman influence,) flax, papyrus reeds, the castor oil
plant, the opium poppy (new kingdom); radishes, sesames, lentils, beans,
chickpeas, lettuce, onions, leeks, dill, grapes, melons
Objects of the Exhibit
o Papyrus paper
o Streak plate
o Hieroglyph stamps
o Mini canopic jars
o Osiris statue
o Anubis statue
o Ushabti statue
1. Moves are determined by tossing the counting sticks. The value of the throw and
the number of squares you can move per throw depends on the number of
uncolored sides facing up:
o One side: one square
o Two sides: two squares
o Three sides: three squares
o All uncolored sides showing: four squares
o All colored sides showing: five squares
2. To begin the game, one player picks spools and the other cones, and both throw
the sticks until one player throws a 1, at which point this player goes first and play
3. During a game, if a player throws a 1, 4 or 5, they can throw again. A player can
keep throwing the sticks until a 2 or 3 is thrown. The value of each throw must be
noted. These throws may be used in any order, for any number of pieces, but must
be used in their original groupings, and must all be used in the same turn in which
they were thrown. So, if a player throws a 4, 1 and 3, they could use them in any
of these combinations:
o Move one piece 3 and another piece 1 and then 4 squares
o Move one piece 4 squares, one 1 square and one 3 squares
o Move one piece in any order of the combination 4,1,3.
But a player could not, for example, move a piece 5 squares and another 2. It is
important to use the throws in their original groupings, because during a game,
the exact sequence in which the throws are used can be of strategic advantage.
4. Players move their pieces forward in the direction indicated on the chart,
alternating direction with each row. A player can move a piece onto any empty or
undefended square. Any number of pieces can be jumped in a move, but a player
may not end a move on a square which is either defended or occupied by one of
his own pieces.
5. A player may move backward only if no forward move is available to any of his
pieces, and the player must move the piece backward the amount of one (or more)
of his throws.
6. An opponent's piece is considered undefended if it stands alone, with either empty
squares or opposing pieces on either side. Pieces in a row of two or more are
considered defended; this is called a block. A player may land on the square
occupied by an undefended opponent's piece. A player may jump over a row of
defended opponent's pieces, but may not land on any of them.
This is where the original grouping of the throws becomes important: if a piece is
to be moved 2 and then 3 squares, for example, both landing places (for the move
of 2 and of 3 squares) must be empty or undefended. One could not in this case
take a jump of 5 over a block of 4 pieces.
7. When a player lands on an undefended opponent's piece, that piece is sent back to
the square from which the attacking piece came. If the attacking piece has made
several moves in its progress, the attacked piece goes back only to the last (i.e.,
most recent) square that the attacker occupied.
Special rules govern movement for squares 26 - 30.
1. Square 26 is the "Beautiful House" (per nefer). A player may land there only by
an exact throw. An undefended player on Square 26 can be sent back by an
attacking piece, like any other square on the board.
2. From Square 26, a player can advance a piece to any of the last three squares with
throws of 2, 3, or 4. A throw of 5 carries the piece off the board immediately.
3. Once on Squares 28, 29, or 30, a player may carry a piece off the board under
o from Square 30, with any throw
o from Square 29 (marked with 2 ticks), with a throw of 2
o from Square 28 (3 ticks), with a throw of 3
Once on one of these squares, a piece is never moved back again. If a player can't
use a throw, it is simply discarded.
4. Square 27 is the "House of Waters" (per mu). This square is a pitfall, and any
piece landing on this square is trapped there. A piece can be forced into the waters
in two ways:
o If a piece is resting on Squares 28-30 and is undefended, and an opponent
lands on the same square from the Beautiful House, the attacked piece
moves to Square 27, and not back to 26.
o If a player's only possible move is from the Beautiful House forward, but a
defended opposing piece occupies the desired square, the piece on Square
26 goes into the water.
5. A piece forced into the water loses any remaining throws. Once in the House of
the Waters, a piece can't be moved. To reactivate the piece, the player must either
throw a 4, or move the piece to Square 15 (right above Square 26) and lose a turn.
A player may try for a throw of 4 as often as they wish, but they get only one try
per turn. If they give up after repeated tries, they can move to Square 15 on their
6. The winner is the first person to carry all her pieces off the board.