Childhood in Ancient Egypt

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When we think about childhood today, we tend to associate it with a sense of freedom and curiosity that encompasses all children no matter their background. We may even recall the times that we played with toys carelessly and were free to live out our lives as curious explorers of the world with no real responsibilities. However, times have certainly changed overtime. children today are regarded as immature beings that have yet to attain a certain level of intelligence and awareness that comes with age. In the ancient times of the past, such was not the case. So, what happened throughout time? It’s hard to say; there really isn’t one solid answer, but by studying the past we can get a better idea of what exactly was different for children and their upbringing. Especially in societies like Ancient Egypt, that was, during its time, considered the greatest and most powerful kingdom of all. So, this begs the question, What was childhood like in Ancient Egypt.

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First off, let’s begin from the start: how babies were viewed in Egypt. Back in ancient times, belief in a higher power was a very big part of Egyptian life and wound together all aspects of a person’s life. Most of important of all, family. Egyptian women gave birth in what was known as a birth brick decorated with images of the gods that they believed would watch over their children. Most notable of all was Hathor who was [d]aughter of the Sun god Re, and was goddess of the sky and of love, mirth, and beauty. As the goddess of fertility as well, she personified the creative power of nature. Hathor would often be depicted as a cow painting on the birth stone. Egyptians would also invoke the name of many gods that would announce the destiny of the child after he/she was born. Unfortunately, however, back in ancient times the mortality rate was quite high. [D]espite this divine intervention complications at delivery and during confinement remained the main cause of mortality among young women, probably as many as one woman per 10 births. Infants too fell victim to accident and disease. An estimate of about 30% mortality during the first year of life probably reflects reality.

A much more positive picture shows begins to form however for those children and mothers that survived post-partum. Small children were very cherished in ancient Egypt precisely because of the high mortality rate. Even after kids were born many things such as disease or animals threatened their life. But from an early age children were placed in the hands of the gods by different spells and rituals. One of which was the name given to a child. [T]he names given to children also tell us of the affection parents had for their little ones: Nakht, which means strong, and Nefer, which means beautiful, were common names. Merit, which means beloved, was popular, too. These terms could be combined with the names of gods to give a child protection. The Egyptians also, much like us today, that were different stages that a child passed through in his life such as infant, toddler, and child.

A priest known as Bekenkhonsu that lived during the New Kingdom put it succinctly. [I] passed four years in extreme childhood. I passed twelve years as a youth, while I was chief of the training stable of King Menmare. I acted as priest of Amon, during four years. I acted as divine father of Amon, during twelve years. I acted as third prophet of Amon, during fifteen years. I acted as second prophet of Amon, during twelve years. He favored me, he distinguished me, because of my rare merit. He appointed me to be High Priest of Amon during twenty-seven years.

As children grew up, they slowly grew to occupy a greater role not only in the family but also in Egyptian society. The sons of noblemen and scribes would go on to receive a formal education while the majority of children would learn their father’s trade. This created a system where the rich stayed rich and the poor remained poor. Those children who were able to receive an education would learn how to read and write, and do arithmetic among many other things.

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Childhood in Ancient Egypt. (2019, Jul 19). Retrieved September 29, 2022 , from
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