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By L. J. Amstutz

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The pharaoh, who was usually but not always male, was the ultimate ruler of Egypt. He was considered a god—the falcon-headed Horus, king of the living, in human form. When the pharaoh The Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor, Egypt, honors one of Egypt’s few female pharaohs. indd 33 10/30/14 11:22 AM approached lower-class people, they lay face down at his feet. Even the upper classes knelt down and touched their heads to the ground. No one could speak to the pharaoh unless he gave them permission. The earliest pharaohs owned all the land.

They made linen from the flax plant, which grew well in the marshy areas near the Nile. The fine, lightweight cloth felt pleasant in the hot climate. Most was white. indd 48 10/30/14 9:28 AM mineral dyes, but this was an expensive luxury. Cotton was not an option until Roman times. The Egyptians wore wool occasionally. Wealthy men and kings often wore a linen kilt, or skirt, that reached to the knee. Peasants simply wore loincloths. Babies generally wore nothing at all, and children did not wear clothes until puberty.

Scribes wrote on almost any available surface, including papyrus rolls, coffins, statues, temples, and walls. Beginning in approximately 3500 BCE, the people of ancient Egypt wrote by pressing a tool into a clay tablet to form pictures called hieroglyphs. Clay was free. If it had not been baked, scribes could reuse the tablet by wetting the clay and rubbing out the letters. While this ability to make changes was beneficial, this early method also had a downside: the tablets could be quite large and heavy.

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Ancient Egypt by L. J. Amstutz

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