Ancient Egyptian Houses | Ask Aladdin
Ancient Egyptian Houses
During ancient times Egyptians lived in houses made from mud bricks. The annual floods brought a lot of mud which made the construction process easier. Brick makers molded mud into square shapes using wooden molds after which these were dried and hardened in the sun. The houses of the poor were made from single walls which were one brick thick, while those rich were made from double thick walls to ensure increased security. Wood was not used much in the building due to its scarce availability in Egypt and much of it had to be imported from outside.
Most Egyptian homes had a roofed-in central room and smaller rooms attached. The central room was the most used room in the house and the kitchen was usually nearby. The house of a nobleman had some extra rooms but the presence of a central room was still almost always present. For a rich person or nobleman, the furniture was more ornate, and the flooring was made out of mud tiles and was covered with a plaster-like material. Roofs were usually used as living space as the interiors were not lit much and stairs leading to the roof were also seen in most homes.
Homes of the rich were bigger and contained at least 10 rooms also the walls were painted with a mixture of lime and water. The walls were usually painted in blue or yellow and the ceilings were colorful as well. The floors of the houses of the poor were made from beaten earth while those of the rich were covered with mud tiles.
Wear And Tear Was A Common Problem:
The use of common materials for building the houses of people in Egypt meant that the design of most houses in ancient Egypt displayed little variation. The houses in ancient Egypt were not long-lasting and in just a few years they usually began deteriorating and crumbling. The houses often needed to be repaired as floods were common, especially when the Nile River started to overflow. Some houses were built on platforms to prevent the damage caused by floods. Sometimes rats also gnawed through walls so they had to be fixed and repaired.
Houses Of The Rich:
Rich people in ancient Egypt owned big houses and most homes had gardens with swimming pools. Most gardens were very beautiful and peaceful. and had a path that was well constructed. The walls were higher to keep intruders out and guards often protected the property. Furniture commonly included a bed, a side table for books, and much more. The kitchen meanwhile had a few small tables and there were drinking vessels and dishes as well. Roof timber was covered with thatch and matting. In the houses of the rich, there was a guest room and a set of rooms for the owner. There was a separate room for the woman of the house. The shortage of available land to make houses due to the vast hot desert terrain meant that most townhouses were multistoried in order to accommodate the population during the ancient Egyptian era.
Ancient Egypt Houses
Ancient Egyptian Architecture
Houses in Ancient Egypt
For the most part ancient Egypt houses were constructed using materials that were handy and plentiful. This meant that the design of houses in ancient Egypt varied little, even among the wealthy. This makes it very easy to imagine what Egyptian houses look like.
History and Description of Ancient Egyptian Houses
What were the ancient Egyptian houses made of?
Egypt’s intense sun and heat shaped how ancient Egyptians built their houses. The oldest houses were built of mud and papyrus. After a while, however, people realized that this combination wouldn’t work. The Nile River flooded for three months every year and literally washed these houses away.
This is when the ancient Egyptians discovered that they could create bricks out of clay and mud from the Nile’s riverbank. Mixing the clay/mud with water, they poured this mixture into wooden molds in the shape of bricks. Allowed to dry in the sun, mud-bricks lasted much longer than houses made of mud and papyrus, but rain still eventually eroded them. Wood wasn’t used to build the actual houses because of its scarcity. It was used to support doorways, ceilings and steps.
Slaves and children as young as four were left to the menial job of making mud-bricks. They would transport the clay and mud, make the bricks and also transport the dried bricks to the building site.
Almost all ancient Egypt houses were constructed with a flat roof. Not only did this most likely make the construction process simpler, but the flat roofs also offered a welcome respite from the burning Egyptian sun. Families often lounged, ate and slept on the roofs of ancient Egypt houses.
Photo by Iris Fernandez (2009). © 2009 Iris Fernandez (used with permission) photographed place: (El-Qasr)
Reused in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license – Recreation of a mud-brick house
Layout of ancient Egyptian houses
The layout of an ancient Egyptian house was largely determined by whether the family was rich or poor, and if they lived in the city or the country.
Houses for the Poor
Those without much money often had only a one room house. This room was used for storage and napping during the day to escape the excessive heat. Inside the room were woven mats made of straw, perhaps a wooden stool or even a wooden bed with string pulled across it. They used long grass and animal hair for the string.
A ladder, mud brick staircase or ramp led to the flat roof. People often slept on the roof at night because it was cooler than the enclosed room below. Sometimes these roofs had reed canopies to create shade.
All the windows and doors had reed mat coverings to help keep out the heat, dust and flies. Oftentimes, doors were built four feet or so up off the ground to prevent the dust from creeping in. A ramp was used to get into the house from the outside.
Photo by Amheida Staff (2004). © 2004 NYU Excavations at Amheida Photographed place: Kellis (Esment el-Kharab). Reused in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license
– Remains of interior chambers
The single room led to an open courtyard with a wall around it. Here, people might have a vegetable garden, they cooked food on clay braziers (a type of portable grill), they spun flax into linen and the family’s stock of goats and chickens roamed the courtyard.
No bathrooms existed inside the poor person’s house. When people had to use the bathroom they had a few options. They could dig a hole, toss the waste into the Nile River, walk to the edge of the village, or use a chamber pot inside the house and then empty it outside. In some cases, people had an outhouse built in the corner of their courtyard.
No running water existed in these houses. The kids or slaves were required to go into the village for buckets of water and bring them back to be used for drinking, cooking and bathing.
If the person lived in the city, these houses were built very close together, much like townhouses today, with a shared wall. The downstairs room was used for the family business, such as a bakery or workshop. The upstairs room was reserved for the family. In towns where pyramids were being constructed, homes were provided for the pyramid workers.
Where poor people had one layer of brick to build their homes, wealthy people often used two or three layers of mud-brick. Still, the richest people had their homes made of stone that often boasted a granite gateway that could be locked from the inside. Keys have been found dating back to 1550 BC.
Houses for the Rich
The wealthy enjoyed building their homes along the Nile River. The outside of the homes was painted white to keep it cooler during the day. Sometimes, the very wealthy lined the outside walls with limestone, which caused their house to sparkle and twinkle in the sunlight. Artists were paid to decorate the inside walls with bright pastel colors to create a fresh and clean feel.
Some of the richest had houses as big as 30 rooms. Most of these rooms were used for storing sealed jars of food. Other rooms were used for the children, guest rooms and even bathrooms (though with no running water). These large homes had front and back doors with bars on the windows to keep out intruders and wild animals.
Raised up, at the center of the house, lay the living or family room. This room was raised up to keep sand out. As it was the center of the home, it was cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
A nobleman might have a master suite behind the living room complete with its own toilet. Pipes led from the bathroom to the garden, though there was no true running water as we know it today.
The rich had more items than the poor, including mirrors, shelves, pots and pans, beds, lighting, heat and fountains. Inside their bedrooms, they had cosmetic and perfume pots and even extra clean clothes.
Outside of the homes of the rich were gardens and pools. Some houses even had pools inside. Many stocked pools with brightly colored fish while the gardens were abloom with cornflowers and daisies.
Photo by Amheida Staff (2006). © 2006 NYU Excavations at Amheida. Reused in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license – Mud Brick Town Remains at El-Qasr
Ancient Egyptian Houses Facts
- Sometimes, people lived with other families in a house with many rooms and one shared courtyard.
- Sometimes, people shared one room with many families.
- Poor people sometimes had gateways made of limestone.
- Even though some people put bars on their windows, crime was very low in ancient Egypt.
- The braziers people cooked on were made of iron, bronze or clay and held charcoal wood fires.
- The first houses built in ancient Egypt date back to the Predynastic period in the Stone Age around 6,000 B.C.
- Very first ancient homes were built in wattle and daub style, meaning that sticks and twigs were interwoven and then covered with clay or mud.
- The word “adobe” comes from the Ancient Egyptian word “dbe” and means “mud brick.”
What the houses looked like in ancient Egypt: photo
The living architecture of Egypt took shape over many centuries and had its own peculiarities. The buildings of the nobility and the rich differed significantly from the houses of poor artisans and peasants.
What houses were built of and what they looked like in ancient Egypt
The first dwellings were primitive. They were built from papyrus, the stems of which were tied from below with palm ropes, as a result, similarities of mats were obtained. They were installed vertically, getting walls. To add strength to the house, the stems were additionally tied in bundles from above horizontally and vertically in the corners.
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In a later period, clay bricks began to be used in construction. To do this, clay or soil was broken with sticks, a depression was made in the ground. The crushed fraction was poured there, straw and water were added. Then they kneaded a kind of “dough” with their feet, which was used to fill special forms. Tribes living along the banks of the Nile could use coastal mud instead of earth and clay.
The blanks were left to dry completely and harden in the sun, after which houses were built from them. When excavating the pyramids of Memphis, scientists found yellow and black bricks. These are burnt bricks from the Middle Kingdom era of Ancient Egypt. The process was used very rarely, as there was no fuel. Therefore, both rich and poor residents lived in houses built of mud.
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Stone construction was limited. It was strictly forbidden to build houses from such material, the stone was used only for the construction of pyramids and temples.
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There were no wooden houses, as there was no wood. On the territory of ancient Egypt, only palm trees grew, which, by their qualities, are not suitable for building housing.
It was possible to distinguish a poor house from a rich one only by design, size and amenities.
Houses of rich and noble Egyptians
In noble and rich houses there were about 10 rooms, in contrast to the houses of the poor, where households lived in only one room. Houses for the nobility were built only of brick, they were decorated with stone columns and frames of entrance groups, also made of stone.
Lighting was provided by narrow ventilation openings. They walked from floor to ceiling and were covered with curtains. They created ideal ventilation due to the continuous exchange of layers of air.
The walls were covered with original plaster and decorated with paintings. In the center of the house there was usually a large room, from which other small reception rooms departed. The residential part includes the master’s bedroom, in which there was a washroom and several women’s rooms with pantries.
Love for nature and outdoor life is inherent in the Egyptians, so the houses of the nobility had gardens in which grew palm trees, sycamores, fig trees, vineyards. Pavilions were erected in the gardens, ponds were dug out, lined with stone.
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Houses of the poor Egyptians
The houses of the poor were of the same type: square holes in the walls served as windows, and trampled earth served as the floor. The houses were located on very narrow streets, the children played on flat roofs.
The first room contained a home altar, followed by a room with a high ceiling supported by a wooden column, followed by a bedroom, kitchen, pantry and cellar. It is very difficult to say what the houses of poor people looked like from the outside, since frescoes and images of only the interior decoration were found during the excavations.
Residential buildings in Ancient Egypt
The monuments of stone architecture of Ancient Egypt that have come down to us testify that its main buildings were erected in accordance with religious needs. The majestic Egyptian pyramids, temples of the gods and tombs of the nobility were incredibly strong and durable structures built to last for centuries. But the residential houses of ordinary citizens and even palace complexes were built from lightweight materials, so only a few of their fragments have survived to this day.
Egyptian architecture was multifaceted, but its characteristic feature in defining space and volume was the gallery – a spacious corridor passing through all residential and utility rooms. A similar type of planning can be found in later times, but in ancient Egypt it was considered one of the unshakable canons.
Even these inner courtyards were rather an extension and continuation of the galleries than separate compositional elements of the building’s layout. Courtyards inside residential buildings were often surrounded by covered galleries standing on columns.
The doors of all rooms and utility rooms also faced the courtyard. Large columned courtyards and halls were of the gallery type, as evidenced by the direction of the beams and the direction of the wall paintings on the supporting columns. The entire composition of the building was subordinated to a single linear structure. All internal utility rooms and living rooms followed one another along the same center line.
The Egyptians themselves found such an arrangement of rooms very convenient and almost the only possible and correct one in the hot arid climate of an oasis near the desert.
In the architecture of temple buildings, starting from the sanctuary, rooms and halls became more spacious with each step towards the exit: the height of the ceilings increased, the volume of the premises themselves increased. And vice versa, if a person entered the sanctuary, the size of the rooms gradually decreased, which gave an incredible mystery to the sacred place and aroused reverent awe among believers.
In the process of building the pyramids, the Egyptian craftsmen used the opposite concept, which was to raise the end of the funerary path (the very top of the pyramid) above all other elements of the structure. This decision was dictated by the need to show the greatness of the pharaoh, his superiority over all other mortals.
The rarest exception was the central layout of buildings, in which the rooms were located around one hall in the center. Its samples can be found only in the archaic tombs of the Old Kingdom and the temples of the era of Ancient Rome.
The external forms of the buildings were extremely simple – these are inclined prisms with straight sides and pyramids. A small part is made up of structures that have only internal volumes. These are rock temples and tombs that did not have a separate location on the ground, but were carved inside the rocks.
The architecture of Ancient Egypt was also characterized by buildings that did not have their own internal volumes, or they were of insignificant size. We are talking about pyramids, facade towers and pylons at the entrance to the temple.
In the center of a whole architectural complex, a free-standing stele was often erected, which acted as an important vertical accent of the composition. She acted as a symbol of the divine principle and was supposed to personify the Sun itself.
The exterior and interior wall surfaces were simple, flat and smooth. Numerous murals and bas-reliefs were used in the interior design. Often, wall texts acted as decoration. And today we admire the consistency and conciseness of the Egyptian style, which was embodied by a minimum number of characteristic elements.
There were practically no windows in the buildings of the ancient Egyptians, they were extremely rare and then only on the facade of the building. Internal lighting was carried out with the help of small terraces and platforms placed in the upper part of the building.
Sometimes the facade was equipped with columns. Often this is exactly what the veranda overlooking the courtyard looked like. The gaps between the columns were filled with brickwork, reaching half the wall or its entire height. Such was the secular architecture of large cities. Small remote settlements almost entirely consisted of thatched huts of the poor.
Ruins of an ancient settlement in Egypt
Houses of wealthy Egyptians
To light and ventilate houses, small holes were made in the walls, which were covered with curtains. The floor and walls of the latrines were covered with facing stone tiles.
The dwellings of the poor Egyptians
The urban development of the poor areas consisted of dense rows of massive buildings in the form of rectangular blocks with small square windows. Rows of buildings were demarcated by streets with narrow passages.
Ancient Egyptian houses (3D reconstruction).
The house of a simple city dweller consisted of one or more rooms:
- Living room
The entrance from the street led directly to the main room of the house – the living room, where the altar was located. Interior decoration and furnishings were very modest. Practically in all rooms there was an earthen floor covered with mats.
Various types of natural stone were used for the construction of large places of worship and tombs:
- Aswan granite
- Tour limestone
Sometimes stones of various colors and shades were specially used in construction or exterior decoration of buildings in order to achieve a greater decorative effect.