Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Farmers' Shacks

Farmer's houses hold very few comforts. Apart from the animal shelter, the living space may be only one white washed room with a floor of packed earth. The family does everything here. Even on the cold winter nights they spread out their rush mats on the floor to sleep. Be thankful for your warm bed! There are few household objects. You will find water vases, saucepans, bowls, spoons, and perhaps one or two wicker baskets. On the threshing floor is grindstone and an oven. The roof is flat and protected by a low railing and cane trellis. On the floor are more mats to eat on, or even sleep during the hot season. The toilet facilities give you something to hope for. In the countryside as in the city, garbage and everything else ends up in the canals that flow to the Nile.

The Luscious Villa

Along the riverbanks, many wealthy people were housed. Wouldn't you love to live in a gorgeous house in the middle of the countryside. They all fallow the same model. They are built to separate the household service areas, such as stables, storerooms, kitchens, craftsmen's workshops, and servants' quarters from the owner's residence. Guest rooms include bedrooms, dressing rooms, toilet facilities, a dining room, and reception rooms. I wish that I had this attached to my house! Then, when my brother is annoying me I can just move to the guest facilities! The garden is one of the main attractions. It is a great relaxing palace, with a pool in the middle for swimming and fishing. Can you imagine a present day home having fish in the pool where you swim? It would be very unique. It is surrounded by palm trees, shrubs, fruit trees, arbors and flower beds. It is designed to be a shady welcome center filled with wonderful aromas. If you are lucky enough to be invited to a party like this, you will be treated like royalty...and not like a 3 year old's dress-up party. You will be welcomed by maidservants, then, if you wish, a servant will guide you to a steam bath. Then you will be given a refreshing shower and massaged with invigorating oils. If only I lived then.....I wouldn't be late because they get me ready! Afterward, when you are wearing beautiful clothes and the required wig, you will be accompanied to the banquet.

What About the Workers?

In Ancient Egypt the workers were treated very differently from the other people in their civilization. Have you realized that these days everyone is all about hiding your prejudices? Well, in Ancient Egypt it didn't really work that way. There were the wealthy, the gods and goddesses, the pharoes, the farmers, the workers, the landowners, and just plain poor! The workers that decorate the pharoah's burial temple had lenghthy training, as if they were going to effect his whole afterlife! There are established rules about the paintings. Don't you hate rules?.....I do! If you painted any decorations wrong then the decorations will lose their magic powers of ensuring the pharoah's safe journey to the gods. If you worked full time for the pharoah, then you live in a specially built town near the site.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Column...Magic?

Even before the dawn of the Old Kingdom( I know, I was a loooong time ago), Egyptian architects were using columns to hold up the roof and span large spaces. They were the first builders to try this. How could you come up with an idea like that? Hmmmm. Lets use big poles in the middle of this beautiful room to keep the ceiling from killing us. Yes. Its a crazy idea, but it seemed to work very well. Ancient Egyptians made their columns out of palm tree trunks and bound bundles of large branches and logs to use to support the reed and rush roofs of their dwellings. When they did decide to use stone and brick to make columns, they were carefully constructed to mimic the shapes and textures of the organic models.

Do you believe in magic? Yes, no, maybe? The earliest builders believed that trees held up rooves with magical powers. This is why when using stone, they carefully carved it to look like the original. By the fifth dynasty, Egyptians were building graceful, elaborate limestone columns complete with crowns of palm foliage. After Greek travelers came to Egypt, the columns made their way into Greek architecture as well. They were somewhat transformed from the inscribed, decorated, colorfully painted, topped with stone flowers and foliage to something that worked a little bit better for them.

Not Much More Than Mud

Believe it or not, houses in Egypt haven't changed that much throughout the years. The materials that you and I would want to have were reserved for the gods and the dead. I know what you're thinking, why the dead? Do they even care? Well, we don't really know. Egyptians thought that they needed expensive materials to save your body in the afterlife. This included limestone, granite, massive wooden pillars and other durable materials. Isn't that crazy? That means that mud bricks were the only thing left for the living! Mud bricks are made from Nile mud mixed with sand or straw for bonding and to prevent shrinking. I don't know about you, but after one night living in a mud pit, I would want to get out of there as fast as I could.  As if that isn't bad enough, the quarters were bare and cramped. The floor is beaten earth and the windows were small and high up to keep out the sun's glare. Don't even ask about comfy furniture! If you want a different life than this, then I hope you are a wealthy landowner or well-liked pharoah.