Scribes in Ancient Egypt

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Ancient Egyptian Scribes

Scribes were important people in Ancient Egypt. They carried out both administrative and religious function and were highly prized for their skills.

The role of a scribe was an important one in Ancient Egypt. They were part of a large task force which helped keep track of taxes, censuses and building projects. It took great skill to become a scribe and they were highly valued throughout Ancient Egypt.

Being a Scribe in Ancient Egypt

The most important part of a scribe’s job was keeping records of the running of the Ancient Egyptian civilization. They also wrote and copied religious texts and participated in temple life. Some became priests and taught students in the scribal arts. There were many advantages in Ancient Egypt in becoming a scribe. Scribes were given the opportunity to live a wealthy, upper class life. Ancient Egyptian Scribes did not have to participate in manual labour and didn’t have to pay any form of taxes. They were able to live a wealthy lifestyle and were highly respected in every day life.

Scribal Schools in Ancient Egypt

Scribes were usually trained in an apprenticeship by older, experienced scribes. There were also however schools for the more wealthy to train to become scribes at court. Scribes were taught two kinds of writing. One type was viewed as sacred and was to be only used for religious or funerary purposes and another more common form to be used in administration. They were also taught mathematics and astronomy.

Pharaohs’ were expected be literate and had at least basic scribal training. Studies would usually last for four years and then the student could officially become known as a scribe or get further training in an apprenticeship. Lessons were learnt through recitation and copying from instruction booklets. Students were given potsherds to write on in the beginning, in case mistakes were made. Only when they had reached a certain level of efficiency were they allowed to use papyrus. Students were also expected to participate in a form of physical training. Swimming, archery and self defence were taught along with the lessons.

Thoth: The God of the Scribes in Ancient Egypt

Thoth was sacred to the scribes of Ancient Egypt. Depicted as the Ibis or a baboon, Thoth was said to have invented writing and was said to have a power over words. When a person was sick the magicians used a spoken formula, given to them by Thoth to cure the ailing person. To the Ancient Egyptians words had power. He was one of the eight original Gods who spoke the world into being. When a soul was being judged on it’s suitability to the afterlife, Thoth was said to be there recording it all. The importance of Thoth and his duties, show the importance of scribes in administering Ancient Egypt.

Sources:

  1. Scribal Training in Ancient Egypt Ronald J. Williams
  2. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 92, No. 2 (Apr. – Jun., 1972), pp. 214-221
  3. David.R,1999, Handbook to life in Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press