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What Was Ancient Egyptian Furniture Like?

Papyrus mats were common in ancient Egyptian households.
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  • Written By: S. Mithra
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2014
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Noble and common people of ancient Egypt used very different furniture. In general, because timber was very scarce in the Nile Delta, furniture was constructed from alternatives to wood such as reeds, alabaster, leather and pottery. The Egyptians didn't use many surfaces, such as tables or chairs or counters, but almost every household had storage containers and low stools.

Working and cooking on the ground wasn't considered uncomfortable to the common people. They knelt or crouched on a mat made out of papyrus or flax. All of their belongings were carefully protected from dirt and rodents in closed vessels. Food, jewelry, and clothing were stored out of sight in covered pots, woven baskets, or small wooden boxes with hinged lids. These were undecorated and utilitarian. For sleeping, they laid on mats or thin mattresses of grass ticking. They had no pillows, but rested on a curved, elevated stand that cradled their head. Short, three or four legged stools might be just three curved sticks bound together with animal skin or woven reeds.

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The nobility enjoyed taller and more ornate furnishings. This royal furniture, preserved in many burial chambers, included armchairs, tables, giant boxes, and bed frames. First, they had access to more wood, so their furniture looks familiar to a modern eye. Carpenters used dowel joints and right angles. However, chairs and tables were still lower to the ground to account for the Egyptians' smaller stature. Instead of rush seats, they could afford soft leather. Every surface was decorated with elaborate inlaid alabaster, gold-leafed and gilded designs, or bejeweled embellishments.

Even among the wealthy, tables were rarely used for household chores. Instead, archeologists believe these tables were made specifically for burial to elevate the offerings above ground. Jewelry, incense, and food were set on these beautiful tables to provide for the deceased in the afterlife. Often the table legs are carved into animals. When left undisturbed in sealed chambers inside pyramids, these furniture pieces are preserved very well and can tell us a lot about the daily life and beliefs of the ancient Egyptians.

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julies
Post 4

There is an Egyptian store in our city that has some furniture and many Egyptian accessories. The modern Egyptian furniture has a very distinct look, and a good piece of furniture is not very cheap.

When the store first opened I was curious to see what they had and enjoyed looking at their selection of products. This style doesn't fit very well with the decor of my home, but one of my friends has several pieces, and it looks very tasteful in her home.

andee
Post 3

It is very interesting to read about the Egyptians and how resourceful they were. They would use wood from sycamore and fig trees when making furniture. They would also use mud from the Nile to make some of their pottery.

Stools were the most common form of furniture for them, while on the wealthiest had chairs. The wealthy who did have chairs and other nice furniture had some of them inlaid with ebony and ivory which made them very ornate.

I have seen some Egyptian style furniture online that always catches my eye for some reason, and would love to have some in my house someday.

anon78429
Post 2

This is a great article! Great if you are doing any research on Egypt.

anon26223
Post 1

I thought furniture was made of wood and stone only?

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