Straw mats and baskets - Furniture in Ancient Egypt
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Egyptian Furniture

Egyptian headrest
Headrest (Vatican Museum)

April 2016 - Most Egyptian houses didn't have much furniture in them. The floor was plain dirt or clay. People slept on woven straw mats. They didn't have pillows. Sometimes they used wooden stands to rest their heads on when they were sleeping (no, really they did!).

Egyptian basket
Straw basket from the New Kingdom
(Vatican Museum)

During the daytime, if they were inside, people sat on the mats too, or on small wooden stools. Or they took the mats or stools out to their courtyard. They ate squatting or sitting on the ground or on mats, with their bowl in their hand or on a low stool. They kept their clothes and toys in straw baskets like this one.

Egyptian chair
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Rich people had wooden chairs to sit on. They also slept on wooden beds with thick string pulled tightly across them and straw pads on top. There were only single beds - no double beds yet. The reason only rich people had wooden furniture was that there are very few trees growing in Egypt. They had to bring most of the wood on ships from Lebanon, where there were trees. So wood was very expensive in Egypt. Most people had to use straw to make their furniture - straw mats and baskets.

Learn by doing: a day in ancient Egypt
More about straw
More about baskets
More about Egyptian houses

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian architecture:

Make This Egyptian Temple (Usborne Cut-Out Models), by Iain Ashman (1999)

Pyramid, by David Macaulay (1982).

The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt (Yale University Press Pelican History of Art), by William Stevenson Smith and William Kelly Simpson (revised edition 1999). The standard for college courses.

More about Egyptian houses
More about Ancient Egypt home

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 24 April, 2017