Were ancient Egyptians black? Life in ancient Egypt

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Egyptian women spinning and weaving (Model from the Tomb of Meket-re in Luxor, 11th dynasty (ca. 2000 BC), now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo)

Egyptian women spinning and weaving (Model from the Tomb of Meket-re in Luxor, 11th dynasty (ca. 2000 BC), now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo)

Like other Africans, Egyptian people had dark skin to protect them from the African sun. They were further from the Equator than Central Africans, so their skin was lighter than the skin of people living in Central Africa. But most Egyptians still had pretty dark skin, especially if they lived in Upper Egypt, near Sudan. Egyptian people spent most of their time outside, where the light was good, since it hardly ever rains in Egypt. Mostly they were farming, but they also made clothes, built houses and made furniture, and sailed boats.

From the same tomb, men on a boat

From the same tomb, men on a boat

Most Egyptian kids lived with their fathers and mothers in a family. Most kids had a lot of sisters and brothers and cousins. They lived in small apartments with courtyards, often with just one room for their whole family, or even two families sharing a room. Very few Egyptian children went to school, and even fewer went to college.

Mostly kids worked in the fields farming alongside their mothers and fathers. Many Egyptian children were enslaved. Children who were enslaved also farmed and made cloth, but they got less food and were more likely to be beaten.

Learn by doing: learn to spin
More about slavery in Egypt
More about African people

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian people:

More about Egyptian families
And more about ancient Egypt
More about Ancient Africa
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By |2017-06-18T00:26:24+00:00June 18th, 2017|Africa, Egypt, People|2 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Were ancient Egyptians black? Life in ancient Egypt. Quatr.us Study Guides, June 18, 2017. Web. January 22, 2019.

About the Author:

Dr. 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, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.


  1. Hatshepsut October 10, 2018 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Your answer that the ancient egyptians were dark skinned is inadequate. In fact, earlier dynastys tombs show light skinned egyptians and this is supported by DNA evidence, showing european, anatolian and levant DNA in ancient egyptians. You should show that in your answer, do not mislead little children and make them believe that ancient egyptians are basically the same people living in egypt now. As a professor, I am sure you already knew this, but here is an article as a refresher. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4555292/amp/Study-mummies-reveals-Turkish-European.html

    • Karen Carr October 11, 2018 at 7:27 am

      Ancient Egyptians *were* genetically similar to modern Egyptians, whatever the Daily Mail claims. Yes, Egypt was a major trading partner around the Mediterranean, and so there were plenty of people intermarrying with people from other places. Egyptians then as now were not as dark-skinned as the people of Sudan, who were themselves lighter than people in Kenya or Congo. But ancient Egyptian painters, when they paint images of the Greeks, for example, paint them much more light-skinned than themselves, just as they paint the Queen of Punt as much more dark-skinned.

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