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The Egyptians are one of the ancient civilizations who inhabited this world long before we were born.
But have you ever considered the invaluable inheritance which the Egyptians left behind when it comes to woodworking?
Not only were the Egyptians extremely advanced in terms of tools, techniques, as well as the multiple and spectacular objects created with the use of wood.
What’s more, the Egyptian imprint in the art of woodworking has helped in shaping the world as we know it today.
From the stunning pyramids through the mystical stories of pharaohs, secret rituals, immortality, Gods and legends – getting to know more about the art of working with wood in ancient Egypt feels like a journey back in time, somewhere far away from anything you think you know about this reality.
Below, we are diving into exploring beautiful examples of Egyptians’ masterpieces made out of wood.
We will also check out how some the woodworking tools we know up-to-date have evolved thanks to the Egyptians, and we will get lost in mysteries and magic. Are you ready? Then read on!
What are Some of the Examples of Woodworking in Ancient Egypt?
1) Wooden Tables
Typically, such tables were designed to stand very low and were made out of wood and stone.
However, tables were not very common for the Egyptian lifestyle since both cooking and eating were done on the floor. They would simply sit on the ground, enjoying the comfort of reed mats or pillows.
On another note, despite the fact tables were not the most popular wooden piece of furniture, they still had a specific role in the life of the ancient Egyptians.
Tables were used for playing games, such as senet.
2) Wooden Jewelry Boxes
This piece is a beautiful testimony of the mastery of the Egyptian woodworkers, who not only created useful objects out of wood but also added skillful, gorgeous decorations.
For example, the blue panels and the golden hues make up a truly fantastic, sophisticated combination which allures the eyes centuries after being crafted.
Nevertheless, Egyptians are said to be among the first of the ancient civilizations to concept and craft jewelry boxes with the clear intention of storing their precious treasures inside.
Ultimately, ancient Egyptians have left a legacy in the history of jewelry for their skills, eye to the detail, and craftsmanship. The well-preserved discoveries from Tutankhamun’s tomb are the world’s biggest collection of gold and jewelry.
What’s more, this highlights the way the Egyptians understood the surrounding world. They didn’t simply live day to day. Instead, they highly cherished the beauty of the surrounding environment, as well as their possessions, trying to leave behind admirable artwork for the generations to come.
Meanwhile, wearing jewelry was widely and equally spread among both male and female Egyptians around 5000 B.C. Furthermore, both male and female Egyptians also wore makeup.
3) Wooden Beds
Surprisingly (or not), experts point out to the fact that the Egyptians are among the pioneers in the use of beds, the first attempts to replace sleeping on the cold floor dating back to 10 000 – 5000 B.C.
And even more – the Egyptians used a bed for eating, as well as to entertain socially, as described in the History of Beds by Mary Bellis.
However, it’s important to mention that not all of the Egyptians had access to such a luxury like a private bed. In fact, it was the pharaoh’s right and privilege to enjoy his very own sleeping space, away from the hard and cold ground.
Interestingly, it was during the very same time that the Egyptians first started piling up palm leaves to serve as mats, similarly to South Africans, located at the opposite end of the continent.
The Persians seem to be among the most creative in terms of designing a comfy bed, as they have created the ancient version of the modern-day waterbed: goatskin filled with water.
4) Wooden Chairs and Stools
Similar to the rest of the mesmerizing wooden objects in ancient Egypt, the royal chairs were further decorated with gold, fine details depicting scenes or Gods from the ancient Egyptian mythology, as well as complex hieroglyphs.
It almost goes without saying that not all of the Egyptians could afford to have stylish, beautiful and multiple pieces of furniture in their homes.
As a matter of fact, this was very rare, as chairs were used only by the wealthiest people in ancient Egypt.
Thus, these chairs were nothing less but a masterpiece, utilizing techniques of inlaying, as well as generously decorated with animal skins and/or plant materials.
Contrary to that, the ordinary Egyptians who were not part of the nobility, had access to very few pieces of wooden furniture, with little to no decorations at all. Furthermore, they created their humble and limited wooden furniture all by themselves, which most commonly included stools with 3 or four legs, covered with leather.
The Egyptian peasants also had baskets and chests to store their very few belongings; however, chests and baskets were traditionally made out of reeds instead of wood.
Most noteworthy, wood was a very expensive material in ancient Egypt. That’s also the number one reason why the lower classes in Egypt could not afford to use wood in the making of chests or any other furniture, apart from the simplistic stools mentioned above.
Amazingly, Egyptians also created folding stools. The most famous example of an Egyptian folding stool is the one found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. The legs of Tutankhamun’s folding stool were painted in such a way as to look like duck heads.
5) Wooden Chests
Above all, and similarly to wooden chairs, wooden chests were not common for the homes of the Egyptians from the lower class.
When the experts uncovered King Tutankhamun’s chest, depicting political, social, and military aspects of his life, they were astonished by the beauty and delicacy of the skillful craftsmen.
But what was found inside the chest is no less stunning and intriguing. Ultimately, this chest contained very personal and precious items of young King Tut. These include a pair of papyrus sandals, 3 pairs of gilded sandals, labels necklaces, and one gilded headrest.
Finally, there were also several embroidered robes which served the King during special ceremonies. Just a single one of these ceremonial robes was studded with over 3000 golden rosettes.
What Tools and Techniques did the Egyptians Use for Woodworking?
Egyptians have mastered working with a variety of tools for creating their one-of-a-kind wooden masterpieces. Below is a list of these tools.
- Bow drills
- Pull saws
- Sanding stone
- Wooden mallets
Certainly, the ancient woodworking tools used by Egyptians did not look exactly the same as their modern-day versions. For example, handsaws could be as long as 20 inches. What’s more, handsaws had irregular metal teeth and curved wooden handles. When it comes to the blade, it was very broad.
Also, the blades were made out of soft metal, namely copper, which created a big difference in the way of using the instrument as compared to nowadays. With this in mind, carpenters in ancient Egypt could only pull but not push during the process of cutting. Hence, sawing must have been a tedious process, taking much time, too.
But what’s even more amazing by the diverse range of woodworking tools is the woodworking techniques which the ancient Egyptians used. All the way back to 3100 B.C., Egyptians knew how to join pieces of wood by applying the power tenon and mortise joints.
Egyptian Secrets, Myths, and Legacy for the Next Generations
Indeed, ancient Egypt remains a beautiful mystery which can’t stop amazing and inspiring people throughout the globe.
Surely, one of the most common associations at the very mention of Egypt is none other but the image of the mighty pyramids.
Moreover, if woodworking in ancient Egypt deserves admirations for the beauty and precision of the masterpieces, then what about these huge, highly spiritual buildings, which required a perfect engineering thinking?
And nevertheless, what about the secret behind arranging the heavy stones in a no less perfect way than cutting them precisely? Here is where an intriguing theory of the so-called sonic drilling may come into place. In short, sonic drilling suggests the possibility of using the power of the sound for cutting hard materials, such as stone blocks, with absolute precision.
Whatever we say about the pyramids and the Universal secrets and wisdom which shape the way the Egyptians perceived the world, it seems that it will be too poor to describe the glory of this ancient civilization.
When it comes to mythology, the artwork of the ancient Egyptians is closely interconnected to their beliefs about the order of the existing life in the Universe.
Furthermore, the Egyptians have a special word which serves to describe the fundamental order of the Universe, and this word is maat.
The essence of maat is hidden in the way the Egyptians believed that both life and happiness are dependent on the normal functioning of the natural forces, as well as the proper behavior of humans. And indeed, however ancient, these beliefs keep being relevant up-to-date, when we need to realize the human’s impact on Nature more than ever.
Interestingly, the Egyptians have impacted the modern-day world of woodworking, and thus, influenced different civilizations for years to come.
For instance, the Egyptians are said to be the first ones to glue thin pieces of wood together. Currently, we refer to this practice as veneering. The very first examples of veneering were found in the tomb of Semerkhet, and are over 5000 years old.
Nevertheless, the Egyptians are among the first of the ancient civilizations to use a protective sealer when finishing their woodwork.
Thanks to the dry climate in Egypt, as well as the advanced techniques for preserving the precious objects discovered in the tombs, we are lucky to know more about the Egyptian cultural inheritance, including the examples of fine woodworking.
Unfortunately, the case with civilizations, such as, for example, the Mayans, is much different, primarily because of the humid, unfavorable climate of the region, which lead to the deterioration of many wooden masterpieces.
Final Food for Thought
The Egyptians are one of the many ancient civilizations which keep stunning the world through their achievements.
No matter how much progress we see when it comes to modern-day technologies, looking back to the accomplishments of our ancestors feels like a much-needed gulp of fresh air, a kindly reminder that this Universe is full of knowledge, which simply waits to be uncovered by our curious, hungry minds.
But what’s more, the legacy of the ancient Egyptians is a beautiful example of the endless power of creativity. Being part of the humankind, we are capable of bringing life to a similarly lifeless object such as a piece of wood.
And isn’t it amazing how one can feel what it’s like to be a God, what it’s like to make art with your own hands?
Indeed, woodworking has been, is, and forever will remain a one-of-a-kind form of art, with the examples of woodworking achievements by the mighty civilizations paving the path of inspiration for generations to come.