Ancient Egyptian Society

The ancient Egyptian civilisation spanned thousands of years, and was both complex and fascinating.

Burial Practices in Ancient Egypt

The process of mummification is so closely associated with ancient Egypt, that a number of misconceptions are widely believed. Egyptians were not the only people to mummify their dead, and full mummification was really only an option for wealthy Egyptians at certain periods of Egyptian history. Over time, there was an evolution in the process of mummification, and they developed complex rituals and religious practices including a wide range of funerary texts. Some ancient Egyptian spells and texts were intended only for the Pharaoh, while others could be used by anyone.

Prehistoric Burials
Tomb 100; The Painted Tomb
Heart Scarab
Shabti (Shawabti, Ushabti)
Offering Formula
Pyramid Texts
Coffin Texts
The Book of the Dead
Negative Confession (Spell 125)Judgement of the DeadThe Book of Gates
The Book of the Two Ways
The Book of the Twelve Caves
False Doors
Opening of the Mouth
Song of the Harper (Harper’s Song)
Animal Mummies
Mummies of Pets

Jewellery, Perfume and Incense

As life in an ancient city could be rather smelly, they also developed beautiful incense and perfume which was thought to have medicinal qualities and was associated with the gods. The most famous and popular incense was Kyphi (Kapet). They also used essential oils in massage, reflexology and aromatherapy.

Tutankhamun's scarab

All Egyptians wore jewellery, and some beautiful pieces have been recovered from burial sites. Jewellers were called “neshedi nubi” (goldsman) and “hemu nub” (gold artisan). Their craft was highly valued in Egyptian society. Find out more about Bracelets, Necklaces and Collars.

The ancient Egyptians used beautiful pigments and colours to enhance their art and jewellery. As well as artistic considerations the meaning of colour in ancient Egypt was also important. Each colour had a symbolic aspect which gave a further level of meaning to the finished object or painting. The basic palette centered around six colours; red, blue, green, yellow, white and black.

Clothing, Crowns and Regalia

The ancient Egyptians generally wore white linen clothing, well suited to the heat of the desert. Find out more about ancient Egyptian clothing.

The pharaoh carried many additional items which acted as emblems of royal power and had a number of different crowns for different occasions.


The Egyptians were skilled administrators. The pharaoh was the central authority but the country was divided into Nomes or provinces whose local government helped everything to run smoothly. There was also the ancient division between Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt which was preserved thoughout Egyptian history.

Ancient Egyptian scribes worked in every area of society, calculating tax revenues, perpetuating the written culture, recording legal decisions and supporting the work of architects, priests and managing foreign affairs. The ancient Egyptian calendar was developed at an early stage because it was necessary to be able to predict the coming of the inundation and because it allowed the development of their bureaucracy. The calendar also had a religious connection as months were named after gods and goddesses and the calendar fixed the relative dates of festivals to honour the gods.


The Egyptians were a powerful military force for much of their history. Martial prowess was an important attribute of the pharaoh who was often shown riding his chariot into battle or smiting enemies.

Animals in Ancient Egypt

Animals played an important part in the economy, religion and society of the ancient Egyptians. Many gods were closely associated with one or more animals and certain animals were considered to be living incarnations of a deity. Find out more about: cats in ancient Egypt and ancient Egyptian bull cults. The Egyptians also created animal mummies (including rather sweet mummies of pets).


The Egyptians had a varied diet including ; bread; meat and fish; fruit and vegetables; nuts, seeds and beans; and numerous herbs and spices. Beer was an important part of their diet and they also made wine and milk. Make your own food with these fun ancient Egyptian recipes.

copyright J Hill 2008