Ancient Egyptian Scribe
The Ancient Egyptian scribe was an extremely good career or job. Anyone, whatever their background, could undertake this profession, if they had the right education and training. An Ancient Egyptian scribe had the opportunity rise to high ranks and even become a royal scribe bringing him wealth, land and power. An Ancient Egyptian scribe was exempt from the daily toil of physical labor and was viewed with respect by society. In Ancient Egypt it was traditional and common place for a father to teach his profession to his son, so many scribes were the sons of scribes.
The Roles of the Scribe
The roles Ancient Egyptian scribe revolved around work relating to the government of Egypt. Scribes could be described as the civil servants of Egypt. Scribes worked in the following roles:
- Tax Collectors
- Law administrators
- Writing letters and legal documents such as marriage contracts
- Recording harvests, food supply and distribution
- Documenting rainfall and water levels of the Nile
- Controlling the food supply and distribution
- Conducting census of the population
- Overseeing the construction of buildings including planning, surveying and supervising
Additional roles for scribes who advanced and were promoted included the roles of engineers, priests, judges, doctors and teachers. One of the most famous scribes was called Imhotep became a vizier of Egypt and was eventually deified as as the Son of Ptah, the Lord of all Builders. Whenever scribes started work they would sprinkle a drop from their water bowl in honor of Imhotep.
The Scribe Schools
The Ancient Egyptian schools were run by scribes and therefore called the Scribe Schools. The most able scribes taught the future Pharaoh at the Prince's school. Lessons taught by scribes included the following subjects:
- Reading and Writing
- Math - Using a decimal system based on ten fingers
- Arithmetic and geometry
This list of subjects provides and indication of the breadth of knowledge which was acquired by the Ancient Egyptian scribes.
The Art of the Scribe - Writing
The scribes had to be conversant with different styles of writing which included Hieroglyphics, hieratic writing and in later years of the Egyptian periods the Demotic script. The scribes sat Indian style holding his writing board in his lap.
- Scribes used Hieroglyphics a system of picture writing which used symbols (hieroglyphs) instead of letters or words. Hieroglyphics use a combination of logographic, syllabic, and alphabetic elements. The original hieroglyphs represented sounds and there were over 700 hieroglyphs which could used in numerous combinations to give specific meanings. Hieroglyphics were used by scribes for writing memorials on great monuments
- A simplified version of hieroglyphics was devised by scribes known as 'hieratic' writing which lost the pictorial aspect of hieroglyphs. The hieratic version of writing was used to create various types of papyrus documents
- By the Late Period and even more fluent script was devised by scribes for compiling documents and lists which was called Demotic script
Scribes - Thoth, the God of Wisdom and Scribe of the gods
The god Thoth was revered as the God of Wisdom and was also the scribe of the gods and the inventor of writing. Thoth had an important role in the Underworld in the judgment of the dead in the Hall of the Two Truths where he was the scribe who recorded the confessions of the dead and also kept a record of the souls who progressed into afterlife.
Ancient Egyptian Scribe
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