Ancient Egyptian Writing Materials and Techniques -- By: Joseph L. Thimes
BSP 13:3 (Summer 2000) p. 83
Ancient Egyptian Writing Materials and Techniques
From earliest times, scribes performed important functions in ancient Egypt. An important government official, he produced documents on papyrus, stone walls and columns. In the Old and Middle Kingdoms (2600–1785 BC), scribes also served as painters and draftsmen. They wrote dispatches to foreign governments, provided accounts for administration of both state and temple matters, and penned reports for the flourishing civil service bureaucracy.
As most officials in ancient Egypt, the office of scribe was only open to men, and often scribe’s sons followed their father’s profession. Among the few in the kingdom who could write, scribes were usually assured of prosperity and a relatively easy life, even exempted from manual labor and taxation! So respected a position, other officials often had statues of themselves depicted sitting in the scribal position.
The Scribe’s Toolkit
The earliest depictions of scribal equipment comes from the second dynasty. In the Tomb of Hesire the Scribe, Hesire is seen carrying scribal equipment (including a very small palette, tubular pen case, linen bag or water pot and shoulder strap) in his right hand and holding the scepter and staff of his high offices in his left. Called both chief of the king’s scribes and chief of physicians and dentists, Hesire served Pharaoh Djoser.
The scribal kit was practical, efficient, complete and portable. During the Middle and New Kingdoms, a complete kit included a palette, rush pens, tubular pen containers, small water pot, ink grinding kit, pigment supply, linen thread or strips, seal, small knife and inkstand box (see the author’s “For Young Archaeologists” article in this issue).
Burnishing instruments, often a large smooth pebble or block of ivory or wood with a short rod-like handle, smoothed irregularities
BSP 13:3 (Summer 2000) p. 84
in the papyrus. The palette, usually a narrow wooden piece about 12...
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