Ancient Egyptian families for Kids - Daily Life in Ancient Egypt
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Ancient Egyptian Families

Nefertiti's family
Nefertiti, Akhenaten, and their daughters

Egyptians mostly lived in families made up of a mother and a father and children, just as many people do today. But their families often had five or more children, because so many children died before they grew up.

Girls usually lived at home until they were about 15-19 years old, when they got married. Boys often continued living in their parents' house even after they got married, with their new wife. But Egyptian villages tended to be crowded, and poorer Egyptians often lived with their whole family in only one room of a house, with other poor families living in the other rooms. Historians who have looked at contracts and tax records have shown that these other families were not necessarily related; it was more like an apartment house, though all the families shared the use of the courtyard.

One funny thing about Egyptian families from the time of the Pharaohs right down through the end of the Roman Empire was a tendency for brothers and sisters to get married. Most people did not marry their brother or sister, but a surprising (to us) number of people did. Historians are not sure why this happened. It may have had something to do with inheritance and keeping the property in the family. This tendency toward brother-sister marriage was true for both poor and rich families: Cleopatra, for instance, married her younger brother Ptolemy, and the tax records show that poor people did this as well. The Greeks and Romans thought this was very strange. When the Egyptians became Christians in the 300s AD, though, they stopped marrying their brothers and sisters (maybe because girls stopped inheriting property), and the conversion to Islam in the 700s AD also did not allow brother-sister marriage.

In the Islamic period, on the other hand, the Koran allowed a man to marry up to four different women at the same time. This is called polygamy (poll-IH-gamm-ee). But most men still married only once. Only richer men could afford to marry more than one woman.

To find out more about families in ancient Egypt, check out these books from Amazon or from your library:

Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt, by Lionel Casson (revised edition 2001). Not especially for kids, but pretty entertaining reading, and Casson knows what he's talking about.

Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt, by Lynn Meskell (2002). A little more specialized and harder to read.

Egyptian people
Ancient Egypt
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Copyright 2012-2014 Karen Carr, Portland State University. This page last updated 2014. Powered by Dewahost.

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