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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Tuesday Time Tables - Egyptian life.....

One of the increasingly rare warm summer days heralded the beginning of our Tuesday Time Table series. This year I was first up with our Egyptian collection.

But hold on, this is the Roman Baths isn’t it? Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean we’re only allowed to keep Roman items does it? Actually the collection here includes a whole variety of non-Roman material - the Egyptian collection was donated to us by a  local collector, so that’s why it’s here.

The collection consists of a series of shabti, a scarab which may have been part of a necklace, three exquisitely carved amulets, a string of beads and two figurines of Osiris all of which were on display.

Personally, my absolute favourite piece was an alabaster jar which may have been used as a perfume bottle or for holding hair oil, certainly for some type of cosmetic. For me, a piece like this really highlights the everyday lives of the ancient Egyptians which is really what I wanted to examine with my table.

Me with the Alabaster ointment jar.
Mostly I wanted to challenge the misconception that the Egyptians were all about death and burial; they weren’t, and, news flash, slaves didn’t build the pyramids either.

Having said that it’s easy to see how the misconception arises. As my professor once said ‘Most of what we have from ancient Egypt is comprised of tombs, temples and trash’. Based on the worthless nature of one and the religious nature of the other two it’s easy to reconstruct their society as overly religious or death obsessed.

But that isn’t necessarily correct.

And I’m sure several people are now wondering who did build the pyramids. Well, it wasn’t slaves, that’s for certain. The building of the kings’ tomb was an important and prestigious job, far too important to entrust to the likes of slaves and in fact, when compared to Greek and Roman societies there were hardly any slaves in Egypt at all.

The pyramids were probably built by the foremost builders of the day, supplemented by the common folk (for heavy lifting purposes) during lulls in agricultural work. Just to be clear this wasn’t slavery. All agricultural work leaves a natural lull while the fields recover and for the ancient Egyptians this went hand in hand with a down turn in profit. So why not use the time to get paid to build the kings tomb? That way you could still afford to buy expensive perfume to place in your alabaster ointment jar which sat on your vanity table.

Me and my table.
Emma P.

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