National Geographic : 1941 Oct
The Formal Gardens and Informal Children of Ancient Egypt IN LAYING out and planting the walled parks surrounding their pleasant country villas, the Egyptians displayed the conventionality, orderliness, and love of symmetry which are outstanding in their art and, indeed, in their whole life. Before any extensive orchard or garden was actually started, sketches were made and from these finished plans were drawn, showing the distribution of pools, trees, and avenues, and containing written notations of the more im portant distances and spacings. The pools, all shallow, were for ornament, not for bathing. Though Egyptians could swim, there is no record of their going in for swimming as a sport. Crocodiles were too numerous in the Nile. The installation and upkeep of the park was entrusted to a staff of professional gardeners, headed by an "Overseer of the Garden", who evidently regarded himself as a person of no small importance. The excellent taste of the ancient Egyptian and his very real love and understanding of nature invariably produced most happy results. From his high-roofed front verandah, with its brightly painted lotus-bud columns, the country gentleman of page 458 looks out over his large rectangular lotus pool, stocked with fish and bordered by regularly spaced clumps of flowers and flowering shrubs: mandrakes, oleanders, jasmine, bind- weed, cornflowers, and dwarf chrysanthemums. Around this aquatic and floral centerpiece areranged rows ofsyca more fig trees, and, behind these, thetalldate and dom palms. The great man's children and their friends, idolized by their proud and indulgent parents, have therunofthegarden. The boys, with their heads shaven except forthebraided side lock of "youth", are unhampered by clothes. The girls, clad in simple one-piece dresses,wear their hair in"pigtails." The more or less self-explanatory games inprogress are chosen from a score or so of children's pastimes depicted on the walls of Middle Kingdom tombs. Even thecatand the ridiculous little dachshund-like dog areauthentic XIIth Dynasty types. The painted wooden "paddle" doll, well known in the XIth Dynasty, though notoriginally designed as a child's toy, could andprobably didserve assuch. Most interesting are theballs, with which thegirls are playing. With cores of tightly packed barley husks and stitched leather covers, theyresemble themodern baseball. The verandah, pool, andgarden arefrom aminiature pro duced by an Egyptian model-maker oftheThird Millennium B. c. The model, with itshigh wall, brightly painted little columns, and tiny wooden trees, isintheMetropolitan Mu seum in New York. The oxidized copper lining ofitssmall pool shows that the latter was once filled with water.