National Geographic : 1941 Oct
At Home with theAverage Egyptian and His Wife ANY general account ofancient Egyptis,ofnecessity, largely taken upwith thesplendor ofits rulers, thewealth ofitsgreat officials, and, at theopposite endofthescale, the simplepoverty ofitspeasants. Thus weare prone toforget that, as in everygreat country, there existed at all timesinthe Nile Valley alarge and, for the most part, well-to-do middle class-good, solid citizens, in dividuallyofnoparticular impor tance, but,collectively, thebackbone of the nation. Two such people appear onpage 499. Theman is,letussay, aclerk in a branch oftheroyal treasury, his wife a singer inthetemple choir of Amun. Their clothes, their fewar ticles of jewelry, and thefurnishings of their home, though hardly magnifi cent, are of good quality. In addition totheir house and small garden they probably own a little farmland, onwhich they pay the required taxes. Itislikely that out of their modest living expenses they havesaved enough tosend their son to theschool ofscribes atThebes and so assure him ofrespectable and well paid employment when hecomes of age. Just now thecouple areamusing themselveswith oneoftheir most prized possessions-a game-box of cedar, inlaid with panels ofblue fai ence. Thetop and bottom ofthe box carrythe squared lay-outs, or"boards," forthetwo most popular Egyptian draughts games, thegame ofSenit onthetop, thegame ofTshau ("Robbers") ontheunderside. The faience playing pieces, which arethesame forboth games, were kept, when notinuse, inthedrawer intheendofthebox. The setoffour carved wands was used inplace ofknuckle-bones ordice, theway inwhich they fell, crossed, orpointed, when cast by aplayer, determining themoves that player was allowed tomake. The game inprogress, Senit, was played onaboard ofthirty squares, thesquares laid outinthree rows often. Certain key squares areinscribed asbeing advantageous ordisadvantageous totheplayer landing onthem. Sixpieces (usually conical orspool shaped) were used byeach player, theobject ofthegame being, nottotake theopponent's pieces, but, apparently, topass through them and return tothe original starting point, atthesame time blocking theother fellow's moves asmuch aspossible. The prominent r61e played bysuch games inthelives oftheancient Egyptians isindicated by thefact that apicture ofadraughtsboard was oneoftheoldest and most common signs used intheir written language, and that thegames played onitarementioned repeatedly intheir fune rary and religious literature.