Saturday, November 22, 2008

Differences in Genders

The life of an ancient Egyptian was short and difficult. Newborn children were not likely to survive their first year. The infant mortality rate was extremely high, possibly around 60-70%, and the mortality rate for women in childbirth was also extremely high. Children then were seen as a special blessing from the gods if they survived their first year.

After about the age of 5, boys and girls were separated in their learning experiences. Boys from wealthy families went to school. Boys from poor families began helping with the men's jobs in the fields or whatever other occupation their father happened to hold. A boy's education lasted the child was between 12 and 16 at which time they were considered grown and could begin to work for themselves. This would be the earliest age for men to marry, but normally they were between 17-20 years of age when they took their first wife. Men could take more than one wife, but had to be able to support each of them and their children. As a result, this was usually done only by the very wealthy. Most men then continued to work until they died, the average life span was approximately 30 years of age for a poorer working man. Making it past the age of 40 was seen as a special blessing and those who did so were rewarded. Men were granted a stipend by the government consisting of grain and vegetables each year. This ration was smaller than what he would have earned had he continued to work but it was enough to keep him alive.

Girls lives were much different than boys. Their entire life was centered around the home and family. At age 4, girls would begin to learn from their mothers how to maintain the house . They would learn how to sew, make foods, and keep house. The hours spent doing domestic chores were much longer than the educational hours of boys. Cloth had to be made and sewed into pieces of clothing, the fields planted and tended, food prepared, and countless other household chores. Girls were expected to marry after they began menstruating around the age of 12 or 13, although there is evidence of girls marrying as young as 8 or 9 years of age. They were also excepted to have a child within the first year of marriage. Pregnancy was a revered condition in ancient Egypt and even if a girl wasn't married, her pregnancy was celebrated. Women's lives were also relatively short with an average of 30 years for poor women and slightly more for women from richer families. Female retirement was different from men's, however. Women were to be taken care of by their sons. If a women had no sons she was to be taken care of by her daughter and son-in-law, but this was rare and occurred only if the daughter was now part of a wealthier family. It was more likely that these old women would be forced to live as beggars.


1 comment:

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