All rich landowners possessed monkeys, gazelle, ibex and other animals of the desert which they caught, tamed and kept on their estates. They had long learned that the dog was man’s best friend as well as his hunting companion, sheepdogs, greyhounds (often on a leash) and salukis were favourites. Greyhounds and salukis were allowed to enter the house or even sleep beneath the master’s chair. There are no representations of a nobleman petting a dog, but the Egyptian tomb of Kagemni has a relief of him watching a puppy being fed. Dogs were given names: one was buried near his master in a ist-dynasty burial ground and his tombstone was inscribed ‘Neb’ (Lord), with his picture. Cats seem not to have been allowed in houses in the Old Kingdom, they were depicted only in papyrus groves, raiding birds’ nests. The Nile goose was given special treatment, being allowed into courtyard and garden. Domestic fowl did not include cocks and hens, only ducks, pigeons, geese and waterfowl.
Wealthy ancient Egyptian households included numerous servants, attending the master punctiliously from the moment he rose in the morning. These were free servants, Egyptians of poorer classes, at liberty to leave their master’s service if they so wished. He had ‘listeners’ for his call, ‘cup-bearers’ to wait at table, and ‘followers’ to bear his sandals, matting and fly-whisk. Most households included dwarfs and hunchbacks, who were not maltreated or used for amusement purposes, but were employed in the laundry or the kitchen, or put in charge of the household pets. One of the richest tombs on the Giza necropolis in fact belongs to a dwarf named Seneb.
The Egyptian tomb of Ptahhotep contains a mural showing the nobleman at his morning toilet. A pedicurist works on his feet, a manicurist on his hands, while musicians entertain him and his pet greyhound and a monkey take refuge beneath his chair. People were fastidious about cleanliness, especially the women. They took great pains with their toilet, washing their bodies with particular attention before meals, using a basin and a vessel with a spout. They shaved their limbs with bronze hooked razors with curved blades, and used tweezers and scrapers. Special care was taken with their hair, which they washed, anointed with oils and fashioned into curls and plaits with the aid of combs of wood and ivory. Women applied their characteristic band of colour round the eye with a paint roduced from lead ores and known from pre-dynastic times as a remedy for eye ailments as well as for adornment, using tiny ivory and wooden sticks and mirrors (polished metal discs with a handle). All small items were kept in decorative boxes of ebony, alabaster, marble and crystal, sometimes engraved with miniature bas-reliefs.
In a ancient Egyptian land of almost constant sunshine much clothing was unnecessary. Most garments were made of linen. Silk and cotton were unknown and wool only rarely used. The women wore a sheath from beneath the arms extending to the ankles with broad bands over the shoulders. The men wore short, broad, pleated skirts and sandals. Children, as befitted the climate, were left without clothing. Ancient Egyptians were not self-conscious about nudity. Maidservants and dancers had loincloths and girdles only, often with blossoms around the neck. The simple effect of the clothing was enhanced by colourful jewellery which both men and women loved to wear: elaborate coloured necklaces and bead collars, and bracelets for the women. Since the men usually kept their hair closely cropped, wigs were an important article of apparel among the upper classes.
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