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Egyptian Writing

The Egyptians - Role of the Scribe

Faience figurine of a cynocephalus or dog-headed baboon, possibly representing Thoth, the god of scribesScribes were important in ancient Egypt. Very few people could read or write. Anyone who had these skills was extremely useful. If you were a boy who was clever and worked hard at school you might train as a scribe, even if you came from a poor family. Scribes were trained at temples (called a House of Life) and could also be employed in them. Many priests were themselves scribes.

Training was a long and hard task; pupils were often beaten. But becoming a scribe was a good job. Educated people who could read and write were needed to help run the country. Scribes who worked at this had to learn several languages. As well as Egyptian, they had to know Akkadian. This was the language spoken in the lands surrounding Egypt.

Scribe's ink palette and stylusBoys frequently followed their fathers in becoming scribes. Writings tell us that scribes had an important place in society. Several of these state that the life of a scribe was good, and that it was better to be a scribe than anything else; it was seen as a comfortable and wealthy life. Many scribes could afford to have statues made of themselves.

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