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Questions about Egypt

What kind of games did the Egyptians play?

Dr. dig responds:

Believe it or not, the Egyptians played some games that are familiar to us today. For example, they played tag, tug-of-war, leapfrog, marbles, ball and boardgames. Egyptian paintings show boys playing soldiers and girls holding hands in a sort of spinning dance. Board games included the game Senet which is sold in some toy stores today.

The ancient Egyptians played a game similiar to leap frog. What was it called?

Dr. dig responds:

The ancient Egyptian game of leapfrog was called "khuzza lawizza".

We are trying to plan an Egyptian birthday party. I was wondering what types of games ancient Egyptian children played when they were together and had to amuse themselves.

Dr. dig responds:

Here are a few games and activities that might be suitable for an Egyptian style party. I have listed more than you can possibly do, but you can choose those that suit the children's ages and temperaments best. It's always a good idea to have a few extra ideas under your belt just in case the pace is faster than you expect!

1. Egyptian-Style tug-of-war: for this game you need an even number of children - at least four. Use chalk or a stick to make a line on the ground between teams. Then each team's players LINK ELBOWS and tug, trying to pull the other team over the line.

2. Carve a scarab beetle from a bar of soap.

3. Have the children guess the riddle of the sphinx - this is a true riddle, 3000 years old! What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening? Think hard and see what you and your friends come up with. Need the answer? A human walks on four legs in the morning - that is, as a baby, who crawls; on two legs in the afternoon - as a child and as an adult; and on three legs in the evening - using a cane as an old person!

4. Draw like an Egyptian: draw the head, eyes, legs and feet as if you were looking at them from the side. But draw the body as if looking from the front. Don't use depth or perspective. If you want to show distance, put the thing that's far away on the top or bottom of the picture. Make the most important person or creature larger than others in the drawing. Show a scene in which something is happening. Draw women in light colors and men in dark colors (men were probably more tan because they worked outside, while women worked indoors out of the sun).

5. Make a wall painting

6. Use your head to carry something. Maybe the Egyptians had such beautiful posture because they used their heads to carry things. Our heads and necks can be very strong if we hold them the right way. To test this method of carrying, try walking with a book or a basket of towels on top of your head. You will only be able to do it if you carry your body upright and walk smoothly. This would make a great relay race at a party.

7. Dance like an Egyptian (statue). Play the game of musical statues and have children dance like an Egyptian.

8. Eat party food fit for an Egyptian pharaoh. Grapes, figs, dates, apples, melons, pomegranates and the occasional coconut - these are the fruits the ancient Egyptians enjoyed, so they are perfect fruits to serve at your party. You probably don't have the pet monkey or baboon who can pick the fruit off the trees for you, the way Egyptians had, but if it's ripe the fruit will still taste good! Remember that there were no forks or spoons in ancient Egypt; People ate with the tips of their fingers, and everyone was given a little bowl of water to dip their fingers into after the meal.

The directions for making rhubarb papyrus as they are published in the August/September 1999 issue of dig are as follows:

You will need:

  • a sheet or t-shirt cut into 1 foot squares
  • plenty of newspaper
  • several heavy books - telephone books are good
  • a hammer, knife and vegetable peeler
  • a small bunch of rhubarb (approx. 1 stalk per child)

1. prepare work surface - pile four or five squares of cloth on top of several sheets of newspaper. Cut the leaves and ends off the rhubarb

2. with vegetable peeler or knife, cut the rhubarb LENGTHWISE to create several long strips. The thinner the strips the shorter the drying time. To get even strips hold the rhubarb firmly against the worksurface

3. lay some of the rhubarb strips side by side on the cloth. Weave the rest of the rhubarb, a strip at a time, under and over the strips already on the cloth. An extra pair of hands might be needed here (perhaps the children can work in pairs and help eachother)

4. Place another four or five sheets of cloth on top of your woven rhubarb. Then use the hammer to pound gently against the rhubarb. The idea is to release the rhubarb juices, but NOT mash the fibers to pulp. You're ready for the next step when you see the juices seeping through the cloth and the lovely woven pattern appears.

5. After pressing, cover the cloth with several sheets of newspaper and then put some heavy books on top. The newspaper will absorb the extra moisture. Replace the newspaper every few hours until the rhubarb is completely dry (the children can take their rhubarb home with them to complete the process if they wish). Then peel the cloth away and gaze at your handiwork. If the rhubarb is wrinkled, keep it pressed for another few hours. Hold it to the light. Beautiful!

This process of making rhubarb papyrus is very similar to the way the ancient Egyptians would have made real papyrus paper. Unlike woodpulp papers made from pulping wood chips, papyrus is a process that laminates the vegetable strips together using their own juices as a natural glue.


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