Family Structure in Ancient Egypt
It is important to assert that much of the archaeological reference to family structure in Ancient Egypt reflects the life of well-to-do families. It it is fair, however, to assume that many of the habits and customs we find in text, documents, paintings and sculpture of Ancient Egypt can also be applied to the working classes.
A typical family structure in Ancient Egypt would be similar to what we find in today’s Egypt, with the father as husband and head of household responsible for the economic well-being of the family. In ancient times, upper-class men earned their living as priests or government officials, while men of lower classes worked as farmers, hunters, artists, sculptors, potters or other craftsmen. It was possible to rise in social rank through the army or by learning to read and write and becoming a scribe.
Matrimony was necessary for the economic well being of the couple, through the division of labor and to beget offspring. Monogamy was the general custom of the family structure in ancient Egypt, with the exception of the pharaoh, possibly to ensure a heir to the throne.
Ancient Egyptian children played with balls, dolls and had games similar to those of Egyptian children today. Peasant children worked with their parents in the fields, and the sons of craftsmen served as apprentices to their fathers. Parents who could afford it, would have their sons be taught by priests in temples to become scribes. Sons stayed at home until about age twenty, and daughters left to marry at a younger age.
It was a duty for the offspring to care for and support their parents during old age. They were also responsible for giving their parents a proper burial and for maintaining a mortuary cult, both of which were considered necessary to ensure the afterlife of their parents.
Whatever time was left for leisure was spent by the ancient Egyptians enjoying food, drink, songs and dance. There were places where men would gather to drink beer and pay for sexual services. Some sport activities included hunting, fowling and fishing, as well as a popular board game, found in tombs, known as Senet.