Ancient Egypt for Kids
Scribes were the people in ancient Egypt who wrote things down. In ancient Egypt, everything was written down. From the writings we have found, we have learned a great deal about these ancient people, including their love of written lists!
Besides the need for lists in government and in the daily life of Egyptians citizens, scribes also wrote coffin texts. Over a thousand different coffin texts have been discovered by archaeologists. Coffin texts are spells written on coffins. Scribes also wrote the Book of the Dead, which was not a book, but was a collection of single pieces of papyrus, each with a written spell that you could purchase in the marketplace.
There were powerful scribe families in ancient Egypt where the ability to write had been passed down from father to son, generation after generation. But newcomers did break into this elite group if they could pass the test. Scribe school was open to anyone who could afford the fee. Typically, very few students passed the exam unless they had prior training, but all those who passed, whatever their prior background, were in high demand. There was tremendous prestige attached to being a scribe. Scribes were busy, but they also lived very good lives, with many luxuries.
The ancient Egyptians wrote on obelisks, pyramids, tombs, coffins, sarcophagi, statues, walls of their homes, and papyrus scrolls. Even if the ancient Egyptians had invented the camera or the tape recorder, they still would have written things down. They wanted to make sure they had records of everything, especially records of the good deeds they had done, and their many achievements, to prove the many good deeds they had done. Doing good deeds kept their hearts light. This made sure they would reach their afterlife.