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The History of Ancient Egyptian Furniture

    History

    • It is difficult for historians to estimate when the first pieces of furniture were produced in ancient Egypt. Most of it was made of wood, which disintegrates over time. A number of scholars and sources note that Snefru, the first king of Egypt's fourth dynasty, brought "40 ships filled with cedar from Lebanon" in about 2600 B.C. The ancient Egyptian furniture collection in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art dates from about 2800 B.C.

    Furniture Types

    • Common items of furniture in ancient Egypt included wooden beds with mats of woven cords, chests, chairs and stools. Since wood was scarce, large furniture pieces were reserved for royalty or the wealthy. Coffins were also constructed of wood.

    Wood

    • Although wood was available in Ancient Egypt---acacia, almond, poplar, sycamore and willow---much of it was scarce or not suitable for making furniture, so it had to be imported. Cedar was most commonly used for fine carpentry, and it was brought in from what is now Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. Other woods used included ash, beech, maple, oak and pine.

    Construction

    • According to Nora Scott, associate curator of Egyptian art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, ancient Egyptian craftsmen were skilled in assembling furniture. They used many construction techniques used today, including mortise-and-tenon, butterfly and miter joints. King Tut-ankh-Amun's carpenters were the first to use metal nails in woodwork.

    Ornamentation

    • Ancient Egyptian craftsmen were experts of decorative techniques; they decorated their furniture pieces with wood or ivory inlays and elaborate artwork. Royal coffins were carved with patterns and covered in sheets of gold.

    Tools

    • A highly skilled Egyptian carpenter used simple tools consisting of a saw, axe, adze, chisel, mallet, bow drill and polishers.

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