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Ancient Egypt: Upper middle class housing - the house of Djehutinefer
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The House of Djehutinefer

    Djehutinefer was a royal scribe and treasurer under Amenhotep II. He lived and was buried at Thebes, where drawings of his townhouse were found. According to the depiction of its outside it was narrow and tall with a wide entrance. The walls were painted blue.
    He had a second tomb made for himself where a kind of a cross section of his house was shown.

The house of Djehutinefer after a drawing in his tomb, Source: 'Pharaos Volk' by  T.G.H.James

    Djehutinefer's house seems to have been three storeys high - Egyptians sometimes drew horizontal as vertical space (things spatially side by side were depicted as being one above the other, cf. the two servants occupied with bread-making - bottom right). It was very spacious compared to the houses of common people.
    The floor size of this house can be estimated. Pillars had to be used when the width of the room exceeded three to four metres, the maximum length that could be covered by beams cut from local wood. Supposing that all rooms were of the same width and that just one pillar supported the ceiling in the rooms on the left, their width would have been about six to seven metres. The rooms with one pillar were about as long as they were wide and those with two pillars had a length of about eight to ten metres, which resulted in a floor size of about ninety to a hundred square metres per storey, not including the staircases and any further rooms not depicted.
    The servants probably all lived under somewhat cramped conditions in the rooms they worked in, the two top floors seem to have housed the family. Compared with the palatial Great Houses at Hotep Senusret which covered about 2000 m², Djehutinefer's 400 odd m² house was not huge but provided its inhabitants comfortable shelter.
 
    The picture shows Djehutinefer's household as a working and business establishment. The ground floor is given over to the servants, spinners spinning and three weavers working at two vertical looms. Further to the right another servant is grinding corn and someone probably sifting the flour, an important task as little pieces of rock were frequently part of the flour.
    The second floor is the living area of the family. In the main hall, the qa'a, the master of the house sits on a chair placed on a dais. Servants bring refreshments and flowers. There are four small windows close to the ceiling, more for ventilation than lighting. Higher than all the other rooms in the house and probably better equipped and more lavishly decorated, this was the room where the master of the house received guests.
    On the third floor there is a kind of office. Again the master sits on his raised chair. A servant cools him with a fan and chases flies away. Another offers him a drink. Scribes squat in attendance.
    On the roof there are grain stores. The food is mostly prepared and cooked up here and has to be carried downstairs.
    The ceilings of all the rooms are supported by wooden pillars with three different capitals, simple and unadorned in the servants' quarters and more elaborate upstairs.

 

    Not every one had as grandiose a habitation as Djehutinefer or even his own living space neatly separated from that of his neighbour. Ownership of land and rights of access in towns were often shared among a number of people and were sometimes unclear, leading to tensions among neighbours. The drawing up of an owner's rights could prevent future court cases.
You may go up (to) and down (from) the roof on the stairway of this aforesaid house and you may go in and out (of the front hallway by means of the) main doorway of said house and its house path which goes from the south to the street and (you) may make any alteration on it (with your workmen) and your materials in proportion to your aforesaid one-eighteenth share from today onward forever."
From a bill of sale dated to the middle of the third cent. BCE,
Oriental Institute, U. of Chicago
(see also Residential areas)

 


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-Limestone model of a town house , British Museum

 

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© December 2000
Updates:
March 2014
November 2004
June 2002

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