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Children and Young People in Ancient Egypt

The status and definition of children in ancient Egypt varied throughout its history. Additionally, people of age groups which we might consider children today (under 18s) would have varied from the age groups which the ancient Egyptians would have considered children. So, for example, in the New Kingdom, the motif of the adolescent girl was used on various items associated with fertility. The adolescent girl does not seem to have been used in this way prior to the New Kingdom, and it seems probable that she was considered an adult by the Egyptians.


As rebirth after death was thought to parallel birth itself, the same items were sometimes common to both. So, for example, apotropaic wands are found in burials but seem to be associated with childbirth. Weighing of the heart scenes associated with the judgement of the deceased sometimes include the motif of a birth brick.

Among the objects in the Centre connected with childhood are:

W1013 A cartonnage case containing a foetus

An apotropaic wand

W1161 A stela showing a boy holding a bird

EC25 a pottery bird, perhaps a children’s toy

W702a a possible child’s toy (tip-cat)

EC162 Clappers probably made for a child

W257a a flint found in a child’s hand in a grave

Items associated with the deity Bes, a protector of women in childbirth and of children

EC537 Nubian head

Items associated with the child deity Harpocrates

Items associated with Taweret, a protector of women in childbirth and of children

Further reading:


Graves-Brown, C.A. (2010),  Chapter 4 in Dancing for Hathor. Women in Ancient Egypt. Continuum.

Janssen, R. and Janssen, J. J. (1990),Growing Up in Ancient Egypt. Rubicon.