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Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Objects from everyday life
© 2002 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet
Objects from everyday life
The hoe, the basic implement for working the earth, is still used in Egypt today. This multifunctional tool played an important role in a country where survival depended on agriculture and irrigation. This one, composed of two wooden elements and a piece of rope, thus provides fascinating evidence of everyday life in ancient Egypt.
A simple but sophisticated tool
This hoe consists of two pieces: a handle with a cavity into which a broad blade is fitted. A wooden peg or a strap could be used to tighten the fit. Both pieces are wooden - metal was a costly material, rarely used for Egyptian farming implements.
Despite the simple materials with which it was constructed, this implement was streamlined for efficiency. A slight bulge at the end of the handle provided a good grip. A rope, to prevent the hoe coming apart during use, is wound around a notch in the handle, and attached through two holes in the blade. It maintained the distance between the two pieces, which could probably also be adjusted as required.
A farming tool -
Signs of wear at the tip of the blade are evidence that this hoe was really used. The hoe was the basic farming implement in ancient Egypt. It was used to prepare the ground for sowing, then to cover the seeds over once the sowers had passed. Its importance was such that it was chosen to feature in Egyptian writing, in the form of a hieroglyph.
- and a digging implement
The use of the hoe was not restricted to farming. It was also used to dig and clean the canals and reservoirs necessary for irrigation and for access to monuments. Scenes representing temple foundation rituals show the pharaoh wielding a hoe, which was used to dig the foundation trenches. It was also used to prepare the clay required to make mud bricks, the main building material for ancient Egyptian houses. Because of its usefulness, the hoe featured among the objects carried by shabtis - funerary statuettes charged with performing the tasks required of the deceased in the afterlife.
Bibliography"Les artistes de Pharaon, Deir el-Médineh et la Vallée des Rois", Collectif, cat. exp. Paris, Louvre, 2002, notice 28, p. 95, éd. RMN
New Kingdom (?), c. 1550-1069 BC
W. 62 cm
Assigned to the Louvre in 1948, from the Musée Guimet
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