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Women at Giza

Most sources of information about ancient Egyptian women were produced by men, and they usually represent an elite perspective of their times. Ancient Egyptian culture and administration operated to the benefit of men, leaving a much narrower range of opportunity to women. A woman’s status usually came from her father in her youth and from her husband later in life. At Giza this difference in status is often appears visually in tomb scenes. Women and children often are shown at smaller size than a larger male tomb owner, who is the center of attention. Young women and men ideally were expected to establish a household by marrying and starting their own families. The home was in some respects acknowledged as a domain of the wife/mother, especially in elite households. Men of the elite administrative classes traveled often and could spend significant time away from home, and poorer families usually were farmers with fields tended by male household members. Mothers balanced many responsibilities of household management and childcare, sometimes alongside fieldwork of their own. Many tasks of everyday life probably were not divided solely on the basis of gender, but there are some general trends. Women are more frequently depicted baking – especially in the rigorous task of grinding grain – and weaving appears to have been undertaken primarily by women. The most common positions for women with official titles were related to ceremonial activities in temples, some of which held major influence in certain historical periods. The highest status positions for women were, of course, those of queen and princess. Among Giza’s most important and impressive tombs are those of Queen Hetepheres I (tomb G 7000 X) and Queen Meresankh III (tomb G 7130-7140).

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