What was the furniture made of 5000 years ago?

What was the furniture made of 5000 years ago?


  • Acacia

  • Fig tree

  • Tamarisk

Looking at the murals of ancient Egyptian tombs, you probably noticed that wooden furniture is often depicted there: beds, chairs, stools, chests – and, perhaps, even found their fragments. It is also hard not to notice that some of the sarcophagi were made of wood.


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Egyptian civilization has existed for several thousand years, and during this time craftsmen invented many things that experts in woodworking use to this day.

For example, it was there that veneering was invented – when a thin layer of beautiful and expensive wood is glued to a simpler base, creating the impression of a solid array. The earliest examples of veneered wood are more than 5 thousand years old, and they were found in the tomb of Semerkhet.

The oldest plywood on earth was found in one of the tombs of the third dynasty. It was made up of six layers of wood, each on the order of a few millimeters in thickness, which were held together with wooden pegs. Instead of nails and screws, leather straps were used, passed through specially drilled holes.

The Egyptians created magnificent furniture, covered it with gold foil and made inlays of black and blue faience, ebony and ivory. Then they covered everything with varnish (which is also an ancient Egyptian invention). This furniture has survived to this day and looks very interesting. In the contours of these chairs are rounded shapes, which were later borrowed, for example, during the heyday of the Empire and Art Nouveau.





How did they do it? Ancient Egyptian carpenters used a variety of tools, including axes, two-handed saws, bow drills, chisels, and scrapers. The workplace looked something like this:


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Carpenters along the ancient Nile used a variety of tree species. At first, these were Nile acacias, sycamore trees (also known as biblical figs or plane trees) and tamarisks.

Nile acacia, like an oak tree, became very durable when kept in water. Tool handles were made from it, as well as famous Egyptian boats. The acacia smells good, and its yellow flowers resemble little fluffy suns. From the bark of acacias, tannin was mined – a means for tanning leather.






The Egyptians called acacia the tree of life and believed that it was under the shade of acacia that the first gods were born. However, the high mystical status and the fact that edible gum arabic could be obtained from acacias did not interfere with making stools from acacia:


Nile acacia furniture is still being created today. For example, here’s a table from Studio Hestia:


Fig tree

Plane trees, unlike acacias, look more like beautiful and spreading trees in the middle lane, which is noticeable even in the frescoes:



They are especially resistant to water. Platans were often used to make water wheels, wells, and agricultural tools.
It is interesting that in modern furniture made from the biblical fig tree, something ancient Egyptian appears – as if the material obliges the masters to create in a completely specific way:




In Egyptian mythology, the body of Osiris is hidden for some time in a tamarisk tree in Byblos, until it was found by Isis.



Tamarisk was used to make amazingly durable bows. Nowadays it is rarely used for carpentry work, although its fine-grained wood is quite hard and heavy, and the wide core tree has a rich pink-red color with characteristic radiant spots when cut into a quarter – like a sycamore. Here is a modern tamarisk box:


However, Egypt has always been a desert country: trees grow there only along the Nile, and therefore sycamores, plane trees and tamarisks quickly ended – already in the second dynasty, the tree began to be imported. So, cedar, Aleppo pine, boxwood, oak and ebony began to be delivered to Egypt from different parts of the ancient east. But we will talk about these trees and what can be made of them in the following articles.

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About Leona Smith 115 Articles
Hello! My name is Silke and this is my travel blog. I want to show you fascinating places off the beaten track, give you a gentle introduction to history and culture, and help you get around Berlin. After 13 years in Sydney and Andalusia, I now live in Berlin, Germany. I am a travel writer, translator and book author. Read more about me here.

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