Jobs in Ancient Egypt Reading Questions and Answers

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  • IELTS Reading Multiple Choice Questions
  • IELTS Reading Summary Completion
  • IELTS Reading Matching Features

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IELTS Reading PassageJobs in Ancient Egypt

Jobs in Ancient Egypt

In order to be engaged in the higher professions in ancient Egypt, a person had co be literate and so first had to become a scribe. The apprenticeship for this job lasted many years and was tough and challenging. It principally involved memorizing hieroglyphic symbols and practicing handwritten lettering. Scribes noted the everyday activities in ancient Egypt and wrote about everything from grain stocks to tax records. Therefore, most of our information on this rich culture comes from their records. Most scribes were men from privileged backgrounds. The occupation of scribe was among the most sought-after in ancient Egypt. Craftspeople endeavored to get their sons into the school for scribes, but they were rarely successful.

As in many civilizations, the lower classes provided the means for those above them to live comfortable lives. You needed to work if you wanted to eat, but there was no shortage of jobs at any time in Egypt’s history. The commonplace items taken for granted today, such as a brush or bowl, had to be made by hand; laundry had to be washed by hand, clothing sewn, and sandals made from papyrus and palm leaves. In order to make these and have paper to write on, papyrus plants had to be harvested, processed and distributed and all these jobs needed workers. There were rewards and sometimes difficulties. The reed cutter, for example, who harvested papyrus plants along the Nile, had to bear in mind that he worked in an area that was also home to wildlife that, at times, could prove fatal.

At the bottom rung of all these jobs were the people who served as the basis for the entire economy: the farmers. Farmers usually did not own the land they worked. They were given food, implements, and living quarters as payment for their labor. Although there were many more glamorous jobs than farming, farmers were the backbone of the Egyptian economy and sustained everyone else.

The details of lower-class jobs are known from medical reports on the treatment of injuries, letters, and documents written on various professions, literary works, tomb inscriptions, and artistic representations. This evidence presents a comprehensive view of daily work in ancient Egypt – how the jobs were done, and sometimes how people felt about the work. In general, the Egyptians seem to have felt pride in their work no matter what their occupation. Everyone had something to contribute to the community, and no skills seem to have been considered non-essential. The potter who produced cups and bowls was as important to the community as the scribe, and the amulet-maker as vital as the pharmacist.

Part of making a living, regardless of one’s special skills, was raking part in the king’s monumental building projects. Although it is commonly believed that the great monuments and temples of Egypt were achieved through slave labor, there is absolutely no evidence to support this. The pyramids and other monuments were built by Egyptian laborers who either donated their time as community service or were paid for their labor, and Egyptians from every occupation could be called on to do this.

Stone had to first be quarried and chis required workers to split the blocks from the rock cliffs. It was done by inserting wooden wedges in the rock which would swell and cause the stone to break from the face. The often huge blocks were then pushed onto sleds, devices better suited than wheeled vehicles to moving weighty objects over shifting sand. They were then rolled to a different location where they could be cut and shaped. This job was done by skilled stonemasons working with copper chisels and wooden mallets. As the chisels could gee blunt, a specialist in sharpening would take the tool, sharpen it, and bring it back. This would have been constant daily work as the masons could wear down their tools on a single block.

The blocks were then moved into position by unskilled laborers. These people were mostly farmers who could do nothing with their land during the months when the Nile River overflowed its banks. Egyptologists Bob Brier and Hoyt Hobbs explain: ‘For two months annually, workmen gathered by the tells of thousands from all over the country to transport the blocks a permanent crew had quarried during the rest of the year. Overseers organized the men into teams to transport the stones on the sleds.’ Once the pyramid was complete, the inner chambers needed to be decorated by scribes who painted elaborate images on the walls. Interior work on tombs and temples also required sculptors who could expertly cut away the stone around certain figures or scenes that had been painted.

While these artists were highly skilled, everyone – no matter what their job for the rest of the year – was expected to contribute to communal projects. This practice was in keeping with the value of ma’at (harmony and balance) which was central to Egyptian culture. One was expected to care for others as much as oneself and contributing to the common good was an expression of this. There is no doubt there were many people who did not love their job every day, but the Egyptian government was aware of how hard the people worked and so staged a number of festivals throughout the year to show gratitude and give them days off to relax.

Questions 28-32

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.Write the correct letter in boxes 28-32 on your answer sheet.

28. What does the writer say about scribes in ancient Egypt?

       A. Their working days were very long.       
B. The topics they wrote about were very varied.       
C. Many of them were once ordinary working people.       
D. Few of them rfs11j,§gd, the true value of their occupation.

29. What is the writer doing in the second paragraph?

       A. explaining why jobs were plentiful in ancient Egypt       
B. pointing out how honest workers were in ancient Egypt       
C. comparing manual and professional work in ancient Egypt       
D. noting the range of duties an individual worker had in ancient Egypt

30. What is the writer doing in the fifth paragraph?

       A. explaining a problem       
B. describing a change       
C. rejecting a popular view       
D. criticising a past activity

31. The writer refers to the value of ma’at in order to explain

       A. how the work of artists reflected beliefs in ancient Egypt.       
B. how ancient Egyptians viewed their role in society.       
C. why the opinions of certain people were valued in ancient Egypt.       
D. why ancient Egyptians expressed their views so readily.

32. Which word best describes the attitude of the Egyptian government toward its workers?

       A. strict       
B. patient       
C. negligent       
D. appreciative

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Questions 33-36

Look at the following statements (Questions 33-36) and the list of jobs below.Match each statement with the correct job, A- G.

Write the correct letter, A- G, in boxes 33- 36 on your answer sheet.

33. was unable to work at certain times
34. divided workers into groups
35. faced daily hazards
36. underwent a long period of training

List of Jobs

A. scribe
B. reed cutter
C. farmer
D. potter
E. stonemason
F. overseer
G. sculptor

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Questions 37-40

Complete the summary below. Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the text above for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 37- 40 on your answer sheet.

The king’s building projects

Labourers who worked on the king’s buildings were local people who chose to participate in 37 ……………….. or who received payment.

The work involved breaking up stone cliffs using wooden wedges. The large pieces of stone were then transported to another site on sleds, which moved easily over the 38 ……………….. Here, the blocks could be cut and shaped using tools made of 39 ……………….. and wood. Some of these had to be sharpened regularly.

Eventually, the stone was moved into place to create a building. The job of moving the Stone was often done by 40 ……………….. or other unskilled workers.

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28. B
29. A
30. C
31. B
32. D
33. C
34. F
35. B
36. A
37. community service
38. shifting sand
39. copper
40. farmers


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