Not everyone learned to read and write in ancient Egypt. Only one group of people called scribes was allowed to have this knowledge.

Who were the scribes?

Scribes were people in ancient Egypt (usually men) who learned to read and write.

Although experts believe that most scribes were men, there is evidence of some female doctors. These women would have been trained as scribes so that they could read medical texts.

How did someone become a scribe?

To become a scribe, you had to attend a special school for scribes. At this school you would learn how to read and write hieroglyphic and hieratic scripts. This was hard work. These scripts are complicated, and there were many signs to learn.

Students spent a lot of time practising the signs by copying them onto sheets of papyrus, old pieces of pottery or flakes of limestone.

Limestone flake used for practising hieroglyphic signs.

Could anyone become a scribe?

No. Most often it was the children of scribes who became scribes. Although some craftsmen were able to get their sons into the school for scribes, it was very rare.

How long did it take to become a scribe?

It could take four to five years for a person to go through scribe school.

What tools did a scribe use?

Scribes usually wrote on papyrus with reed brushes dipped in ink. The ancient Egyptians made ink by grinding brightly coloured minerals into powder, then mixing the powder with liquid so that it was easier to apply.