One of the most comprehensive online collections of Egyptian material culture, the Eternal Egypt website provides invaluable information and photos of many thousands of artifacts from all historical eras of the Egyptian past. Fortunately for scholars and educators of childhood, there is an easy-to-use portion of the website devoted to games and toys, bringing to life the leisure pursuits of children who have lived in Egypt through history.
The Games and Toys component of the Eternal Egypt website is an easy-to-navigate collection of 21 artifacts, mostly from the Pharaonic era, used as toys or games by children of the past. Visitors may click on any artifact to be taken to a new page dedicated to explaining the toy or game in question. Expert information is provided, including the era of the toy, the materials from which it was made, where it was discovered, and in which museum or collection it currently resides. Clear images are provided as well, along with descriptions of the toy in question and explanations about how it might have been used. A handy zoom feature allows viewers to explore the item up close, making small details very clear. Moreover, IBM Text-to-Speech technology has been integrated into the site, making it possible to listen to descriptions while you are exploring the zoom imagery. These are the same descriptions given to visitors of the Egyptian Museum of Cairo, giving remote viewers a similar experience to those fortunate enough to encounter these artifacts first-hand.
Each page also provides links for more information about the time during which the toy was made and enjoyed, as well as the technique used for manufacturing it and the materials from which it was created. For example, the "child's spinning toy" from the 18th Dynasty allows modern children to compare and contrast their own spinning tops by interacting with those of ancient Egyptian children. Maps and timelines are also provided, as well as key topics for further exploration of the society and history of the toy’s era. All of these features are fantastic teaching tools and will serve educators well. Students and teachers may also register to create and store their own "collections" of artifacts on the website. This allows visitors to save items most interesting to them and helps them curate their own virtual museum of Egyptian artifacts.
An interesting classroom exercise might include an examination of the popular themes of historical Egyptian toys. For example, students visiting the site will quickly notice that monkeys and other primates were popular themes for historical children's entertainment. They may compare their own society's fascination in primate-themed toys and try to determine the reasons for this similarity. Another productive exercise may be to recreate some of the popular toys of the past—such as Senet and Backgammon—in a classroom setting, giving students a hands-on experience related to the pastimes of their historical counterparts.
Beyond the section on Games and Toys, there are additional resources available through the search function. A search on "child" yields 112 results; "girl" returns 33 items and "boy" returns 23.
This site is a fantastic resource for educators who want to infuse their classrooms with a sense of humanity. Teaching the past—particularly the ancient past of a foreign country—can be a challenge, but by integrating the material culture of entertainment, and especially that of children, teachers can better humanize their subjects for their students. Eternal Egypt is a wonderful resource for those educators and scholars who would like to get "up close and personal" with the material culture of the Egyptians in the comfort of their own classrooms.
Read a review of the entire Eternal Egypt website on World History Matters, http://chnm.gmu.edu/worldhistorysources/d/241.html.
How to Cite This Source
"Eternal Egypt," in Children and Youth in History, Item #29, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/items/show/29 (accessed May 25, 2013).