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Drawing in ancient Egypt

Rectangular drawing and writing boards were important educational tools in ancient Egypt. Made from wood and covered with a thin layer of plaster, they were used by those wealthy enough to receive a formal education. The board’s surface was coated with gesso and could be cleaned and reused, much like slate-writing tablets of more recent times.

This particular board was used for drawing. Half covered in a squared red grid, it features a royal figure above which two cartouches contain the throne name MenkheperkareIt. This was the name used by Thutmosis III (1481-1425 BC) the sixth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty.

It has been suggested that the illustration was perhaps a preliminary drawing that was later to be transferred to a tomb or temple wall. As you can see, even in ancient Egyptians days drawing hands proved tricky!

Drawing board, BC1479-1425, Egypt, wood and plaster. British Museum collection

You can see this and many other ancient Egyptian artefacts in the British Museum’s Touring Exhibition ‘Egyptian hieroglyphs: unlock the mystery’. It is open from now until 12 October and admission is free.

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