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Interpreting the Evidence

Artist's Rendering of Ancient Egyptian Artwork Showing Men Working with Metal, 1930

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Artist's Rendering of Ancient Egyptian Artwork Showing Men Working with Metal, 1930 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Artist's rendering of Ancient Egyptian artwork showing men working with metal. The image is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. These pictures depict the tools and methods used to shape and decorate metal works. Ancient Egyptians mined copper, gold, bronze, and tin, and shaped these metals into objects, such as knives, weapons, and vessels for holding liquid, 1930.
Historical Context
This artwork is a copy made in 1930 of a print owned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the picture, ancient Egyptian metal workers beat vessels into shape using stones and anvils, polish vessels with pebbles, and ornament vessels with incised decoration.

Art in ancient Egypt was known for its uniformity.  No one wanted anything original or different.  When painting or drawing the human body, artists wanted to show the parts of the body as completely as possible.  For example, when artists drew a head, they drew it as a profile so that both the front and back of the head could be seen at the same time.  

The size of the figures in the artwork signified their importance.  Kings were the largest figures, often drawn larger than life to suggest their godlike powers.  Other figures, such as wives or servants, were much smaller than the king.  The key figures were shown almost frozen in position, usually standing, sitting, or kneeling.  The positions of their hands gave greater meaning to what the characters were actually doing.

Artists used colors as symbols.  Red and orange had many meanings, including power, blood, and the desert, while yellow stood for the sun and Ra (the sun god).  Cooler colors, like blue and green, represented water and plants.

Essential Question
How does art contribute to the development of a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the image presented in the artwork and explain the purpose of the art.
Historical Challenges
Find and illustrate the poses used most often in Egyptian artwork. Explain what the purpose of each pose was. (For example, when both hands were shown held up and out to the sides with the palms facing forward, it symbolized protection.)
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Figures in Egyptian art were drawn according to a standard proportion. Using figures in different Egyptian drawings or paintings, measure the heads, torsos, and legs to find out what the proportion was.
Science: Egyptian artwork was very colorful. Artists used charcoal for black, malachite for green, etc. Experiment with different berries, plants, and even beetles to see what colors you can make.
English Language Arts: Choose a single Egyptian drawing or painting and interpret its meaning.