23 Interesting Facts About Ancient Egypt You Hardly Heard About

Facts About Ancient Egypt

Everyone knows widespread facts about the Egyptian pyramids, Sphinx, Cleopatra, etc. However, in fact, there are a lot of little-known curious and interesting facts about Ancient Egypt that you have never heard at school and even university.

Many things we use in the modern life were invented in Ancient Egypt, but we forgot about it or didn’t even know about it. Many questions about Ancient Egypt are still the matter of disputes. And, of course, no one can know for sure about the events that happened millennia ago. Nonetheless, some data have reached us from the ancient sources and modern researches. Let’s take a look at the most exciting and little-known facts about Ancient Egypt.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics first appeared in mass use in the last century. Meanwhile, the ancient Egyptians knew about such a medical approach yet 4,000 years ago. They used specially selected mold [1] and plant materials to cope with infection.

Wig

Egyptian couple wearing formal wigs

Photo credit: Guillaume Blanchard (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Wealthy Egyptians, both men, and women wore wigs [2] since they had been cleanly shaven. Their children were cut as well. The reason is not that of vogue. The primary cause was in an attempt to get rid of lice and fleas. Meanwhile, poor people were forced to have long hairs.

Missing nose of the Sphinx

Sphinx Missing Nose

Despite the common belief, the Sphinx lost its nose, not because of the Napoleonic soldiers. Indeed, there is a myth that the nose is broken due to a cannonball fired by Napoleon’s troops. Nevertheless, the sketch made by a Danish naval captain and explorer, Frederic Louis Norden, in 1738 and published in 1755(57) depicts The Great Sphinx of Giza without a nose [3]. Meanwhile, Napoléon Bonaparte was born in 1769.

The first pyramid

The Pyramid of Djoser

The first pyramid built in Egypt is The Pyramid of Djoser, which was erected ca. 27th century BC. Unlike the famous Pyramid of Cheops, this one was the step pyramid. By the way, initially, the structure was surrounded by a wall of light Tura limestone 10.5m high, which consisted of fourteen doors with only one entrance [4].

Female pharaohs

Sobekneferu

Photo credit: ego technique (CC BY 2.5)

The Egyptians believed that all the pharaohs were the embodiment of Horus, the most notable deity. As a result, the supreme power of the country belonged to men. However, after the death of Amenemhat IV, the reign moved to his sister, Sobekneferu. She was the first known woman reigning as pharaoh for which there is confirmed proof [5]. However, she was unlucky to die at an early age [6].

Engagement ring

The ancient Egyptians were first [7] who wore the engagement rings. The ancient Greeks and Romans have later borrowed such a curious custom.

Makeup

Nefertiti Bust showing the use of eye liner made of kohl

Though the Sumerians were presumably those who invented cosmetics, the ancient Egyptians were apparently the first who introduced the lipstick [8]. Egyptian men and women used makeup to emphasize their appearance. Even if you take a look at the Nefertiti Bust, it becomes evident that she used the eyeliner made of kohl.

Perfume

The art of making perfumes first appeared in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt [9]. There is no exact date of the first perfume origin. However, a scene depicting the preparation of lily perfume dated 4th century B.C. which was found in the decoration of a tomb may serve as a proof that the Egyptian knew a lot about the influence of the odor on human senses.

Mail

The first postal document known to humankind was discovered in Egypt [10]. The paper is dated 255 BC. However, yet before, Pharaohs used couriers to spread their decrees across the state (2400 BC) [11].

Board games

Senet

More than 5,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians invented a board game known as Senet. The first image of this ancient game was found in the Third Dynasty tomb of Hesy (c. 2686–2613 BC). Even Nefertari (1295–1255 BC) liked to play Senet, according to the painting in her tomb.

Strikes

The first historical record of a strike is dated 1152 BC. The labor strike caused by lack of pay took place on November, 14, that year. The artisans walked off their jobs since they had not been awarded salary [12]. As a result, the Egyptian authorities were forced to raise the wages.

Contraception

The ancient Egyptian were the first who used contraceptives. The Egyptian Ebers Papyrus dated 1550 BC, as well as Kahun Papyrus of 1850 BC, contains the early records of birth control. The acacia leaves and lint were placed in the vagina to block sperm [13].

Screw thread

The first mechanisms having a screw thread were invented 950 years B.C. and used in Egypt for sewage farm [14]. In the period between two Punic Wars (241-218 B.C.) Archimedes was in Egypt on a visit to Canon and Eratosthenes where improved the cochlea design and then brought this invention to Europe.

Wine cellar

“The oldest chemically confirmed ‘wine cellars’ were discovered in the tomb of Scorpion I,” in accordance with the statement of Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. In his interview with NBC News [15], he proclaimed that this Egyptian tomb is dated to approx. 3150 B.C., and it contained 1,200 gallons of wine delivered from the Jordan Valley.

Cleopatra was not Egyptian

Even though Cleopatra was born in Egypt, she was not Egyptian [16]. She was a descendant of its founder Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general and companion of Alexander the Great.

Egyptian–Hittite peace treaty

Egyptian–Hittite peace treaty

Photo credit: Iocanus (CC BY 3.0)

The Egyptian–Hittite peace treaty [17] was one of the first known to humankind. A curious fact, but this document is the only ancient Near Eastern treaty for which both sides’ versions have survived.

Tutankhamen & Hippo

Tutankhamen

Dr. Benson Harer, an Egyptology professor at California State University, claims that Tutankhamen was being killed presumably by a hippo [18]. His hypothesis looks weird but is widespread in the scientific circles.

Pyramid precision

Pyramid precision

According to reliable studies [19], the astronomical orientation of the Egyptian pyramids was made with surgical accuracy. Each corner of a particular pyramid facing a different cardinal direction: North, East, South, and West.

Mummified Crocodile

Crocodile mummy

Photo courtesy INTERSPECTRAL (fair use; no free images available; illustrative purposes only)

Everyone knows about the process of mummification in Ancient Egypt. But very few people know that the Egyptians also mummified crocodiles for some reason. Nearly 50 tiny crocodiles were found inside an ancient Egyptian mummy’s wrapping, according to National Geographic [20].

Divorce

Divorce and remarriage were quite common in Egypt [21], even between siblings and half-siblings. The process seems to have been pretty straightforward. In the case, if a man divorced his wife, he had to return her dowry.

Beer

Are you a beer lover? The ancient Egyptians knew this beverage many millennia ago. Reliefs on Egyptian tombs dating from 2400 BCE [22] serve as a proof of this fact.

Honey in the ancient tomb

It is hard to believe, but the honey found in the ancient Egyptian tomb dated approx. 3,000 years is still perfectly edible. There are a lot of factors affected the preservation of the honey. Among them are hydrogen peroxide, acidity and lack of water, according to the recent study published in National Geographic [23].

Calendar

And to this day, we use a 365-day year calendar invented by the ancient Egyptians. They split the year at three seasons of 120 days each + 5 epagomenal days. However, prior, the Egyptian used the lunar calendar. In any case, the reason to count days and years was related to a Nile flooding, a natural cycle, which split the year into three broad seasons, known as Flood, Emergence, and Low Water [24].

List of references:

  1. Moulds in ancient and more recent medicine | ScienceDirect
  2. An Ancient Egyptian Wig: Construction and Reconstruction | Internet Archaeology, University of York
  3. F.L. Norden. Travels in Egypt and Nubia, 1757. Plate 47, Profil de la tĂȘte colossale du Sphinx | Brooklyn Museum
  4. Pyramid of Djoser | Wikipedia
  5. K. Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, c. 1800-1550 B.C. CNI Publications 20. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 1997. xiv + 463 pages.
  6. [Dodson, Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Egypt, 2004, p. 98.]
  7. The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Wedding Etiquette by Wendy Toliver
  8. Read My Lips: A Cultural History of Lipstick by Karen Kozlowski, p.20
  9. Perfume | Wikipedia
  10. About history | Universal Postal Union
  11. Mail | Wikipedia
  12. John Romer, Ancient Lives; the story of the Pharaoh’s Tombmakers. London: Phoenix Press, 1984, pp. 116-123 See also E.F. Wente, “A letter of complaint to the Vizier To”, in Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 20, 1961 and W.F. Edgerton, “The strikes in Ramses III’s Twenty-ninth year”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 10, 1951.
  13. Encyclopedia of Motherhood, Volume 1 by Andrea O’Reilly
  14. International Symposium on History of Machines and Mechanisms: Proceedings edited by Marco Ceccarelli, p. 244
  15. Aged to perfection? 3,700-year-old cellar housed ‘luxurious’ wine
  16. 10 Little-Known Facts About Cleopatra | HISTORY
  17. Egyptian–Hittite peace treaty | Wikipedia
  18. Did a Hippo Kill King Tut? | HISTORY
  19. The Astronomical Orientation of the Egyptian Pyramids | Haack, S. C., Journal for the History of Astronomy, Archaeoastronomy Supplement, Vol. 15, p.S119 | Harvard
  20. Images: Surprising Discovery Shows Dozens of Mummified Baby Crocodiles | National Geographic
  21. Women’s Legal Rights in Ancient Egypt by Janet H. Johnson | Fathom Archive
  22. Beer | Encyclopedia Britannica
  23. Honey in the Pyramids | National Geographic
  24. Egyptian calendar | Wikipedia