There’s something alluring about the ancient Egyptians that keeps us enthralled. Without the aid of modern technology, ancient Egyptians managed to create a powerful and enduring civilization in an age when modern conveniences hadn’t been invented yet. Egyptian peasants, skilled craftspeople, merchants, priests and royalty contributed to the greater good of all.
Continue reading to find out what surprising things we have in common with ancient Egyptians. Large and small tombs preserve the remains of great rulers and those of high rank, and slide #2 shows who else benefited from these magnificent structures. Find out what Cleopatra did to her siblings in slide #8, and be amazed by what archeologists found in slide #14.
14. Scribes Were Like News Reporters
Scribes were people who learned how to read and write, giving them the ability to record events of historical significance. Scribes wrote about the activities of the Pharoahs, and also made note of daily life as they saw it happen. They were the news reporters of their day, and wrote everything by hand using handcrafted brushes dipped in natural ink to jot down observations on sheets of papyrus.
Learning how to write words in the hieratic and hieroglyphic styles required special school training, which lasted about five years. The majority of scribes were men, but a few women learned this highly specialized skill. Being a scribe was mostly a family affair, and scribe schools favored the children of trained scribes.
13. Tombs Were Basically Storage Facilities
The type of items stored inside of tombs varied greatly, and depended on the social status of the deceased. Persons of royal persuasion were given luxurious items made of gold and other precious materials. The tomb of King Tut contained rare treasures for his enjoyment. Alternatively, people of common means had tombs filled with practical items such as blankets, hunting spears and clothing.
As time passed, tomb raiders discovered these stored goodies and took most of it for private sale or use.
12. Egyptian Women Had More Legal Rights Than Greek Women
Women in ancient Egypt had legal rights and privileges granted to them that rival our modern culture. Compared to the women of ancient Greek society, these ladies had it good. Egyptian women freely entered into legal contracts on their own accord. This legal right alone allowed them to gain their independence. Women were able to control finances, buy and sell goods, make money and spend it freely.
Courts also tapped women to serve on juries, something unheard of in Greece, the birthplace of democracy. It’s ironic that women living under autocratic rulers had more women’s rights than Greek women, who lived under the thumb of fathers, husbands and other men.
11. Mummification and Drying Organs Was a Spiritual Act
Ancient Egyptians perfected the art of mummification. Preserving the body after death was spiritually important to their way of life. In order to create the perfect mummy, they first had to dig out the vital organs such as the liver, lungs, intestines, and most precious of all…brains. Attendants pulled brains out through the nose using special tools.
What about the heart?
They removed the heart temporarily, and put it back into the body before sealing it with tight wrappings. Deceased persons needed their heart for afterlife judgment.
Vital organs were carefully placed inside of canopic jars and enclosed inside of the sarcophagus. Imagine opening a jar of dried organs after 5,000 years.
10. Ancient Dentists Preserved Smiles
Medical practitioners who did dentistry work had 11 dental treatment options for patients. Dentists fixed loose teeth by filling them with mixtures that included ingredients such as honey and barley. Special syrups were given to patients for relief of tooth pain, to reduce inflammation and to keep the mouth clean.
Incredibly, dentists performed surgical procedures on gums and jaws, cutting out abscesses and fixing damaged areas. Excavations reveal that dentists made dental bridges by attaching silver or gold wire to original or crafted teeth.
9. They Drank Beer Every Day for Health
Beer is one of those beverages that every culture has discovered how to make at some point in time. Egyptians appreciated beer more than most, and drank it pretty much every day. Beer to them was a nutritional drink for maintaining good health and vitality. Some beer formulations had medicinal value.
Not much is known about ancient Egyptian beer recipes or methods. What is known is that they most likely created a beer bread as a first step to fermentation. Evidence also suggests they fermented beer in batches using sprouted grain. The results of their beer-making efforts was a cloudy mixture containing copious amounts of vitamins, minerals and energy-boosting protein.
8. Makeup Was More Than Beautification
Queen Nefertiti famously enhanced her classy looks with makeup, but her love of makeup wasn’t unique. Lining the eyes with thick black kohl was en vogue, and small clay pots held various mixtures of makeup powders and creams. Men and women applied cosmetics to their faces, receiving far greater benefits than once thought.
As reported by the American Chemical Society, Egyptians thought makeup contained magical properties. Researchers analyzing leftover bits of makeup found these formulas used lead-based ingredients. Further studies reveal a high concentration of nitric oxide, a chemical that protects the immune system.
Experts now speculate that jet black kohl eye liner helped prevent eye infections. Makeup used on cheeks and lips made a great sunscreen, and helped soothe skin burns.
7. Elites Struggled with Weight Issues
Egyptian murals from long ago usually depict slim, healthy and physically fit individuals. Pharoahs, queens and the royal court have regally beautiful bodies. Well, it seems these depictions aren’t always accurate.
Examinations of recently discovered mummies reveal some people of high rank suffered from heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Members of the upper class, including rulers, priests and their families regularly ate fattening junk foods of their day. They drank lots of beer and wine, and indulged in meals of beef, wild fowl birds, cake and other foods rich in fat content.
Foods and treats offered to the gods at various temples often ended up on the dinner table of priests. Who can blame them?
6. People Loved Their Pets
The ancients domesticated animals, using them for food, milk and labor. Many also kept animals as family pets. Certain animals held sacred status in Egypt, and evidence of this is found in tombs and art objects. Exotic house pets included birds and baboons.
Cats and dogs were the most common house pets, and just like pet lovers of today, they doted on their beloved pet companions. Cats in particular enjoyed a high status among the general population. Cats were considered the living embodiment of a god named Bast, and they thought cats traveled between life and death realms. This meant that anyone found guilty of killing a cat faced harsh penalties – even death.
5. Cleopatra Was a Genius With a Ruthless Streak
The tragic love story between Queen Cleopatra VII and her Roman boyfriend, Mark Antony is legendary. She’s lauded for her beauty and powers of seduction. Yes, Cleopatra knew how to wrap a powerful man around her little finger, but she was also a pretty amazing woman for many other reasons.
Cleopatra didn’t have model looks as some suggest, but she was a big charmer capable of holding conversations in numerous languages. She ruthlessly had her sister, Arsinoe, and two brothers named Ptolemy killed so she could serve as sole ruler. She wasn’t always so calculating. Cleo knew how to have fun. She threw wild drinking parties, and loved going out in disguise to play pranks on unsuspecting commoners.
4. Slave Labor Didn’t Do Most of the Work
Scores of workers were needed to keep cities and towns humming along on a daily basis. Laborers were either highly skilled at one task, or unskilled. People who did jobs such as creating artwork, hammering sheets of gold into objects, weaving clothes and building homes and temples worked year-round. Alternatively, those not trained to do specialized tasks performed physical labor whenever they were needed.
The Egyptian government oversaw vast numbers of peasant laborers who worked on large projects. Unskilled labor was used for seasonal farm work, planting, maintaining and harvesting food crops.
Local peasants served as forced labor on large construction projects, but they got paid for their contributions. Slaves were part of the private workforce, and usually served individuals.
3. Hieroglyphics Were Used Sparingly
Imagine how much time it took for ancient scribes to invent the Hieroglyhic language. Once it was finished, the meaning of all those intricately designed symbols must be taught to others to continue their use. That too is extremely time-consuming. No wonder they only used hieroglyphics for special occasions.
Writing hieroglyphics is a highly skilled task, and scribes painstakingly reproduced these meaningful symbols on the walls of temples and tombs for posterity. Only the best scribes lent their talents to such an important task. Each symbol represents an object or type of action, and many hieroglyphics tell stories about the gods they worshiped, or the great deeds of ancient Pharoahs.
2. They Used Calendars and Clocks
Ancient Egyptians figured out ways to keep track of time, and these methods are still used today. Anyone who uses a date calendar can thank these ancients for inventing the whole concept of tracking months on a regular basis. Using the mighty Nile River as a guide, Egyptians created four-month calendar blocks. They based their calendar on a 12-month seasonal lunar cycle, and calculations of the rising patterns of the Sirius star.
The position of the sun’s rays helped them keep track of hourly time, and this knowledge led to the creation of clocks. Egyptians kept time by using large obelisks, sundials, shadow clocks, merkhets and water clocks.
1. Lost City of Thonis-Heracleion
Move over Atlantis! An archaeological expedition has uncovered a hidden underwater Egyptian city called Thonis-Heracleion. Ruins of this once great city are scattered deep on the ocean floor. Divers share intriguing video footage of what remains of structures, statues and huge tablets written in Egyptian and Greek languages.
The sunken city is located in the waters of Aboukir Bay, just off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. Experts conclude that Thonis-Heracleion was at one time a bustling city where Egyptians traded goods with ancient Greeks. How the city ended up 30-feet underwater is a mystery. Experts calculate the city has been underwater for over 1200 years. Ancient artifacts long buried under layers of mud and sand are now visible, offering a fascinating look into how its citizens lived.
It’s hard not to be fascinated by all the cool things archaeologists have found out about ancient Egypt. The discovery of King Tut’s tomb ignited an ongoing passion for learning more about this stylish ancient culture. Egyptian relics give us an intriguing glimpse into what life was like more than 5,000 years ago. While we know plenty, there’s a lot more about ancient Egypt that awaits discovery.
Thanks to modern technology, archaeologists are learning surprising things about these ancients, and old assumptions and myths are being tossed aside. These discoveries are no accident. Egyptians were heavily into preserving bodies, and created objects and structures of high quality. We can’t wait to share the next great discoveries.