Ancient Egypt, the land of the pharaohs, famous for its huge pyramids, mummies and its golden treasures. It is very well known for its mysteries. Egypt stood as one of the most advanced civilizations of the world for nearly 3,000 years.
But how much do you really know about ancient Egypt?
Here are some of the lesser known facts about the Gift of Nile that will take your breath away.
23Throughout history Egypt had many different names
Egypt has a history of over 6000 years. Throughout its history it has been called by many names. For example, during the Old Kingdom (2650-2134 B.C.), Egypt was known as Kemet or Black Land, referring to the dark, rich soil of the Nile Valley. It was also known as Deshret, or Red Land, referring to Egypt’s vast deserts. Later, it was known as Hwt-ka-Ptah or “House of the Ka of Ptah.” Ptah was one of Egypt’s oldest gods. The Greeks changed Hwt-ka-ptah to Aegyptus which later on became Egypt.
22Not all pharaohs built pyramids
Although it is a common notion that Pharaohs used to build pyramids for their funerary burial, not all pharaohs are associated with pyramid building.
In the Old Kingdom (c2686-2125 BC) and the Middle Kingdom (c2055–1650 BC) almost all the pharaohs used to build pyramid-tombs. However pyramid building was out of fashion by the beginning of the New Kingdom (c1550 BC).
Pharaohs would now simply build two separate funerary monuments: a hidden rock-cut tomb in the Valley of the Kings where the mummy will be buried, and a highly visible memorial temple, located on the border between the cultivated land home of the living), and the sterile desert (home of the dead).
21The pyramids were not built by slaves
Popular theory that the pyramids in Egypt were built by the forced labors or slaves, was based on the assumption by the classical historical Herodotus. However, this is not true.
Archaeological evidence proves that they were actually built by workers who worked on regular wages. They were free men worked on three or four-month shift. They were provided with temporary shelter, payment in the form of food and drinks, and even medical attention.
20Egyptian workers were paid in beers- 1 gallon/day
We now know that the workers in ancient Egypt were not slaves but regular workers with pays. Interestingly enough, they were paid in terms of beer, that too 1 gallon per day. There were of course other incentives like shelter and medical attention.
19Ancient Egyptians did not ride camels
Camel was not used for riding in Egypt until the very end of the dynastic period. Instead, donkeys were the favorite beasts of burden for the ancient Egyptians, and boats were the most popular means of transport.
Most of the transportation was done along the river Nile. Boats conveniently transported heavy goods like stones from nearby quarries and grains to all the major places as they were all located along the river.
18Christianity was the religion of a vast majority in Egypt
Although today Christianity is only a minor religion with 10% of the country’s population, there was a time when the religion was dominant in Egypt.
Christianity entered Egypt around 33 AD with the Romans and by 300 AD Alexandria became one of the great Christian centres of the world.
17Ancient Egyptians used pillows made of stone or wood
Ancient Egyptians used pillows made of stone or even wood. But not in a way we use pillows now-a-days. It was mostly used to protect the head from insects and also to prevent neck pain due to bad sleeping position. It was considered a luxury and only the rich could afford it.
But the most common use was to put it as a headrest for the mummy.
16Few Egyptians married their siblings
Incest was very common all throughout the history of Egypt. The pharaoh would often marry his sister in order to keep the royal blood line pure.
Even in Egyptian Mythology, Gods who were siblings were also believed to be husbands and wives.
15Food was shared between the living and the dead
The tomb was the eternal home for the mummified body and the ka spirit that lived within it. If the tomb-chapel was accessible, often families, well-wishers and priests would visit the deceased and leave regular offerings needed by the ka.
Within the tomb-chapel, food and drink were offered on a regular basis. After ka consumes the food spiritually, the living would consume them physically. During the ‘feast of the valley’ (heb nefer en inet in Kemetic), an annual festival of death and renewal, many families would spend the night in the tomb-chapels of their ancestors. They would celebrate their reunion with the dead by drinking and feasting.
14The oldest dress in the world is from Egypt and is over 5,000 years old
A linen dress found in an Egyptian tomb dates back to more than 5,000 years, which makes it the oldest woven garment yet found. Beautiful stitches and pleats is an example to the complexity and wealth of the ancient civilization that produced it.
13Egypt has the oldest known pregnancy test in record
The Berlin Papyrus (c. 1800 B.C.) contains clear directions for what is apparently the oldest known pregnancy test.
The process involves wetting cereals with urine. If barley grew, it meant the woman is pregnant with a male child; if the wheat grew, she is pregnant with a girl. If neither grew, the woman would not give birth. (validity of these tests is unknown)
12One of the oldest surviving works on mathematics
Rhind Mathematical Papyrus written by scribe Ahmes around 1650 B.C. contains 21 arithmetic and 20 algebraic problems, several geometric problems, and much more. The document is titled as “The Entrance into the Knowledge of All Existing Things and All Obscure Secrets.”
11Ancient Egyptians invented lots of things we still use today
Ancient Egyptians invented paper, pens, locks and keys, makeup, sunscreen, wig, clock, ox-drawn plow, and even toothpaste!
10Oldest recorded standard of weight is still in use
Beqa, the oldest recorded standard of weight is still in use today. One unit measures somewhere between 6.66 and 7.45 ounces.
9Egyptians were the very first people to write on paper with ink
Ancient Egyptians not only developed the art of writing but also invented paper and ink to write. Their writing system is known as Hieroglyphs and consists of over 700 alphabets.
The paper they used was a thick type of paper made from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus.
Egyptian Scribes usually wrote with reed brushes dipped in ink which was by grinding brightly colored minerals into powder, then mixing the powder with suitable liquid.
8Ancient Egyptian also ‘invented’ Antibiotics
Although they weren’t fully aware of it, the credit to create and use antibiotics for the first time goes to the Egyptians.
They used to eat a fermented thick pasty porridge as a food that cures illness. Is was highly nutritious and non-intoxicating with naturally high levels of the antibiotic tetracycline.
7Egyptians were the first to sew wounds closed, some 4,000 years ago
Egyptian doctors were the first to close an open wound with surgical suture. Very often they would store their surgical needles in a case made from a hollowed-out bird bone.
6The need to predict the Nile floods let the Ancient Egyptians develop the world’s first calendar
5The ancient Egyptians had three different calendars
An everyday farming calendar, which had 365 days and was made up of three seasons of four months.
An astronomical calendar, based on observations of the star Sirius, which reappeared each year at the start of the flood season.
A lunar calendar, which priests used to perform ceremonies for the moon god Khonsu.
4Ancient Egyptians flood records are used by modern scientists
Ancient Egyptians kept such good records of floods on the Nile that their data is used by modern-day scientists to better understand rainfall patterns in Egypt.
3Egyptians knew the existence of Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter
They not only knew their existence but also had names for them.
Mercury- Sebequ, a god associated with Set, Venus- “god of the morning”, Saturn- “bull of the sky”, Mars- “Horus the red” or “Horus of the horizon”, and Jupiter- “Horus who limits the Two Lands”.
2Pharaoh Pepi II Neferkare had the longest reign in history— 94 years (2278-2184 B.C.)
Pepi II belonged to the Sixth Dynasty in Egypt’s Old Kingdom who succeeded to the throne at age six, after the death of Merenre I. Although the records of his death are a little unclear, one document clearly mentions is death in the year 2184 BC making him the holder of the record for longest reign of 94 years
1Pepi II always kept several naked servants smeared with honey to deter flies from landing on him
Weird it may sound, pharaoh Pepi II actually kept few servants nearby smeared with honey in order to attract flies towards them instead of bothering the pharaoh.
Hope you enjoyed the 23 lesser known facts about ancient Egypt. Is there anything you would like to add to it? Please give your comments.
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