What the pyramid looked like. Originally encased in white lime stone with a peak made of solid gold.
Even if you are not a historian and did not study well at school, you, one way or another, have an idea about Ancient Egypt. Haven't you heard about Cleopatra, Tutankhamen and, of course, about the pyramids, which are the symbol of Egypt? You must have heard. So, most likely, you associate this country with the tombs of the pharaohs, hieroglyphs, and sands.
Spoiler: some facts will surprise even a history teacher
But besides this, Ancient Egypt had something to be proud of. Take at least science - the ancient Egyptian civilization left a lot of invaluable knowledge in astronomy, mathematics, and geography to subsequent generations. The ancient Egyptians were excellent engineers; otherwise, how could they have built their great pyramids known to the world? Here it was only possible to do with special knowledge.
However, how ancient Egypt is shown in the movies is very different from how it was. We at Bemorepanda have collected little-known facts about this ancient civilization, from which you can learn something new and get a slightly different idea.
1. Cleopatra is known for her beauty, but very little is said about her intelligence.
She spoke twelve languages and had considerable knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and oratory. The ancient Egyptian chroniclers described her as a ruler who paid tribute to scientists and often appeared in their company.
2. Women may not have been socially equal to men in ancient Egypt. Still, they enjoyed a relatively wide range of rights and freedoms, especially compared to other countries of the same era.
Unlike in Greece, where women practically belonged to their husbands, Egyptian women were allowed to divorce, remarry, and keep the wealth they brought into the marriage. In addition, they were allowed to buy and sell real estate, enter into legal agreements, and even sit on juries. They rarely worked outside the home, but they were usually guaranteed equal pay in formal employment.
3. Egypt was the first to introduce a healthcare program.
Stanford Egyptologist Ann Austin talks about the "earliest documented public health program" that allowed workers from the village that later became known as Deir el-Medina to take paid sick leave or visit a doctor while the pyramid was being built. Some modern countries could learn from this example.
4. Although the Egyptians may have deified their pharaohs, this did not mean they allowed their labor rights to be violated.
Egyptian workers even organized strikes to improve working conditions. One of the most famous occurred in the 12th century BC. during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses III when the builders working on the royal cemetery at Deir el-Medina did not receive their usual payment in grain. The workers staged a so-called strike - they went to the nearest mortuary temple and remained there until their demands were listened to and they received what they earned.
5. It is common knowledge that cats had a special status in ancient Egyptian culture, but did you know that wealthy families dressed their cats in jewelry and fed them food that not every ordinary family could afford?
Because cats were considered magical creatures, the ancient Egyptians believed they brought good luck to people who kept them as pets and treated them appropriately. If a pet cat died, the owner shaved off his eyebrows and mourned the loss until the eyebrows grew back.
6. Makeup was not only welcomed but also encouraged for both sexes.
As a rule, it was applied with wooden, bone, or elephant tools. Eye makeup was made by grinding malachite and galena. The resulting substance was known as kohl. Women also liked to paint their hands and nails with henna and paint their cheeks with red paint. Perfumes made from oil, myrrh, and cinnamon were popular with men and women. Makeup was believed to evoke the protection of the gods Horus and Ra and had magical healing powers. Interestingly, there was some truth in this assumption. Scientists have confirmed that lead-based cosmetics did help protect the Egyptians from eye infections.
7. Wars were part of the life of ancient Egypt.
One of the longest spanned more than two centuries, during which the Egyptians fought against the Hittite Empire to control the lands that would later become modern Syria. By the time Pharaoh Ramses II ascended the throne, both empires were under threat of attack from other countries. To end the battle, which had depleted many of the necessary resources, in 1259 B.C. Ramses II proposed what would later become known as the Egyptian-Hittite Peace Treaty, one of the first recorded peace treaties. This helped both countries stop the fight and join forces against other invaders. Today, a treaty copy can be found above the entrance to the United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York.
8. enslaved people did not build the pyramids.
Life as a pyramid builder certainly wasn't easy—worker skeletons usually show signs of arthritis and other ailments—but evidence suggests that the massive tombs were built not by enslaved people but by wage laborers. These ancient builders were a mixture of skilled artisans and temporary workers; some seemed to have taken great pride in their craft. Graffiti found next to the monuments shows that they often gave their brigades playful names such as "The Drunkards of Menkaur" or "Friends of Khufu." The idea that enslaved people built pyramids at the flick of a whip was first put forward by the Greek historian Herodotus in the fifth century BC, but most historians now dismiss it as a myth. While the ancient Egyptians were not opposed to keeping slaves, they seem to have mainly used them as field laborers and domestic servants.
9. Moldy bread was used as a form of early antibiotic.
Mr. Allen, the curator of Egyptian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, spoke of an ancient Egyptian text that suggested putting moldy bread on wounds. This means that although the Egyptians knew nothing about bacteria, they had already discovered a way to fight infections and understood the basic principle of penicillin.
10. Cleopatra was not an Egyptian.
She was born in Alexandria, and her ancestry can be traced back to the Greco-Macedonian lieutenant Ptolemy I, one of Alexander the Great's most confidantes. His descendants ruled Egypt from 323 to 30 BC. and managed to preserve their Greek identity and culture largely.
11. The economy of Ancient Egypt was largely dependent on the Nile River - it affected every aspect of life.
Surrounded by desert, the Nile was a vital artery not only for transporting building materials and moving people but also for irrigating agricultural land, obtaining food resources, and more.
12. Cleopatra's first husband, Ptolemy XIII, expelled her from Egypt when she tried to get rid of him as a ruler and concentrate all power in her hands.
Cleopatra found an ally in Julius Caesar and defeated Ptolemy, becoming queen of Egypt. Ptolemy drowned in the Nile.
13. The age of the Sphinx is a mystery.
The most common and generally accepted theory dates the construction of the Great Sphinx to the era of Pharaoh Khafre (c. 2603-2578 BC), but this is just a theory. Some scholars suggest that the statue is much older. They base their guess on erosion patterns found in the figure and other archaeological evidence.
14. Most ancient healers treated anything from fevers to wounds received in battle.
However, there is evidence that some Egyptian physicians concentrated on one aspect of human health. The Greek historian and traveler Herodotus first mentions this practice in his notes dating back to 450 BC. He wrote: "Each doctor is a healer of one disease and no more ... eyes, teeth, belly." The Egyptians even gave specific names to doctors who specialized in only one area.
15. Many of us have heard of Egyptian deities such as Isis, Ra, Osiris, Anubis, or Horus.
But the fact is that the Egyptian pantheon included more than 2,000 gods and goddesses. Those who were more popular became national deities, celebrated throughout the country. Others, less well-known, were either associated with a specific region or a specific ritual or role. One such deity was the goddess Kebhet, who offered cool water to the souls of the dead awaiting judgment in the afterlife. Another example is Seshat, the goddess of written words and concrete dimensions.
16. Some modern European countries may be considered the best beer producers, but did you know that beer was an integral part of the menu in ancient Egypt?
Being high in calories, beer was considered an excellent source of nutrition for adults of both sexes and children. It was also quite common to use beer as compensation for labor. For example, builders on the Giza Plateau received beer three times daily as payment for their work.
17. Board games were very popular with the ancient Egyptians.
Some of the games that have come down to us were "Mehen" and "Dogs and Jackals," but it seems that the game known as "Senet" was the most popular. It involved throwing dice or sticks and moving figures around a board with withdrawn squares. Although historians are still trying to determine the exact rules of the game, they are pretty sure that it dates back to 3500 BC. and was famous not only among ordinary people but also among the pharaohs.
18. With thousands of years of history and being one of the greatest ancient civilizations, it's no surprise that modern Egypt is home to as many as seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
Abu Mena, Ancient Thebes with a necropolis, historic Cairo, Memphis and its necropolis - Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur, Nubian monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae, St. Catherine's area and Wadi al-Khitan (Whale Valley).
19. Winding up a mummy may seem straightforward, but it requires a lot of time and materials.
The process could last from one to two weeks, and the winding took about 372 square meters of linen. The deceased's family had to prepare everything necessary while his body dried in the desert. Later, the embalmers cut the clothes brought by the relatives of the dead into little rags like bandages and wrapped them around the mummies. Wealthy families got expensive materials and sometimes even clothes from sacred statues, while members of the lower class collected old clothes and other household linens.
20. Servants sometimes had to coat their bodies with honey to keep flies from the pharaohs.
Sources speak of Pharaoh Pepi II, who was especially notable for making strange demands. One day, he ordered his servants to catch a dancing pygmy because he thought having one in his palace would be funny. He also made his servants smear themselves with honey to rid themselves of annoying flies.
21. Each deceased in ancient Egypt was buried with four canopic canopies.
These jugs were used to store and preserve the deceased's internal organs during the mummification of the body. Each canopic vessel contained one vital organ: the lungs, liver, intestines, and stomach. The embalmers did not remove the heart, as it was considered the home of a person's soul.
22. Everyone knows the Egyptians loved their cats, associated with the goddess Bastet.
But, of course, they were not the only animals the Egyptians kept as pets. Hawks, ibises, dogs, lions, and baboons were also highly respected and had a special status in Egyptian families. Often, after death, animals were mummified and buried with their owners. The ancient Egyptians also trained animals to help them with their work. For example, the Egyptian police had special dogs and sometimes monkeys to accompany them on patrol.
23. In ancient Egypt, science was very respected and well-developed.
Of course, they did not have all the knowledge we have today, but the Egyptians did boast some great mathematicians and scientists. In particular, the mathematical concepts they understood and put into practice included geometry, such as determining the surface area and volume of three-dimensional shapes useful for architectural design, and algebra, such as the false position method and quadratic equations.
24. What do writing, ink, cosmetics, toothpaste, a plow, advances in medicine, a door lock, a calendar, a police concept, and a bowling alley have in common?
All of them were invented by the ancient Egyptians. And this is a partial list of things from Egypt that we use today.
25. Jewelry in Ancient Egypt was less of a pretty accessory than a way to please the gods (and thus help and protect you).
The more jewelry you wear, the more attention you will receive from the gods. That is why both men and women wore necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, pendants, and unique buttons. On special occasions, they wore the glamorous headdresses often seen in old drawings. Of course, the wealthier a person was, the more jewelry he put on daily.
26. When your diet includes a lot of beer, wine, bread, and honey, it's only a matter of time before you start putting on extra pounds.
Combined with the lack of manual labor, this led to obesity and poor health for many pharaohs. One of the most striking examples is Queen Hatshepsut, who lived in the 15th century BC. Her sarcophagus depicted her as slender (because who would dare say otherwise), but historians have reason to believe that she was obese and was losing her hair.
27. Striembalming process of embalming in ancient Egypt was not to remove the heart from the body while other organs were removed.
Imagine how shocked the archaeologists were when they discovered that this rule was violated by none other than Tutankhamun. The reason could be a chest injury that the young king received before his death. Some Egyptologists believe that the wound that decapitated his chest resulted from a behemoth bite. Archaeological evidence shows that the Egyptians hunted animals for fun, and several statues in Tutankhamun's tomb depict him throwing a harpoon. So it is quite possible that he died during the hunt.
28. Surely you have heard about the Ten Commandments and the story of Moses, who received them from God. Describing this event, the Bible mentions Mount Sinai, where it all happened.
However, in the Book of Deuteronomy, this place is called Horeb. Scholars believe that both of these names refer to the same place.
29. If you imagine King Tutankhamun as an adult, wiser person, then this is an erroneous idea.
The great pharaoh was eight and nine when he ascended the throne, choosing Nebkheperure. His reign lasted approximately nine years before he died.
30. Do you think rock musicians invented tattoos?
Or pirates? Look further. When scientists used infrared imaging and radiocarbon dating of two of Gebelein's mummies, they discovered what they believe are the earliest figurative tattoos. They still need to figure out what purpose or meaning tattoos had in ancient Egypt. The two mummies that were found to have tattoos date from 3351 to 3017 BC.
31. Egyptian pharaohs played a dual role in the country.
As kings, they led the state, made laws, collected taxes, waged wars, and controlled the entire territory. According to the law, all the land in the country belonged to the pharaoh. Another role was to guide his people as a religious leader. This involved maintaining religious harmony and participating in ceremonies. As a spiritual leader, pharaohs were seen as divine mediators between gods and humans.
32. Every second tourist who comes to Egypt goes to look at the pyramids on the Giza plateau.
These three immense structures, which served as the last harbor for the pharaohs of Keops, Khafre, and Menkaura, although becoming more and more famous, are not the only pyramids that Egypt can boast of. There are a total of 118 pyramids in the country.
33. You probably know about the "curse of the mummy," which implies that anyone who approaches the pharaoh's tomb or - God forbid! - open it, die a terrible death.
The world first heard about the "curse" in 1922, when archaeologists discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor. It was believed that the hieroglyphs on the wall of the royal tomb imposed a deadly curse on everyone around.
34. Geographically, Egypt occupies a very advantageous position.
Situated between the Mediterranean and Red Seas, Egypt has played a strategic role in trade and communications for centuries since ancient times. The Suez Canal was built in the second half of the 19th century to connect both seas and allow ships to move quickly between Asia and Europe.
35. How the Egyptians bathed depended on their social class.
The Egyptians bathed daily; however, their methods varied according to social class. The rich had a particular room where they could wash in their homes. Their servants carried water from the Nile River for this purpose. Some upper-class houses also had foot-washing areas made of wood, stone, or ceramic and were used for rinsing and washing feet, as most people did not wear shoes.
The Egyptians used a natural mineral called natron (sodium carbonate decahydrate, commonly crystalline soda) as soap and applied moisturizers to soften skin after bathing.
The lower classes, who made up most of Egyptian society, bathed in the Nile.
36. The ancient Egyptians developed the 12-month calendar we use today.
It was a solar calendar with 365 days a year. The division was slightly different from the modern calendar. There were only three seasons, 120 days each. Each season was divided into four months of 30 days. In addition, there was an intervening month of five epagomenal days, which was seen as falling outside the prior year. Months were initially numbered within a season but were often named after their significant holidays. The months were also divided into three decades, a period of 10 days.
37. even though King Tutankhamun was very young when he died, he still gave birth to two daughters.
Both died in infancy, and their names were not mentioned on the coffins, so they went down in history as mummies 317a and 317b, the names that Howard Carter gave them during his excavations. Studies have shown that 317b had Sprengel's deformity (where one shoulder blade on the back is higher than the other) and spina bifida. Mummy 317a was born prematurely at 5-6 months of pregnancy. There is no record of their mother, but it is believed that she was Ankhesenamun, the only known wife of King Tutankhamun.
38. What you don’t expect from a pharaoh is a revolution, but this is precisely what King Akhenaten did.
His reign, characterized by social, political, and religious upheavals, is still considered one of the most controversial in the history of ancient Egypt. In just under two decades on the throne, Akhenaten attempted a religious revolution as he introduced new spiritual aspects, tried to erase the names and images of some of Egypt's traditional gods, introduced a new form of architecture, revised his royal artistic style, and moved Egypt's capital to a previously unoccupied area.
39. When you look at ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, they seem very beautiful but, at the same time, incredibly complex.
And they are pretty complex. The ancient Egyptian writing system includes about 1000 characters, combining logographic, syllabic, and alphabetic elements. If that wasn't enough, they also had cursive hieroglyphs for religious literature on papyrus and wood. Many modern scripts were based on the Egyptian hieroglyphic script; some of the better known include Latin, Cyrillic (via Greek), and Arabic. It is also possible that the Brahmic script family was based on hieroglyphs.
40. In addition to the well-known hieroglyphs, the Egyptians had another form of writing called hieratic.
Some historians believe that the concept of the written word was brought to Egypt from Mesopotamia, where it was developed. Though entirely of Egyptian origin, the hieroglyphs were quite laborious to write. Therefore, another faster option was set. Hieratic writing consisted of simplified versions of hieroglyphs; its name is translated as "sacred writing."