Ancient Egyptian culture is certainly a fascinating field of study. From the pharaohs to the pyramids and numerous other intrigues, we all have some vague idea of it from whatever we have seen on TV, read in books, studied in school and so on. But there are certain rather bizarre facts about the ancient Egyptian civilization that you may not have come across so far. Here are 26 things you probably didn’t know.
You would be surprised to know that one of the most popular wedding rituals, common across various cultures, can be traced back to ancient Egypt. The tradition of exchanging wedding rings was something first recorded by the people of this land.
All cultures have their own unique rituals when it comes to mourning. But the Egyptians took it one step far – they mourned the death of their cats by shaving off their eyebrows. Clearly, they loved their cats a lot.
The world’s oldest dress has been unearthed from Egypt. It was excavated from Tarkhan and is estimated to be some 50,000 years old. Looking at the dress, it doesn’t seem too far off from modern-day clothing. The ancient Egyptians had some fashion sense, eh?
In ancient Egypt, one’s hair said a lot about their social status. Pharaohs never let their hair be seen and thus wore elaborate headgear. The rich, affluent folk usually wore wigs. And young boys were usually bald with just one tiny braid to prevent infection by lice.
If you thought that having proper toilets was a modern invention, think again. Archaeological finds have shown that a lot of ancient tombs had toilet-like structures in them. Clearly, ancient Egyptians knew a thing or two about toilet etiquette.
It may be hard to believe but archaeologists have found evidence suggesting that people in ancient Egypt slept with pillows. Well, so do we, you’d say. But their pillows were made of stone. Yes, you read it right – stone pillows.
Contrary to popular belief, pyramids were not made by slaves. That’s just a false conception arising from Greek historian Herodotus’ records. The pyramids were build by paid labourers who were given one gallon of beer per day as compensation.
Christian mythology suggests that Adam and Eve wore no clothes in the prelapsarian Age. But it’s not just in Eden that male-female nudity was quite in vogue. Ancient Egyptians didn’t wear clothes till they hit their teenage.
A piece of Egyptian writing called the Kahun Papyrus that dates back to 1850 B.C. throws an interesting light upon the people’s means of contraception. Apparently, crocodile faeces was used either as a means of preventing contraception or aiding abortion. Slightly disturbing, isn’t it?
The Egyptians had a unique perspective on the Earth’s form. They believed that it was circulation and flat, and that the Nile flowed right through its middle. Such beliefs were common in many primitive societies, and Egypt is no far behind.
The last Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra is familiar to us all, on account of the numerous captivating tales that surround her historical existence. But why you may not have known is that she was not an Egyptian but belonged to the Greek dynasty ruling Egypt.
Something almost everyone associates with Egyptian culture is the act of mummification post death. But corpses were mummified after a long, elaborate procedure whereby all major organs other than the heart were removed from the body and stored in jars. The belief was that the soul lay in the heart and so must rest with the body.
Apparently, both men and women in ancient Egypt wore makeup. It was made from either copper or lead, and so it was mostly green and black hues that Egyptian people sported. “Why?” you ask? They thought makeup had healing powers!
Ancient Egyptians believed in pagan divinity and guess what? They worshiped over 1400 Gods and Goddesses. You’d wonder how long their daily prayers took, but they probably didn’t pray to each God every day.
In so far as lost cities go, ancient Egypt gave rise to one too! The lost Egyptian city called Heracleion was found under the sea after about 1200 years of its submergence. A lot of its original architecture had not completely rotted away as one would expect.
The ancient Egyptian civilization has been found to be very advanced in certain senses. One of their chief achievements was the sail boat. Yes, the Egyptians have been credited as being the first peoples to invent sailing boats.
The great pyramid of Giza is touted as being the oldest and largest of all three such structures in the Giza Pyramid Complex. Now what is fascinating is that even centuries after its discovery and observation, many of its pathways remain unexplored. Fancy an adventure anyone?
This may be the most unexpected fact related to the ancient Egyptian civilization. Within the society of the pharaohs, the common currency – the medium of exchange, trade and commerce – was beer. Yes, beer. The Egyptians loved their alcohol, we guess.
There is something about the ancient Egyptians and their cats. They loved them a little too much it seems. In fact, if one killed a cat even accidentally, there were liable for a death penalty. Keeping up with the kitties sure was tough in those days!
Anthropological research has established that both men and women shared equal rights in ancient Egypt, even though they weren’t socially at power. Nonetheless, the men could take time off of work to care for their menstruating wives or daughters. Now that is impressive.
Eratosthenes was a Greek mathematician who lived in Cyrene, one of the areas that came under the ambit of ancient Egyptian civilization. Some 2200 years ago, he calculated the circumference of the Earth without ever having gone beyond Egypt, by using nothing but mathematical calculations. His estimates were quite accurate.
Pottery unearthed from the Middle Kingdom region of ancient Egypt has some interesting inscriptions. Many of these list three genders in human beings, and the reason for that is unclear. Perhaps ancient Egypt more accepting of multiple gender identities than one would expect.
The typical depictions of pharaohs in sculpture give them a very flattering appearance with sharp features. However, a lot of the pharaohs were actually rather unhealthy and overweight on account of a diet rich in alcohol, bread, honey and other sugary foods.
Etymologically, the term “gypsy” was originally used to denote Egyptians. Now, of course, the word has different connotations.
We’ve all heard tales of cruel rulers but the Egyptians had their own unique forms of exploitation. Some pharaohs had a slave covered in honey and placed beside them so that flies stuck to the slave and didn’t bother them.
Since pyramids are primarily associated with Egypt, people assume that the world’s largest pyramid lies here. However, Egypt’s largest pyramid – that of Giza – is not the largest in the world. The largest pyramid in the world is the Great Pyramid of Cholula, also known as Tlachihualtepetl, located in Mexico.