Some interesting facts about ancient Egypt

Sennedjem, an Egyptian craftsman, blissfully ploughing in the Fields of Aaru. Tomb of Sennedjem (TT1) at Deir el-Medina
Sennedjem, an Egyptian craftsman, blissfully ploughing in the Fields of Aaru. Tomb of Sennedjem (TT1) at Deir el-Medina

The history of ancient Egypt was indebted to the Nile River and its dependable seasonable flooding. The river’s predictability and the fertile soils it provided allowed the Egyptians to build an empire on the basis of great agricultural wealth. Egyptians are credited as being one of the first groups of people to practice agriculture on a large scale. This was possible because of the ingenuity of the Egyptians as they developed basin irrigation. Their farming practices allowed them to grow staple food crops, especially grains such as wheat and barley, and industrial crops, such as flax and papyrus, they also grew beans, lentils, onions, leeks, lettuce in garden plots, and fruits like grapes, dates, figs and pomegranates. Animals raised for meat included cattle, sheep, goats, geese and ducks. They used the wooden plough which was pulled by two oxen, the ploughman used a hoe if he needed to break up any heavy clumps of soil, another person would have followed behind, sowing seed.

– The word “pyramid” comes from the Greek word “pyramis,” which means “wheat cake.” To the ancient Greeks, the pyramids of ancient Egypt reminded them of wheat cakes with pointed tops.

The Pyramids of Giza. Photo: Kenneth Garrett
The Pyramids of Giza. Photo: Kenneth Garrett

– The Egyptian calendar, which was 365 days long and started on the day that Sirius rose in line with the sun, was instituted around 4,241 B.C.

The Dendera Zodiac. The Louvre. D 38
The Dendera Zodiac. The Louvre. D 38

– The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) at Giza, built around 2,570 BC, used 2,300,000 large stone blocks that weigh a total of 7 million tons.

– There are cavities in the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) at Giza, possibly totaling up to 15 to 20 percent of the structure, that appear to contain sand, not from the site of the pyramid but from another part of Egypt.

The Great Pyramid of Khufu
The Great Pyramid of Khufu

– The earliest known last will was made by Nekure (died circa 2601 BC), son of the Egyptian King Khafre. It was carved on his tomb. Beginning by asserting that Nekure had made his decisions about his property “while living upon his two feet and not ailing in any respect”, it goes on to dispose of 14 towns and two estates to his wife, three children, and another female.

– In order to deter flies from landing on him, Pepi II of Egypt always kept several naked slaves nearby whose bodies were smeared with honey.

– When the troops of ancient Egyptian King Thutmose I invaded Syria and Carchemish on the upper Euphrates in 1525 BC, they were astounded to see the Nile “falling from the sky” and a river that “in flowing north flowed south.” The soldiers only knew Egypt and the Nile, and so were fascinated to see rain (the Nile falling from the sky) and the direction of the flow of the southward-flowing Euphrates; to the Egyptians, south meant “upstream”, so they saw the Euphrates as flowing “backwards”.

– The oldest recorded death sentence is found in the Amherst papyri, a list of state trials of ancient Egypt, dating to 1500 BC. A teenage male, convicted of “magic”, was sentenced to kill himself by either poison or stabbing.

– In ancient Egypt, slaves are known to have been murdered to accompany their deceased owners to the afterlife.

– While the use of antibiotics did not begin until the 20th century, early folk medicine included the use of moldy foods or soil for infections. In ancient Egypt, for example, infections were treated with moldy bread.

– The ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphs only for ritual purposes and official inscriptions. For everyday use, a script known as hieratic was used, and starting around 700 BC, a second script known as demotic was used. Both of these scripts were written using a brush on papyrus.

The Rosetta Stone. The British Museum.
The Rosetta Stone. The British Museum.

– The earliest known standard of weight is the beqa, an ancient Egyptian unit which equals from 6.66 to 7.45 ounces. It is still generally used in weighing gems, precious metals, and stones in troy weight.

– More damage has been done to Cleopatra’s Needle, a hieroglyphic-covered granite obelisk, in the 125 years it has stood in pollution-filled, weather-beaten New York City than in thousands of years in dry Egypt.

– The ancient Egyptians defined the hour to be one-twelfth of the time between sunrise and sunset. So, as the days grew longer in winter and spring and shorter in summer and autumn, the length of the hour varied from one day to the next.

– The last hieroglyphic inscription (The graffito of Esmet-Akhom) was made in 394 AD, and the last demotic inscription in 452 AD. Both were found at the temple of Isis in Philae.

– It is not known who destroyed the nose of the Great Sphinx of Giza. There are sketches of the Sphinx without a nose in 1737, over 60 years before Napoleon reached Egypt and hundreds of years before the British and German armies of the two World Wars. The only person known to have damaged it was an Islamic cleric, Sa’im al-dahr, who was lynched in 1378 for vandalism.

The Great Sphinx of Giza. Maison Bonfils (Beirut, Lebanon), Félix Bonfils (French, 1831-1885)
The Great Sphinx of Giza. Maison Bonfils (Beirut, Lebanon), Félix Bonfils (French, 1831-1885)

– It is not known exactly when or by whom the Great Sphinx of Giza was built or whom it represents.

– In old times the guests at an Egyptian feast, when they grew hilarious, were called back to sober propriety by the exhibit of a little skeleton, and the admonition to reflect upon the lesson it conveyed.

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