15+ Unexpected Facts About Ancient Egyptians That Would Even Make Your History Teachers Blush
What we know about Ancient Egypt is mostly from our school history books and movies. We see the great pyramids, amazing kings and queens, and the luxuries of their tombs. And these things are interesting, there’s no doubt about it, but there are some other things not everyone knows about.
We at Now I’ve Seen Everything have made a compilation of interesting facts about ancient Egyptians that not many people know.
- Wet nurses were especially respected and compared to gods. Even though medicine was relatively developed at the time, childbirth didn’t get as much attention as it should, and many women died in labor. And because of the hot climate, breastfeeding was very important — milk could prevent dehydration in babies. This is why rich families often made contracts with wet nurses, so that they would take care of the baby in case the mother died.
- The pyramids were built not by slaves but by hired workers. This is proven by the tombs found near the Giza pyramid complex. The study of the skeletons found there showed that the people there did hard physical labor. Archaeologists agree that they were the ones that built the pyramids. And the location of the tomb means that the deceased couldn’t have been slaves because only highly respected people could be buried close to the pharaohs.
- Another fact that proves the theory that the builders couldn’t have been slaves is that most of the population of Ancient Egypt was engaged in agriculture. And because the soil there was good for agriculture only several months a year, most of the time, the farmers were free and worked for the pharaohs.
- In Ancient Egypt, people didn’t celebrate their birthdays. Only pharaohs did, and not the way we do now. The rulers celebrated the day of their coronation, and then they were equal to gods.
- People’s names were kept secret for their entire lives. If someone knew someone else’s name, according to superstition, they could affect the person in a magic way, so, Egyptians had nicknames. By the way, for the same reason, when pharaohs got the throne, they took the names of their great predecessors as a guarantee of their own safety.
- Egyptians were afraid of dying abroad because they believed that if they were buried in the dark earth of the Nile River Delta, only then would they be able to be reborn in the afterlife. This is why Egyptians didn’t travel much and didn’t see other countries as much as Greeks, for example.
- Golden bridges with someone else’s teeth found in some mummies prove that Egyptians used teeth prosthetics. But it’s hard to say if they were used when the people were still alive, or after, during the embalming process.
- Personal hygiene got a lot of attention. People of all social classes washed themselves every day. The poorest people bathed in the Nile, and rich people had special bathrooms, and water was brought to them by servants. Instead of soap, they used natron, a mix of 4 salts. This was also used for mummification.
- Egyptians were one of the first to use penicillin and probably didn’t even realize it. They put moldy bread on their wounds. As we said, they were quite serious about their hygiene. This is why post-op mortality in Ancient Egypt was lower than in any European hospital until the middle of the 20th century.
- To avoid lice, both men and women shaved their heads and wore wigs, protecting them from the sun. The higher classes could afford expensive wigs from human or horse hair with golden and silver threads, and poor people had to use self-made wigs from papyrus sheets.
- Not everyone could afford shoes, and many Egyptians, even the noble ones, often walked barefoot, especially at home. In order to protect their legs from the sun and insects, they used special ointments. The wealthiest had personal manicure experts. They did nails with knives and files, and this job was so respected that it was even noted on their grave after death.
- Incestuous marriages were popular. At first, only the ruling dynasties did it to preserve the pure blood and decrease the number of people that could inherit the throne. Pharaohs often married their sisters. There were cases when men married their nieces that were the daughters of their brothers and sisters. These relationships became normal even for ordinary Egyptians.
- Studies showed that Tutankhamun’s parents were brother and sister, and the pharaoh himself married his half-sister. They had 2 daughters, both stillborn. And Cleopatra was married to her brother Ptolemy III for 3 years.
- Ramesses II is believed to be one of the greatest pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, along with Thutmose III. He lived a long life: historians have different estimations, but he died at the age of around 90 or 91 years old. He had more than 30 children with different spouses, and it’s known that he was married to 4 of his own daughters.
- Cleopatra, as you know, was a great ruler of Egypt. She was the head of the country for 22 years. We’re used to thinking that she was beautiful, but in fact, her beauty was exaggerated. Historians believe that she wasn’t as thin as we think, had thin lips, and a big eagle-like nose.
Now, you know a little bit more about how people lived in Ancient Egypt. It was a truly amazing and fascinating time we’d like to see with our own eyes. Which fact from our compilation amazed you the most? Tell us in the comment section below!