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20 Ancient Egyptian Inventions | Some Will Surprise You

- 8:25 PM
The inventions of the Egyptians have been numerous. Some may be obvious and others may surprise you. Even some of the most basic elements of modern society such as clocks and calendars would not exist if not for the Egyptian people. It's almost impossible to understand exactly what all Egypt contributed to the ancient world's greatest inventions. Mostly due to so much being lost or adopted by other civilizations over the thousands of years since its inception. The Greeks for instance are often credited with developing mathematics. Although the Greeks certainly made very important advancements it's likely the Egyptians were who got the ball rolling in the field originally.

Egypt Had To Invent

Early civilizations created things from scratch by themselves. This is of course as a result of not having anyone to learn from. The ancient people of  Egypt, therefore, had no choice but to build it all from the ground up. Later civilizations like the Chinese and Greeks did not have such an issue.

1. Bronze


Bronze was discovered sometime around 3000 BC.  This seemed to be a crucial period for the advancement of technology in general but particularly for metals. The Egyptians and the Mesopotamians found out that they could improve their metals by combining tiny amounts of copper and tin ores and creating bronze. This new metal was stronger and longer-lasting than any of the other metals used during this period. In time the world will call this period the Bronze Age. The discovery of bronze produced a set of linked discoveries that couldn't have taken place without it. Making bronze one of the most crucial discoveries in human history. 

2. The Pyramids


Probably the most obvious of all the contributions they made was of course the great pyramids. The total number of known pyramids in ancient Egypt is somewhere between 118 to 138. Pyramids were built during the Old and the Middle Kingdom ages. However, it was during the Old Kingdom (c. 2700bc-2150bc) pyramid building was at its pinnacle. During the Middle Kingdom era pyramids were constructed, but not to the same degree as before. Sometime around 1700bc during the Middle Kingdom era Pyramid building came to an end altogether. Likely due to not being able to justify any longer the huge cost to construct these great monuments. But during their time they served as magnificent tombs as well as monuments for the Pharaohs and their spouses. King Zoser constructed the world's oldest known intact pyramid from 2667 to 2648 BC. The Zoser pyramid was built in Saqqara and served as the tomb for the pharaoh it was named after. The monument was constructed with 11,6 million cubic feet of stone and clay and is over 18 stories high.

3. Mummification

The Ancient Egyptians had an amazing ability for preserving the bodies of their dead. As a result today we know about the diseases these ancient people encountered even after thousands of years. For example, we know they suffered from gout, arthritis, bone tuberculosis, dental problems, and gallstones. Bilharziasis, a disease caused by thin, parasite flatworms, was even found in uncovered mummies. This disease is still an issue for current citizens fo Egypt. Interestingly no syphilis or rickets appear to have ever been found.

4. Clocks 


Clocks seem like a more modern product but somehow Egyptians beat us to it.  They invented two clock types which helped them tell time. Obelisks had been utilized as sundial clocks because they found that their shadow traveled across their surface every day. The obelisks could define the shorters in addition to the longest days in each year. Amenemhet 's tomb contained an inscription that revealed how a water clock was made. It was comprised of a stone container that had a small hole at the base, causing water to fall continuously. The time period can be determined at various stages by markers spaced apart. At night, the priest used comparable technology in the temples. For example, in the temple of Karnak, it was used to decide the best time for religious rituals.

5. Calendar

Ever wonder why we have a leap year. Believe it or not, it was these ancient people who likely asked that question first. They constructed their calendar by keeping an eye out for the annual arrival of Sirius. Sirius was also known as The Dog Star and could be found by looking up to the eastern sky. This served as a fixed point that would accompany the Nile's annual flood. It was very similar to today's calendars containing 365 days and 12 months. Their Calendar did differ slightly in that it contained 30 days per month with another five days at year-end. One huge mistake they made initially was not taking into account of what we now refer to now as a leap year. This would cause their calendars to become inaccurate over longer periods of time. Ptolemy III would eventually add 1 day for every 4 years to make up for the lost day.

6. Surgical Devices

We have made great progress in the medical field over the past thousands of years. However, you may be surprised by some of the similar items modern surgeons share with their ancient counterparts. The Edwin Smith Papyrus displays the Surgical Procedures the ancient Egyptians invented in great detail. Within the papyrus 48 cases of chest, neck, breast, head, and shoulder injuries were identified. It contains a rundown of the tools used for surgery such as using needles and stitches for suturing wounds. Surgical stitches, bandages, lint, cauterization, swabs, and adhesive plaster are listed here. At the Cario Museum, you will find even more surgical instruments. For example forceps, spoons, scalpels, pincers, scissors, hooks, lancets, probes, and copper needles. The Edwin Smith Papyrus also happens to be the first paper to render a brain 

7. Codified Writing


Egyptians are the first civilization to advance its language with a codified type of writing along with the Mesopotamians. Every early writing system was pictogrammatic. This is how every writing system would develop during ancient times. However, their original shapes usually would go out the door in time. The images would be simplified to unrecognizable abstract shapes as its writing system would advance. Interestingly, the Egyptians have consciously conserved the hieroglyphic images in their earliest shapes. That being said their writings have transformed into a form that no longer is true to its original hieratic.

8. Black Ink

Up until recently, we thought Egyptians made black ink by mixing only bee wax, soot, and vegetable gum. In order to make different colors they substituted suot for other materials such as ocker. For a long time, copper was left off of the ingredient list of the ancient black ink. That was until recently when scientists studied black ink that was used by scribes and found they actually had copper in their ink as well. Although black ink was used by Scribes primarily they also used red ink to mark special words of importance. For example, scribes would write names, headings, days of importance, or even magic words in red ink.  Black or red these ancient people held their words up to the highest standards. Words were viewed by them as being sacred.

9. Sheets of Papyrus 


The oldest paper-style material in the e ancient world was papyrus sheets. The most crucial written medium in ancient times was Papyrus. This remained true for over a whopping 3000 years.  All other civilizations used as a written surface in the form of clay tablets, wax, stone, animal hide, or wood.  It was transported throughout the Mediterranean Sea and has been used extensively both the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. The Europeans only switched to parchment in Europe during the seventh century AD as a result of an export embargo.

10. Irrigation

In Egypt remnants of ancient irrigation still can be found and believe it or not it even works. It was here as well as in Mesopotamia were people first had success regulating water flow. For the pharaohs building canals was a very important undertaking. The construction of the canals starting sometime in Scorpio's era. In order to use the annual Nile River flood to carry water to far-off regions, the Egyptians built canals and drainage ditches. Figuring out how to build proper irrigation for the Nile River played a huge role in their success as a civilization.

11. Shadoof 


A shaduf is an irrigation instrument used widely in ancient times. Modern versions of the Shadoof are still is in use in Egypt, India, and other countries today. It was hand-operated and raised water from a well. Normally they look similar to a seesaw because its a large, tapering pole positioned almost horizontally. The shaduf played a vital role in helping Egyptians properly irrigate the land that they depended on.

12. The Ox-drawn Plow

Sometime around 2500 B. C. the Egyptians first came up with the concept of using the force of oxen to move a plow. These plows constructed of bronze would break up and turn up their soil. Making the lives of farmers much similar. Once the plowing was done any remaining clumps of soil would be broken up with a hoe by the farmer. This practice was very common near the fertile soil near the Nile. Adapted variations are still being used today in undeveloped countries all over the world by modern farmers. There is no denying this invention as changed the landscape of agriculture.

13. The Sickle 


The sickle was a curved blade with a short handle. Surprisingly these ancient people did not make their sickle blades out of metal. Instead, it was a curved blade made of wood.  The wood blade went through a process called glazing first. After that process was done the blade would be honed to make its edges sharp. Often they used it to cut and harvest grains like barley and wheat.

14. Toothpaste

From modern standards, it may be hard to understand why Egyptians would have bad teeth. Given they did not have all the sugar-filled snack foods and drinks what gives? As it turns out it is most likely the stones they used to breakdown their grains into the flour that caused their teeth decay. The stones they used added a great deal of sand and other grit into their floor. All of that grit had taken a toll on their tooth enamel over time. This left their tooth enamel bare which made it very susceptible to infection.

In the fourth century AD, a papyrus was found that contained a toothpaste recipe along with a guide that showed the ancient people the proper way to brush their teeth. The papyrus explains how to combine exact quotas of materials. The material list includes mint, rock salt, dried iris flowers, and pepper grains which made powder. They claimed this powder was how to get clean and beautiful teeth. Dentists tested a reconstruction of ancient Egyptian toothpaste at the 2003 Vienna Dental Congress. Its components consisted of ox hooves, ashes, pumice, and burnt eggshells.

15. Eye Makeup


For anyone that has ever used cosmetic products, you can thank the Egyptian people for the pleasure.  Sometime around 4000 B.C, they invented a product very similar to modern eye make-up. Even men would wear makeup for their eyes. They claimed that it could treat eye diseases and stop what was referred to at the time as the evil eye disease. The soot and galena which is a lead mineral are mixed to produce a black ointment referred to as kohl. Along with the black, they also created a green makeup for their eyes by mixing galena and malachite to stain the ointment.

16. Wigs 

It was very common for Egyptians to shave their head during the extremely warm summers. They did this in order to keep them healthy and stop plagues like lice. However, the bald look was not in with these ancient people. They loved the health benefits but disliked the actual look of it. As you may have guessed this is why they created wigs. While priests were bald for cleansing ceremonies, those that had the means to purchase wigs had them. They usually even had different types with perfumed beeswax.

17. Breath Mints 

The Egyptians were highly trained in many areas in the medical field. However, they did not have oral professorial's of any kind. This was a huge issue since many of their people suffered from tooth decay. In fact, teeth decay and even abscesses were found by scientists studying mummies. Oddly enough they even found the same issues with young Egyptians mummies they studied. On top of the tooth and gum issues, they also suffered from chronic bad breath.  Instead of trying to fix their rotting teeth and gum disease they first attempted to mask the bad breath. They did so with the world's original breath mint. The mint was comprised of honey, myrrh, cinnamon, and frankincense. They even formed them into small pellets similar to modern breath mints.

18. Razors


It was in Egypt, where the original razor instruments were invented. Their people may have been the first civilization to take having a clean shave seriously. In fact, they were quite obsessed with shaving. These ancient people believed hair was very unhygienic. The priests even began shaving their whole bodies in a quite obsessive manner every 3rd day. Everyone shaved their head and faces. Having a clean shave was a sign you were of high standing in society. Having long hair even on your head would have been looked down on.  

Their razors were comprised of a series of sharp blades of stone. These stone blades were mounted in wooden handles. In time they would upgrade their stone blades to proper metal blades made of copper. This all would give rise to the barber tradesmen. However, their business operated a bit differently from modern barbershops. Firstly they didn't have a shop instead they served everyday citizens outside. Usually, this would comprise of a citizen sitting under a tree on a bench on a nice day while getting a shave. Sounds quite nice if you think about it. When it came to their wealthier customers they made house calls.  

19. Corbeled Arches

In 2600 BC the Egyptians used corbel vaults in some of their pyramid chambers during the Fourth Dynasty, of Pharaoh Sneferu. Corbeled arches are built using corbeling to expand a gap or void in a building. Corbelling requires the offsetting of consecutive lines of brick or stone. The offsetting must be done so that it extends out in the direction of the center of the archway until it reaches the archway apex. They learned at an early stage the idea of the true arch as well. Still, they continued to use and prefer the corbeled arch, especially in their temples. However, in some cases, these ancient people would combine both arch styles in one structure. 

20. Police

Local authorities employed private police forces for themselves during the Middle and Old Kingdoms to keep things under control. A more organized police force, composed mostly of  Medjay from Egypt's ally the Nubians was established under the New Empire. This police even used similar equipment modern police use today such as staff and dogs. No wealthy or poor person was exempt from penalties. These penalties would vary from the loss of land, beatings, and even maiming such as ear and nose cuttings. The biggest penalty may however have been a not to be giving the Egyptian conventional burial. They assumed that proper burial after death was crucial so that the danger from this latter penalty was truly dissuasive. As a result, most of the offenses were small-scale in nature.


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