14 Interesting Facts About Ancient Egypt
Ancient civilizations don’t get much more interesting than Egypt. The northern African nation has an incredible history spanning centuries, making it one of the oldest nations in the world. Much like the Ancient Romans and Ancient Greeks, the Ancient Egyptians had a massive impact on modern society. The powerful civilization brought together Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt to form a strong and stable kingdom that went through many ages with little upheaval. It’s a captivating culture with so many great achievements that when speaking facts about Ancient Egypt it’s hard to know where to start.
This is the nation after all that built the pyramids, came up with hieroglyphics, made massive strides in medicine, and helped establish the modern calendar. To help you understand just how important the Ancient Egyptian civilization was and what it contributed to the world, here are some interesting facts about the nation that will surely blow your mind.
1. 95% of Egyptians Live Near the River Nile
The heart of Egypt is directed by the Nile River. Flowing over 4,100 miles, the river has played an important part in Egyptian history through the ages. It has always been the main source of water, and not just for drinking. The Nile has been used to irrigate the land, turning the dry and dusty desert into picturesque areas of greenery where crops are grown and gardens are tended to.
Egyptians have always lived within a few miles of the Nile, and this is backed up by recent statistics, with National Geographic stating that 95% of Egyptians live in close proximity to the river. While this might be a modern statistic, it still applies to Ancient Egypt, as it demonstrates how much the people relied on the river to survive and prosper.
2. Cleopatra Was Not Egyptian
When discussing famous Egyptians, Cleopatra VII is a name that always crops up. The queen of Egypt from 51 to 30 BC, Cleopatra has been immortalized by the media in books, movies, and TV shows, but what many people forget is that she wasn’t actually Egyptian. Yes, she was born in Alexandria, but her lineage was Greek Macedonian, with Cleopatra a descendant of one of Alexander the Great’s most trusted lieutenants, Ptolemy I.
3. The Last of the Seven Wonders of the World Can Be Found in Egypt
The Seven Wonders of the World, also known as the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, are seven famous structures that date back to the 2nd and 1st century BC. These impressive structures were cited as the greatest man-made creations by the Greek scribe Diodorus Siculus, a historian who wrote some 40-odd books about the world between 60 and 30 BC.
The seven wonders he spoke of were the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Temple of Artemis, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Of these wonders, only the Great Pyramid of Giza remains.
Found near the capital of Egypt, Cairo, the massive pyramid is now a major tourist attraction. People come from all across the world to gaze upon the incredible construction that houses the body of the Fourth Dynasty pharaoh Khufu. It took 27 years to complete and is made from around 2.3 million large limestone blocks. Roughly 4,600 years old, it’s an excellent example of Egyptian architecture that remains a must-visit destination.
4. The Egyptians Forged One of the Earliest Peace Treaties
Like most ancient civilizations that swept across the world, the Egyptians often found themselves at war. One of the longest battles came against the Hittite Empire for control of what is now known as Syria. The Egyptians and the Hittites fought for over two centuries, which is mad when you consider how long most modern wars last.
In 1259 BC, Pharoah Ramses II and the Hittite King Hattusili II decided to have a parley. Facing threats from new enemies, the two leaders shook hands and put their differences aside, and signed a peace treaty. They agreed to share Syria and work together if anyone attempted to claim the land.
Historians recognize the Egyptian-Hittite pact as the first peace treaty ever signed. Also known as the Treaty of Kadesh – named after the Battle of Kadesh, the last famous and bloody fight between the two nations – a copy of the treaty is displayed in the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
5. The Pyramids Weren’t Built By Slaves
A common misconception about the great pyramids is that they were built by slaves. This couldn’t be further from the truth. And no, it wasn’t aliens either. Thousands of local laborers were employed to build the triangle-shaped stone tombs.
Archaeologist Mark Lehner was one of the first to make this claim after unearthing two towns close to the pyramids that showed signs of workers living there. They found purpose-built huts and plenty of livestock bones to suggest the workers were also fed well and looked after.
This put to bed the myth perpetrated by Hollywood about slaves being used to build the pyramids, but the question of how they went about building the pyramids is still up for debate.
6. The Ancient Egyptians Worshipped More Than One God
While most modern-day religions revolve around one true god, the Egyptians worshipped many different entities. There were hundreds of different gods and goddesses that represented different aspects of life and were all important parts of Egyptian culture. Some of the most famous entities include Osiris, the god of the underworld who symbolized death and resurrection, Horus the sky god of hunting and war, and Hathor the goddess of motherhood and fertility.
Many of the most important temples and statues are monuments to these gods and goddesses. Over the years these entities fell in and out of favor with Ancient Egyptians depending on factors relating to society and culture.
7. The Ancient Egyptians Loved Board Games
Board games became a great source of entertainment during the pandemic years, but centuries before that, the Ancient Egyptians were playing them just as regularly. In fact, some of the oldest board games originated during this time, with games such as Hounds and Jackals and Mehen being extremely popular with folks. The most well-known of these board games is probably Senet.
The board game dates back to 2620 BCE and involves a long narrow board with 30 painted squares. While the rules aren’t quite clear, as nobody has ever found any written notes detailing how to play, historians believe it involved rolling dice and throwing sticks and moving pieces, known as pawns, along the board. How you win was anyone’s guess, but the game’s popularity was in no doubt, with a painting of the game found in the Third Dynasty tomb of ancient official Hesy-Ra and an actual copy of the board game found in Tutankhamen’s (also known as King Tut) burial chamber.
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8. Egypt Is Home To Severn UNESCO World Heritage Sites
You are probably aware the Great Pyramid of Giza is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site, but did you know there are seven in total? This goes to show how advanced a civilization Ancient Egypt was and the impact it had on the world, similar to the Roman Empire.
The seven sites are Abu Mena, Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis, Historic Cario, Memphis and its Necropolis (where the Great Pyramid of Giza is found), Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae, Saint Catherine Area and, Wadi Al-Hitan (also known as Whale Valley). If you ever visit Egypt all seven sites are well worth checking out.
9. Women Had Rights
Unlike many ancient civilizations, the Egyptians were quite liberal when it came to the rights of women. Ancient Egyptian women were still seen as second-class citizens in public, but they actually had many more rights than men would let on.
While most were housewives, those that worked were paid the same amount as men. Women could also own property, write their own wills, adopt children, and be involved in legal contracts with their partner. They also enjoyed a better social standing than the likes of Greek women, who were seen as their husband’s property.
10. Moses Received the Ten Commandments While in Egypt
The story goes that Moses led the children of God to Mount Sinai whereupon on the third day, a great storm occurred and clouds covered the mountain. God appeared and called Moses up to the top of the mountain. It was here that he handed Moses two stone tablets that contained the ten commandments. These are ten rules Christians (along with several other religions) should live their lives by if they want to make it to heaven.
11. There Are Three Different Deserts in Egypt
While you might think Egypt is one big desert, there are in fact three different deserts that make up the nation. There is the Western Desert (aka the Libyan Desert), the Eastern Desert (aka the Arabian Desert), and the Great Sand Sea which makes up part of the Sahara Desert.
Each of these deserts has its own ecosystem and provided different things for Ancient Egyptians. Precious stones and metals were found in some areas while others were great for growing crops. It might look like barren land to foreigners, but the Ancient Egyptians were able to build one of the greatest civilizations in a dust bowl, showing they knew how to harvest the land and get the best out of the desert landscapes.
12. Ancient Egyptians Loved a Strike
The Ancient Egyptians weren’t afraid to stick up for their rights. Laborers were known to occasionally go on strike when things they were promised didn’t materialize. As Guinness World Records points out, the first worker’s strike occurred in Ancient Egypt on November 14, 1152 BC.
Building the Royal Necropolis at Deir el-Medina for Pharaoh Ramses III, workers weren’t impressed when their usual payment of grain wasn’t forthcoming. Deciding to take a stand, the workers peacefully protested by occupying all the local temples and refusing to leave until their demands were heard. Ramses, not wanting to upset the apple cart, listened to their grievances and eventually relented and gave the men fair compensation.
13. The Curse of King Tut
Arguably the most famous Ancient Egyptian person, King Tutankhamun’s tomb has been the subject of ghastly rumors concerning the “Curse of the Pharaoh.” While all Egyptian tombs were meant to be cursed, with many featuring Ancient Egyptian art and Egyptian hieroglyphs warning people not to enter, nobody really ever believed they would be cursed until the tomb of King Tut was discovered in 1922.
It’s believed that British archaeologist Howard Carter was the man who spread rumors about the curse. Not wanting the press to invade his dig site and cause problems, Carter revealed they had found evidence of a curse that would befall anyone who entered the tomb. The ruse worked, as the press stayed clear while also hyping up the story, giving Carter more publicity, which he enjoyed.
The curse took on a life of its own when financier George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, passed away under mysterious circumstances a year after the tomb was opened. Several more people who entered the tomb also died, making the “Curse of the Pharaoh” seem like a reality. But people forget Carter lived until he was 64 and many other workers didn’t suffer any strange illnesses or deaths. Put simply, there is no such thing as the “Curse of the Pharaoh,” although you still wouldn’t catch us entering the tomb.
14. Alexandria Was Named After Alexander The Great
What was once the capital of Ancient Egypt, Alexandria was one of the great cities of the Mediterranean. Founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE, the Macedonian king also named the city after himself. It merged both Egyptian and Macedonian cultures and became one of the most prosperous Egyptian cities of that time.
Unfortunately for Alexander, he died before the city became great, with that responsibility falling to his favorite general, Ptolemy I Soter. He turned Alexandria into a cultural and economic center and built such great landmarks as the Library of Alexandria and the Lighthouse of Pharos, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
At one point in time, it was the most populated city in the world, but after the Roman Empire fell and the Arab nations invaded in 641 AD, the city slowly fell into decline. Since then the French and British have both occupied the city, but it now stands as one of Egypt’s major import/export cities and has been restored to some of its former glory.
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