The ancient Egyptian civilization has its roots in approximately 3000 BC. It lasted until 30 BC when it became part of the Roman Empire. The duration itself shows that the civilization was provided with all the necessary things, such as natural environment and the river Nile, water, fish, fertile soil, plants, but also with rich architecture. Building the pyramids had to include measurements, materials, mathematics etc. When we speak about Egypt, many things could come to your mind. First, the beauty of Cleopatra. Or maybe the glorious mask of Tutankhamun. Some of you think about the pictorial writing system known as hieroglyphs, which they used. They were found carved and written on many different surfaces such as papyrus, stone, wood etc. As you can see, for so many years, they found ways to deal with every situation. Let us point out some of the main inventions of the Egyptian Civilizations that we are the most curious about.
In history books, Greeks sometimes take the credit for inventing mathematics. They were skilled in mathematics and astronomy, but the truth has they learned it from the Egyptians. The main difference is that the Egyptian geometry and arithmetic were primarily used for practical applications: measurements, business transactions, how to construct pyramids and cut rocks. Mathematics was not seen as a theoretical science.
In the Egyptian schools, the curriculum included sports but for those intending to pursue further education, the emphasis was placed on writing (to train the character) and also mathematics. It is thought that the Egyptians introduced the earliest basic numeration system of 10 numbers at least as early as 2700 BC (maybe even before).The oldest mathematical text from ancient Egypt is the Moscow Papyrus, discovered around 2000 BC. The ancient Greeks later developed and improved what the Egyptian invented.
9. Calendar & clock
The Egyptians divided the time into three main periods: the inundation season (akhet), which lasted for one-third of the year; the sowing and growth of the crops (perit); and the harvest (shemu). These three seasons each consisted of 120 days and made one calendar year. To mark the beginning of each year, they chose the rising of the Dog Star, visible to all the people. The calendar was short, that become evident after some time. But the start of the civil year coincided with the beginning of the agricultural year.
In addition, records and historical documents were kept in terms of each king’s reign. The Egyptians were among the first to divide their days into parts. Obelisks – slender, four-sided monuments – were used as sun clocks from 3500 BC and their moving shadows enabled to separate the day into parts, by indicating noon. Later on, they invented the first portable one, also a shadow clock, but it was lightweight so you can take it with you all the time. A rod was marked with 12 sections and a shadow of the rod would tell you what time it was.
Ancient Egypt was a country ruled by the law. On the other hand, the country was ruled by one man only, a centralized figure – the Pharaoh. It was even higher than a King. Pharaohs were seen as living gods. They received the divine right to rule and their coronation made him the incarnation of the god itself. Theoretically, they owned all the land and the people. However, they never did anything to offend the goddess of truth – Ma‘at, because even the Pharaoh was subject to its power. Their only responsibility was to maintain universal harmony in the country. Compared to other ancient civilizations, throughout history, Egypt was the least warlike country in the ancient world.
Its geography and natural resources provided protection and food; therefore, there was no professional army for a long time. Pharaohs were the leaders of the people in every aspect of their lives – political, religious, etc. There was no need for military power. More important than anything else was the religious aspect of their rule – people were willing to follow them, in order to achieve the greatness in the afterlife. Pharaoh’s resurrection after death and continuation as a god in the next world was of crucial importance for the survival of Egypt.
The most famous ancient library was the Royal Library of Alexandria in Egypt. It was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world, dedicated to the Muses, the nine goddesses of the arts. Although it is not an invention per se, it had an enormous value for the collected knowledge of antiquity at one place. It was founded in Alexandria around 300 BC, by Ptolemy I Soter, which ruled the Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. Its aim was to establish a center of learning and gather all the known information about the outside world in one place. It counted more than one million papyrus scrolls containing literature, history, law, mathematics and science.
Wine was a very popular drink of the Egyptians. They maybe were not the first one to invent it, but there are pictures from that time that show how their process looked like, very similar with the one we have today. Grapevines were carefully cultivated and supported by wooden pillars. They were picked and put into baskets, where five or six men pressed the grapes with a wooden structure that made the juice to be left behind. Finally, the wine was kept in big ovens made of clay and large pottery jars. In was usually kept in cellars, together with oil and food. The barrels were also made for the Egyptian tombs, as a symbol to keep the body nourished. There is a myth that the lotus flower could produce a strong narcotic potion, when mixed with wine. There was a route where the wine was exported through Alexandria and the Nile was one of the world’s greatest trading centers, including silverware, bronze goods, pottery, oil and wine.
Wealthy Egyptians enjoyed a sophisticated lifestyle that reflected their social class, so they devoted a lot of time to their personal appearance every day. Different hairstyles were provided with wigs, both for the style and as a protection. They had to watch their skin against the dry climate with strong sun. They were also famous for their perfumes, for example the Oil of Lilies. Body and facial hair was removed with razors or depilatory creams. It is interesting that both sexes used make up and wigs. For make-up, the Egyptians used three kinds of eye paint: the most famous is black kohl; malachite (green ore of copper) and galena (dark gray ore of lead) for the eyes. Red ocher was used as rouge and, when mixed with oil, as a lip-gloss. When it comes to beauty, Cleopatra is known as one of the most beautiful women in history.
Many of her secrets are still used today, for example: the apple cider vinegar as a face toner; milk and honey bath to soften the skin; aloe vera for moisturizing; natural henna for nail color; almond oil for younger skin and honey for silky hair. They have also made the first recipe for the toothpaste that included eggshell powder (that wasn’t very pleasant), as well as the first breath mints made out of cinnamon boiled with honey, pine and berries. One more thing – the Egyptians adored the jewelry. We already mentioned magical charms that were used to protect them against forces such as disease, accidents and natural disasters. The archaeological discoveries of royal jewelry, such as the treasure of the queens and princesses can not be equaled today.
In Ancient Egypt, they believed in many gods and goddesses. Also, they strongly believed in the afterlife. So, when a king (pharaoh) dies, his ka (the life force) would leave his body, but only temporary. The ba, on the other hand, was a person’s spirit. It was important to preserve the body because the spirit would return. To make this happen, the Ancient Egyptians created a process called mummification, with the aim to preserve the bodies from decomposing after death. Using palm wine and water, all the internal organs were carefully removed and kept in jars, except the heart.
It was believed to be the essence of the person. Each organ had a different jar, there were four in total: one for the stomach, one for the intestines, one for the lungs and one for the liver. These were the important organs. They were put back into the body after being washed, dried and wrapped. The jars were placed by the body. After the process, the bodies were wrapped in linen and placed in special tombs in the Egyptian pyramids. They were placed together with hidden charms, called amulets, to protect them from the evil. There is a myth that all the tombs had curses cast on anyone who would enter. The most famous mask of the mummy belonged to King Tut, also known as Tutankhamun, discovered in 1922.
The Edwin Smith Papyrus is a medical text on surgery from Ancient Egypt written around 1600 BC. It shows that the Egyptians invented medical surgery – predating the Hippocratic Oath by a thousand years. It describes surgical cases of head, neck and chest injures and includes a list of instruments used during surgeries.
The first instruments were found within the Tomb of Qar, who was known as “the Physician of the palace and keeper of the secrets of the king.” It is also known to be the starting point of neuroscience. Egyptian medicine was a mixture of magical and rational treatments. Both methods were equally valid: when the cause was visible and objective, scientific treatments were used; and when the cause was hidden (could be punishment of the gods or the ill wishes of the enemies), magic was employed. Everything was based on the great knowledge of anatomy (as a result of mummification practices).
Archaeological discoveries believe that Egyptian hieroglyphs may be the oldest form of writing. from around 3300 BC. Along with the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians were the first people to develop their language into a codified form of writing. The early forms were pictures.
Although their writing changed in time, they deliberately preserved the hieroglyphic pictures in their original forms. Papyrus sheets are the earliest material used as paper, apart from stones, wood etc. Papyrus was exported all around the Mediterranean, Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire. They used mixed vegetable gum and bee wax to make black ink for writing. A big step for the history was when the Rosetta Stone was discovered in the Nile Delta, during Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt in 1799. Its impact on the decipherment of hieroglyphs was crucial.
The ancient pyramids are definitely at the top of the inventions of the Ancient Egypt. They belong among the most astonishing structures in the world. It is a geometrical solid with a square base and four equal triangular sides. Throughout history, they were primarily tombs to kings and religious temples. They were located away from the major cities and they needed decades to be finished.
The great pyramids of Giza from the 2600 century BC (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, tomb of Queen Hetepheres) is the largest one. It was consisted out of: the primary burial chamber (king’s chamber) containing the sarcophagus that held Khufu’s body; the walls with hieroglyphs depicting various aspects of Egyptian history as an ornament; weight-relieving chambers to prevent it from collapsing; the gallery with large passageways connecting the chambers, air shafts as the exits, etc.