16 Very Fascinating Facts about Ancient Egypt
fPartake in this great adventure as we explore 16 very fascinating facts about ancient Egypt, a civilization that goes back a staggering 5,000 years. It covers a host of issues from architecture, social life, politics to religion in ancient Egypt.
Egyptian Pyramids were built as burial chambers
One look at the ancient Egyptian pyramids and you can’t help but wonder how a 5,000-year old culture pulled off such unbelievable feat of construction. Believe it or not, the pyramids that you see today served one purpose only. They were built as tombs for the kings and queens of ancient Egypt. These tombs were seen as staircases that enabled the pharaoh make his/her way to the afterlife. And these magnificent burial edifices are littered all across Egypt.
So far archaeologists have dug over 130 pyramids. Famous of among this lot would have to be the three gigantic pyramids located at the Giza Pyramid Complex. At about 146-meters tall, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the tallest and largest among the three. For several centuries, it was the tallest man-made structure in the world. The Giza Pyramid was built around 2,600 B.C.E. by Pharaoh Khufu. Scientist estimate that it is composed of a staggering two million blocks of stone.
Furthermore, there are several smaller pyramids buried deep beneath the soils of Egypt, waiting to be discovered. Chances are that in every one of those pyramids one would find a mummified remain of an Egyptian king or queen or a noble.
Continue reading, if you are wondering why ancient Egyptians went to such lengths just to build a “grave” for their rulers.
Ancient Egypt took the afterlife way more seriously than we do today
In the eyes and minds of the ancient Egyptians, the afterlife was considered an even more remarkable place than the life of the living. As a result of this belief, they prepared adequately for it. They had a well laid-out way of burying their dead to ensure that the deceased made it safely to the afterlife. They believed that by preserving the body of the dead through mummification, the person’s soul was guaranteed to go on living for eternity in the afterlife.
According to ancient Egyptians, this practice was first performed by the goddess Isis, with help from the god Anubis, on her dead husband, the god Osiris. The mummification done on Osiris granted him a smooth passage into the underworld in order to claim his throne as a god of the dead. It as a result of this that the ancient Egyptians started to pay particular attention to the dead. Not doing so meant that the restless soul of the deceased could come back and wreak havoc on the lives of the living.
Click on this link to check out our detailed explanation of how the mummification process was done 4,500 years ago in ancient Egypt.
You could fit as many as 16 Empire State buildings in Khufu’s Pyramid at Giza
The third fascinating fact about ancient Egypt has to do with the three pyramids that stand glistering tall at the Giza Pyramid Complex in El Giza, Egypt. However, one of them stands the tallest and largest of all three. This awe-inspiring pyramid, known as the Pyramid of Giza, constitutes one of the numerous things constructed by the great Khufu himself. For centuries, it has dazzled and inspired anyone that laid eyes on it.
Experts believe that the Great Pyramid of Giza is so grand that 16 Empire State buildings could fit in it. Until 1311 AD, the Pyramid of Giza held the record of being the tallest man-made structure on earth. It is also the only surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Ancient Egypt had at least 2,000 deities and gods
Another interesting fact about ancient Egypt is that the culture was far from being monotheist; rather they had gods and deities for every life phenomenon. For instance, the god Isis was venerated as the mother of all gods and goddesses. She was considered the god of marriage, splendor, and affection. Her husband and brother, the god Osiris, was seen as the god of the underworld; Osiris along with the god Anubis guided souls into the underworld.
Like humans, the gods and goddesses did not always live in peace. Some of them were even considered evil or sometimes acted in a selfish and evil manner. Examples of good gods were the sun or sky god Horus and Thot (the god of knowledge).
On the flip side of things, Seth (Set), the god that often dweled in the desert regions of Egypt and Sudan, was considered the god of chaos. Such was his evil that he killed his own brother, the god Osiris. According to ancient Egyptian mythology, these deities on some occasions clashed and fought each other in order to exercise control over the affairs of men.
Also, it was not uncommon to have Individuals, families, clans and whole cities have a peculiar god or goddess. For example, the god Seth was often associated with the desert dwellers in Nubia. Then there was Amun (or Amun-Ra) – the patron god of the city of Thebes.
Find out more fascinating facts about ancient Egypt and their deities in our article: Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egyptians were expert inventors
A well-known fascinating fact about ancient Egypt is that they made so many advances in agriculture, pottery, construction and a host of other things. But did you know that the ancient Egyptians were the first civilization to use pens, paper (papyrus), keys, door locks, and toothpaste?
The toothpaste that they made was to fight against discoloration caused by the desert sand. Egg shells, ashes, and some other materials were used to make the toothpaste.
What is toothpaste good for without a toothbrush? Not only did they have toothpaste, but the ancient Egyptians also invented toothbrush to go along with their ash/egg shell-toothpaste.
Then there were the massive keys and locks that they made. The first keys that the Egyptians invented may have been up to two feet long.
From makeups to perfumes and lipstick, the ancient Egyptians were the first to use them. Not only did they pride themselves with building colossal structures, but they also took care to maintain a very good looking image.
The Pyramid Period (Old Kingdom) is really far from our time
The distance in terms of years between Pharaoh Kufra’s reign in Egypt and Queen Cleopatra’s time is much further than the distance between Cleopatra’s time and our modern age. That is how old the Great Pyramid of Giza is. Such a long time ago, but yet the Egyptians were able to pull off such remarkable feat of construction. Sheer brilliance!!!
Ancient Egyptians absolutely revered cats
Millennia of years ago, dogs were not man’s best friends. That honor belonged to the little feline animals called cats. It is a well-established fact that the ancient Egyptians held cats in very high esteem, and in some cases, they even worshiped their cats. It was believed that cats had magical powers that brought the owner luck. Some were also used to ward off evil spirits that they believed appeared in the form of snakes.
Furthermore, the ancient Egyptian goddess Bastet (Bast) was sometimes depicted on paintings and statutes as a cat. It was not uncommon to find paintings of Bastet in a fierce battle with the evil snake called Apep. This cat goddess even had a devout cult following in Bubastis, Lower Egypt. Settlers in those areas also considered her patron goddess and protector of all Lower Egypt.
There are about 700 Hieroglyphs in the Egyptian alphabet
If you think that the Cambodian Khmer has too many letters, think again. The ancient Egyptians had 74 letters more than the Khmer. Egyptologists believe that there were about 700 hieroglyphs to contend with. None of the modern alphabets today can hold a candle to the sheer number of characters that were present in the Egyptian alphabet. The Egyptian hieroglyphs first popped up around 3,100 B.C.E. during the rule of King Menes of the Old Kingdom.
Makeups were not the preserve of just ancient Egyptian women
Some 4,500 years ago, both men and women engaged in the practice of wearing makeups. Egyptian society at that time was undoubtedly the most advanced and civilized of its era. Fashion was not just the sole confines of women alone. Most male Egyptians loved to also put some good amount of face makeups and wear beautifully designed white linens. Looking well-kept and healthy was a valued habit.
To some, the makeups served as a sun cream to protect them from the harsh sun and desert conditions, especially during the summer. The ancient Egyptians also believed that some makeups when worn could protect them from bad spirits and omens.
Pharaoh Menes was the first unifier and subsequently considered a god
Among historical and anthropological circles, King Menes ( also called Narmer) is widely regarded as the first person that unified Lower and Upper Egypt. This event occurred around 3100 B.C.E. It also marked the beginning of the First Dynasty of Egypt. For unifying the two lands, Menes was often shown wearing the two crowns of the lands.
Menes’ successors later acquired the association with divine beings and gods. From the Second Dynasty (2890-2670 BCE) onward, the pharaohs of Egypt were seen as gods on earth. The people considered them intermediaries between humans and gods. This was because the Egyptians believed that the first true king of Egypt was the god Osiris (later it became Horus).
Rameses II was the Longest-reigning Pharaoh
According to historians, it is estimated that the Great Rameses II ruled Egypt for about 67 years. When he first ascended to the throne, he was only in his late teens. In addition to this, Pharaoh Rameses II fathered close to 100 children. He was one of the most extravagant pharaohs in Egypt’s history. He built several colossal statues and monuments of himself across Egypt. Truth be told, he was the perfect definition of an egomaniac.
The first capital city in ancient Egypt was Memphis
During the Early Dynastic Period, the first Egyptian ruler and unifier – Menes – of the two lands made Memphis the capital city of Egypt. Menes acted in a very strategic manner by placing the capital between the two land areas. This helped to cement his claim as the unifier of Egypt.
Click here to read our pick of 12 greatest cities in ancient Egypt
Pharaoh Djoser was the first builder of Pyramids in Egypt
Pharaoh Djoser, along with his astute help, the famous and legendary architect Vizier Imhotep, was the first ruler of Egypt to build a Pyramid. The first pyramid was called the Step Pyramid. Pharaoh Djoser built it at Saqqara around 2,700 B.C.E. Rather than have a smooth plane, it resembles steps. The ancient Egyptians made it this way hoping that their deceased king would climb them and make his way to the afterlife.
Cleopatra VII was the last pharaoh
Cleopatra VII Philopator was a pharaoh during the Ptolemaic Dynasty. The Ptolemaic Dynasty was made up of Hellenic Pharaohs that came after Alexander the Great’s conquering off Egypt in 332 B.C.E. Prior to Alexander, Egypt was briefly ruled by the Persians and the Achaemenids.
The reason why Cleopatra is considered by many as the last substantive pharaoh of Egypt is that after her death, the Romans came onto the scene and made Egypt part of the Roman Empire. This happened in 30 B.C.E. After that, Egypt never witnessed a rule by a pharaoh.
Click here to learn more interesting facts about the life of the beautiful and mesmerizing Pharaoh Cleopatra.
Ancient Egypt had laws that protected women’s rights
In ancient Egypt, women had almost the same rights as men did in ancient Egypt. Women could own properties, enter into contracts, seek legal counsel, and even divorce their husbands. Considering the age and the environment, this was quite usual. Not even in places like Rome or Athens could one find such refined laws as the ones in Egypt that treated women in a fair and just manner. Women were allowed to occupy high posts such as administrators, priests, and bakery supervisors.
It is a fascinating fact that ancient Egypt even had strong and brave women like Hatshepsut (c. 1473- c.1458 B.C.E) and Cleopatra VII (c. 69 B.C.E – 30 B.C.E) who become pharaohs. There were also other famous and influential women such as Hetpheres (2600 BCE), Nefertari (1290 BCE) and Arsinoe ( 316 BCE) whose contributions to ancient Egypt can rival that of their male counterparts.
The River Nile is the longest river in the world
In this last fascinating fact about ancient Egypt, we explore the River Nile. Historians believe that as far back as 8,000 years ago, the river Nile had its first settlers. Little did these settlers know that they were venturing into the environs of the world’s longest river.
The Nile stretches all the way from central Africa (either in Burundi or Rwanda) to the Mediterranean Sea. Its meandering stretch, which is about 4,100 miles long, passes through 11 African countries: Congo, Burundi, Eritrea, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Egypt.
And for millennia upon millennia, the Nile has dutifully served and catered for the people that settled on it. The ancient Egyptians considered the Nile River as the habitat of the gods and goddesses.
Simply put, it has and will be the lifeblood of communities that settle on it. It deposits rich sediments on land whenever it overflows its banks. This makes the land very fertile for farming.
According to Egyptian mythology, the god Seth dumped the casket that contained his brother, Osiris, into the Nile. It was also in the Nile that baby Moses ,in Judo-Christian religions, was let to float until he was rescued by the daughter of the pharaoh.
Today, the Nile offers hydro-electric power, fish, and abundant irrigation for the countries along its boundary. It is also a very famous tourist destination for those countries. Over the years, it has brought in billions and billions of U.S. Dollars in annual revenue to the region’s inhabitants.