No land on Earth possesses more miracles than Egypt, a country full of hidden wonders.
The history of ancient Egypt is a permanent attraction for contemporaries. It captivates with the charm of the mysteries and enigmas that are waiting to be elucidated, but also through the unusual aspects specific to it. Whether it's the rudimentary practices of ancient medicine or the origin of make-up, ancient Egyptian history remains an inexhaustible source of surprising information.
When it comes to Ancient Egypt, "unusual" is the most appropriate description.
Mummies, Scarabs, The Book of the Dead and a curious obsession with cats are just some of the things that continue to intrigue us.
Moreover, the mystery still envelops many things about Egypt and its history. For each thing that Egyptologists have finally managed to explain, there are others waiting for their explanations.
15 Birth Control
"In medicine, the Egyptians were leaving the rest of the world behind" stated Homer, a Greek savant in the 8th century BC.
You'd be shocked to find out that ancient Egyptians were experts in all the contraceptive methods.
First of all, they used condoms. What? Around 1350 BC? Yes, that's right. Condoms were composed of colored linen immersed in olive oil. Other condoms were made from intestinal membranes of animals - sheep especially - to prevent infectious diseases.
A birth control pill - usually hand-made - was used to prevent a pregnancy. As pomegranate contains natural estrogen, they ground its grains to obtain some powder and to make small contraceptive cones with the help of wax.
Honey, dates or other substances mixed with elephant or crocodile excrements were used in the creams and ointments that compare to modern spermicides.
Therefore, the pyramids aren't the unique traces of ancient Egyptians' modernity. And what are we doing today? Nothing more than improving the existing techniques. We haven't really invented anything new, have we?
14 Personal Hygiene
Regardless of their social status and sex, Egyptians used cosmetics. Oil, pressed from fruit or nuts, was the base of most of them. They were used to protect the skin and the hair from the hot air of the desert.
For soap they used natron, a paste that contains clay or ash. Sometimes, they used to mix vegetable and animal oils with alkaline salts.
As to the hair, it was simply considered the natural habitat of lice, therefore they chose the easy way: either putting oil on it or shaving the head - which most of them did. Even still, the Egyptians had nothing against the wigs they used as hats to protect them from the sun.
Keep in mind the fact that most of them were dead before the age of forty - that's why they were concerned with the preservation of youthful looks. The oil extracted from seeds was used mainly to improve the skin's condition.
Have things changed a lot since? Not really, as even today we care a lot about our physical appearance and do our best to look as well and as young as possible. It's available for both men and women!
What? Come on, this too? Unbelievable, it shouldn't be!
Both Egyptian men and women wore elaborate makeup. Ancient Egypt is considered the cradle of makeup, dating back to the third millennium BC. Eye makeup was generally green (made of copper) or black (made of lead).
The Egyptians believed that makeup had healing powers. Antimony, or Khol (the black pencil), as we call it today, with which the Egyptians shaped their eyes, was able to protect people's eyes from the desert sand. In addition, it had a symbolic function, recalling Horus's eye. Horus was the sacred hawk whose visual acuity symbolizes the struggle of light against shadows.
12 Medicine And Cures
Nowadays, we all try to live and to eat as naturally as possible. Therefore, we reject ordinary pills and cures and try to heal with medicines made of plants. It's believed to be better! It may be, and there might also be some truth in Homer's saying: "The native land of Egypt is the richest in cure."
The ancient Egyptians used oil, dough, dates, onions, garlic, linseed, dill, myrrh, opium as well as various minerals like lead salts, antimony and copper. They also used animal meat, brain and blood. All of these "drugs" were administered in milk, wine or beer, or boiled before administering.
For example, infections were treated with moldy bread. Lung diseases were treated with cream, honey mixed with cumin, milk with locusts. They made inhalations, with a cane, absorbing the vapor of a boil in which they mixed dates, resin, myrrh, while the castor seed, well-chewed, then added in beer, was an ordinary laxative.
11 Mathematical Calculations
Math still causes headaches, even today, when we live in the age of computers and calculations should be a piece of cake for everybody. Well... they aren't, especially when it comes to more complicated mathematical operations. But we all know that there were and still are people who've got calculations under their thumb.
The Egyptians were undoubtedly the world champions of mathematical calculations and their applications in everyday life.
The most convincing example is found in the sanctuary in the temple of Abu Simbel.
Here, twice a year, each year, the faces of Pharaoh Ramses II and of the gods Amun and Ra are illuminated by the sun's rays, while the face of Ptah, sitting next to the others, is always in the dark. Moreover, the two days of this phenomenon are the birthday of the pharaoh and the day he was crowned (October 22 and February 22).
Year 5, 3rd month of Winter, day 13. Do you know what I'm talking about? You might not know, as you don't know anything about the ancient Egyptians' calendar, do you?
The Egyptians had devised a calendar which, according to the best scholars on the subject, is undoubtedly the only intelligent calendar which has ever existed in human history.
Ancient Egyptians measured time as we do today: in years, months, days, hours. The years were numbered in years of reign with respect to the enthronement of the pharaoh, and not as we do today, starting from a zero point.
The Egyptian year was divided into 12 months, each of 30 days. Each month was divided into 3 decades (10 days). The astronomical texts subdivide the night sky in 30 decans, following the rise of constellations at certain hours of the night. Each decan represented a decade in the calendar. The months were grouped in three seasons: AKHET (the flood), about mid-July to mid-November; PERET (reflux, or winter), about mid-November to mid-March; And CHEMOU (the harvest or, literally, the low water), about mid-March to mid-July, when the corn was being harvested.
But, as nothing is perfect, neither is their calendar. The only great reproach that can be made to this calendar system is the absence of leap years, which will only appear in the Roman era. This lack made them take a day late every four years. Thus the calendar gradually shifted in relation to the natural year.
9 Air Conditioning
I remember that, in my childhood, when there was no air conditioning, people used evaporative cooling by simply hanging wet cloths and curtains in doorways and windows. Due to the wind that blew across the wet products the air in the house was cooler. I thought it was awesome. And it really helped. I considered their idea a very ingenious one. But it seems that it wasn't theirs at all. On the contrary! The Ancient Egyptians are credited as being the first to have used it!
There is more. Another mystery is the temperature inside the Great Pyramids of Giza, which is constant, 20 degrees Celsius, despite the fact that the temperature around it reaches 50 degrees.
The mystery does not end here. The temperature in the pyramid is equal to the internal temperature of the Earth.
Is this a coincidence, or did the Egyptians really have both the knowledge and the technical possibility to create and maintain this temperature in an artificial structure?
You may have already lived a moment in your life where you hated someone and where you began to love him/her with the same intensity, or vice versa; it was an application of this principle the ancient Egyptians were aware of!
Everything has two poles, everything has two extremes. The two poles, although they are extremely different, are in fact exactly the same because they are on the same scale, but at different levels. This is why cold and hot, although they seem very different, simply indicate the temperature. They are the same thing. The difference is only the level of vibration. We cannot say where darkness ends and light begins. These are always different levels of presence of both.
As unbelievable as it might seem, the Egyptians also had a very strong sense of justice and morality. They knew that the good should prosper and the guilty must be punished. They also understood that it's impossible to be perfect, therefore they tried to be balanced.
One of the most feared deities of ancient Egypt was Ammit - whose body consisted of the three man-eating animals: lion, hippopotamus and crocodile, a combination of ferocious and terrifying creatures.
Although she has never been considered a goddess, she was the dweller that waited on the scales of judgment to eat the hearts of Egyptians who did evil throughout their lives.
No wonder the Egyptians were willing to follow the principles of Ma'at, the goddess of harmony, justice and truth! Who wouldn't do the same?
6 Respect for Disabled Persons
Despite both the birth control and the pills used to cure and heal different diseases, there was a thing that couldn't be controlled: the birth of a disabled person.
In ancient Egypt, people who were born with handicaps had an assured job. For jobs requiring a high level of security, such as the processing or handling of gold, dwarves, giants or people with visible weaknesses were preferred.
Dwarfs, especially, were not seen as persons with a physical handicap, on the contrary, Egyptians worshipped dwarf gods. Therefore, many dwarfs had positions of authority in households.
5 The Sphinx
In Egyptian mythology, the word sphinx refers to a hybrid being, symbolizing the union of the solar god Ra (lion's body) and the pharaoh (human head, sometimes head of a falcon). Today it is a great enigma that archaeologists have to solve.
4500 years ago under the Egyptian Empire, a pharaoh imagined a monumental sculpture which he built in Giza near the city of Cairo.
The Sphinx measures 20 meters in height and 73,50 meters in length, it is carved in an immense limestone rock, its face measures 5.20 meters in height, 4.20 meters in width and the stretch of the nose measures 2 meters. It is the most massive sculpted statue of a single block.
But, when was it really built?
According to the most obvious indications, the Sphinx dates from 2500 BCE. However, it should be noted that the Egyptian civilization was born in 2925 BCE. Scientists state that the face of the Sphinx represents King Khephren. Moreover, the temple of Khephren is located 15 meters south of the Sphinx. A stela was built between the legs of the Sphinx in 1400 before our era by Pharaoh Thutmosis IV of the eighteenth dynasty. He had this stela erected after the discovery of the body of the Sphinx, for until that date the Sphinx has been covered with sand to the neck!
The pharaoh was the absolute ruler of ancient Egypt, whose territory was then divided into two distinct entities, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. For the ordinary people, the pharaoh was an intangible person, the earthly son of Ra and the supreme authority in the state. After death, the pharaoh's body was mummified in a complicated ceremony and then buried in a rich ornamented sarcophagus.
Pharaoh Pepi II ruled 94 years, the longest reigning monarch in human history, which implies that he had a very long life.
One of the ways in which he managed to live so much was the fact that he had always protected himself against flies and other bugs, which, as they do today, transmitted germs of many diseases.
We're not sure that the expression "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" goes all the way back to those times, but we're sure that this Pharaoh certainly understood the concept.
Since at those times there were neither windows nor insecticide nets, the solution was extremely ingenious: slaves were smeared with honey and placed nearby, so flies were attracted to them and effectively remained glued to them.
3 The Mysteries of the Great Pyramid of Giza
No structure in the world is more mysterious than the Great Pyramid of Giza.
It is hard to imagine that the monument in homage to Cheops was built from 2.3 million blocks of stone, on average, each weighing more than two tons, and that they were carved with simple copper tools.
It's not less impressive to realize that its sides are precisely aligned with the cardinal points and that none exceeds the others by more than five centimeters. Not to mention that with its original 146.58 meters, the Great Pyramid has remained the highest human construction in the world for nearly 4,000 years - until the central spire of the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of Lincoln is completed in 1310.
But all these superlatives are of no help to us to elucidate the mysteries it conceals.
2 Perfect Alignment
It seems like mysteries wouldn't find an end in Ancient Egypt. Although it seems accidentally placed in the desert, experts have determined that the Great Pyramid is located exactly in the geographic center of the continental surface of the Earth.
This can be determined relatively easily by anyone who has a Mercaor projection of the earth globe.
Today, it is obvious that the Egyptians did not have such a map and it is even more difficult to determine how much they knew about the world.
This is why the choice of the location where the Great Pyramid was built still remains an unsolved mystery!
The Egyptians are famous for their love towards animals, but the cats were sacred, and at one point they also had their own religious cult.
When a cat died, all the members of the grieving family shaved their eyebrows as a sign of mourning. If a cat was killed, even by mistake, the author was subjected to public atrocities and was sentenced to death by a horrible method: venomous snakes bite.
When a cat died, its worship involved its mummification and burial in a dedicated cemetery. Next to the cat's mummy, a mummy of a mouse and a bowl of milk were inserted into the tomb.
Evidence that this habit was not temporary relies in a discovery in 1888 when a farmer unearthed over 80,000 cat mummies from a single cemetery.
Could cat-lovers today do the same?