Ten Interesting Facts about Ancient Egypt

Egypt's history has always been a fascination for many of us. From the mystery of the Sphinx to the art of mummification, lets take a look at some interesting and surprising facts about Ancient Egypt, one of the worlds greatest civilizations!

Egyptian women enjoyed freedom and a wide range of rights!

Women in Ancient Egypt may have appeared socially inferior to men in public, but women were in fact not denied any financial or legal independence. 

Portrait of a young woman in red, 90-120 AD (encaustic, limewood, gold leaf), Egyptian, Roman Period (c.30 BC - AD 337) / Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA / Bridgeman Images

The Egyptians saw animals as incarnations of the Gods!

Hawks, lions, baboons and dogs were animals that were extremely popular among ancient Egyptians. Animals were mummified and buried with their owners after they had died; to accompany and watch over the dead. Many of the gods were depicted in therianthropic forms; part human, part animal. In some cases they were fully animal, like in the sculpture below where Anubis the god of death is represented as a Jackal, a fierce predator.

Anubis, Egyptian god of the dead, from the tomb of Tutankhamun (c.1370-52 BC) New Kingdom (wood), Egyptian 18th Dynasty (c.1567-1320 BC) / Egyptian National Museum, Cairo, Egypt / Bridgeman Images

 

Cleopatra was originally part of a long line of Greek Macedonians

Cleopatra traced her families origins back to Macedonian Greece and Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander the Great's generals. Ptolemy ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander in 323 B.C. .

Preparatory study for 'Cleopatra Testing Poisons on the Condemned Prisoners' (oil on canvas), Cabanel, Alexandre (1823-89) / Musee des Beaux-Arts, Beziers, France / Bridgeman Images

Women also ascended the throne in Ancient Egypt 

Few women made it into the highest office and into the highest position of Pharaoh. Women who were believed to have royal blood were considered by Ancient Egyptians as divine. 

Statue of a Ptolemaic Queen, perhaps Cleopatra VII, 200-30 BC (dolomitic limestone) , Egyptian Ptolemaic Period (332-30 BC) / Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA / Bridgeman Images

The first Ancient Egyptian unified kingdom surfaced around 3,200 B.C

In Ancient Egypt there were three primary kingdoms, the Old Kingdom 'Age of Pyramids', Middle Kingdom 'Golden Age' and the New Kingdom 'Imperial Age'. 

Temple of Luxor, Avenue of the Sphinxes / Tarker / Bridgeman Images

Egyptian Society consisted of a descending hierarchy of the gods, the king, the blessed dead and humanity!

 

Anubis attends Sennedjem's Mummy, from the Tomb of Sennedjem, The Workers' Village, New Kingdom (mural) , Egyptian 19th Dynasty (c.1292-1187 BC) / Deir el-Medina, Thebes, Egypt / Bridgeman Images

There were two forms of writing in Ancient Egypt, Hieroglyphs and Hieratic Writing

Hieroglyphs were often used for decorative display on monuments/tombs. 

Painted wood shabti box depicting the weighing of the soul, detail, New Kingdom, 1000 B.C. / Louvre, Paris, France / © NPL - DeA Picture Library / Bridgeman Images

Hieratic script was used from the 1st dynasty until about 200 BCE. Hieratic script is a cursive form of writing. Priests used hieratic writing in the transcription of religious texts for more than several centuries. 

The Edwin Smith Papyrus, believed to be the world's oldest known extant surgical document, c. 1600 BCE / Pictures from History / Bridgeman Images

Ancient Egyptians were mathematicians and scientists

The Ancient Egyptians developed ways to measure time and distance. They applied their scientific and mathematical knowledge to the construction of monumental architecture. 

Cleopatra's Needle 1865 (photo) / Universal History Archive/UIG / Bridgeman Images

 

The River Nile was the source of the Ancient Egyptians wealth

Ancient Egyptian cities were located along the River Nile. The Nile was used for irrigation and water grew rich and profitable crops. 

Along the Nile at Gyzeh, c.1850s (oil on canvas), Frere, Charles Theodore (Bey) (1814-88) / Dahesh Museum of Art, New York, USA / © Dahesh Museum of Art, New York / Bridgeman Images

Egyptian Pharaohs were both heads of state and the religious leaders of their people

Pharaohs of the Ancient Egyptian people held two remarkable titles, 'Lord of the Two Lands' and 'High Priest of Every Temple'. The gods were represented by the Pharaoh's presence on on Earth. The ruling pharaoh built temples and performed many rituals that honored the gods. 

 

Gold mask of Tutankhamun, from the tomb of All-Ankh-Amon (Tutankhamun or Tutankhamun), Valley of the Kings, Egyptian 18th Dynasty (c.1567-1320 BC) / Egyptian National Museum, Cairo, Egypt / Luisa Ricciarini / Bridgeman Images

 

One more thing, the Egyptians were very fond of a few riddles

None was more compelling than the infamous Riddle of the Sphinx- an ancient mythological being comprising of a lion, eagle and woman. 

Its riddle was this: 

"What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?"

Oedipus and the Sphinx, 1968 (oil on canvas), Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) / Casa Museo Giorgio De Chirico, Roma / Luisa Ricciarini / Bridgeman Images

According to legend if the riddle was answered wrong the person would be killed by the Sphinx!

So please, if you dare, answer the riddle in the comments section below. 

Read more about Ancient Egypt and the Valley of Kings here.

 

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