Ancient Egypt was one of the most advanced and lasting of the ancient civilization. The civilization coalesced around 3150 BC according to conventional wisdom. Their civilization has captivated the minds and imaginations of children and scholars alike, and for good reason. But there are some pretty uncommon facts about Egypt that many don’t know.
1. Both men and women wore makeup.
Makeup is seen by many today as something women use exclusively, but to the ancient Egyptians, makeup was for men and women alike.
They often wore large amounts of makeup because they believed it gave them special godly protection. Women often stained their cheeks with red paint and both sexes wore perfumes.
2. Egyptians domesticated numerous animals.
Everyone knows that Egyptians kept cats as household pets, revering them as god-like creatures, but they also had a reverence for hawks, dogs, lions, ibises, and baboons. These animals were frequently kept in Egyptian homes and were often mummified and buried with their dead owners.
3. King Tutankhamen may have been killed by a hippo.
There isn’t much known about the boy pharaoh Tutankhamen, but some historians now think that King Tut may have died from being crushed by a hippo. His embalmed body lacked his heart or his chest wall, which was unusual. He also had wounds that were likely bites from a hippo.
4. The pyramids weren’t actually built by slaves.
Building a pyramid is definitely hard work, and there are skeletons of workers with arthritis and other ailments to prove it, but new evidence suggests that the pyramids weren’t actually built by slaves but by paid workers.
Graffiti that was found near the monuments suggests they even gave their own crews special nicknames like “The Drunkards of Menkaure” or “Friends of Khufu.”
Ancient Egyptians did keep slaves, but not to build the pyramids.
5. The pharaohs were usually overweight.
When we think about the pharaohs, we often picture tall, slender, darker skinned people of great beauty. That probably wasn’t the case though. Beer, wine, bread, and honey were staples of the Egyptian diet.
Examination of various mummies have shown that Egyptian rulers were frequently overweight and unhealthy, even suffering from diabetes in some cases. Queen Hatshepsut, was depicted as slender and athletic, but historians now think she was overweight and balding.
6. Egyptian workers used primitive labor unions.
The plight of the worker isn’t new to the post-industrialized western world. Egyptian workers were actually known to organize and strike for better working conditions.
During the rein of Ramses III, laborers organized one of the world’s first labor strikes. It took the form of a sit in where workers simply entered nearby temples and refused to leave until they were heard.
The strikes usually resulted in payraises and unpaid dues.
7. Egyptian women were remarkably free.
Women have not always had it easy, that’s for sure. The right to vote here in the U.S. came relatively recently for women. But in Egypt, women enjoyed legal and financial freedom. They could serve on juries, make legal contracts, and sell property. Egyptian women didn’t usually work outside of the home but the ones who did worked the same jobs as men and received equal pay.
8. The ancient Egyptians forged the first ever peace treaty.
For more than 200 years, a war raged between the Hittites and the Egyptians for control of lands in what is now Syria.
The combat was often bloody and, after 200 years, the Egyprian-Hittite treaty was drafted.
Today, it is recognized as the earliest-surviving peace accord in human history and is kept above the entrance of the United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York City.