44 Ancient Egypt Facts That Separate Myth From Truth

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Servants were sometimes smeared with honey in order to attract flies away from the pharaoh.

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The bandages of a mummy could stretch out to one mile (1.6 kilometers) when unwrapped.

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Beer was a primary source of nutrition for most Ancient Egyptians and was consumed daily.

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Cleopatra’s parents were likely brother and sister and she herself married both of her own brothers at different times.

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A common myth, perpetuated by the Greek historian Herodotus, is that the Great Pyramid was built by 100,000 slaves. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Great Pyramid was actually built by a workforce of 5,000 permanent, salaried employees and up to 20,000 temporary workers.

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Beer was so important to Ancient Egyptians that it could be used as currency.

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One of Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s favorite pranks was to get drunk, don disguises, and play practical jokes on people in the streets.

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Both men and women in Ancient Egypt wore makeup — some researchers believe it was effective as a sunscreen given its prevalence of use.

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Ancient Egyptians mummified not only humans but animals as well, including many cats and at least one crocodile.

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Even though she’s one of the most famous historical figures associated with Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra wasn’t actually Egyptian. She was Greek Macedonian, descended from one of Alexander the Great’s lieutenants.

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Historians believe that King Tut may have been killed by a hippopotamus. His body was embalmed without his heart or chest, leading some Egyptologists to conclude that he was bitten by a hippopotamus while hunting.

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Men and women of similar social status were treated as equals in the eyes of the law. This meant that women could own, earn, buy, sell, and inherit property, and also had the right to divorce and remarry.

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Toilets were built into some Ancient Egyptian tombs.

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The historical period commonly thought of as “Ancient Egypt” lasted far longer than most people realize. For example, Cleopatra lived closer in time to the present than she did to the building of the Great Pyramids.

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Ancient Egyptian mummies were repurposed several thousand years later when Renaissance artists ground them up and used them to create a prized shade of paint known as “mummy brown.”

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Pharaohs are depicted as being statuesque, but members of the nobility were often obese and in poor health because of the Egyptian diet of meat, beer, wine, bread, and honey. Modern examinations of mummies indicate that many Egyptian rulers were unhealthy, overweight, and often suffered from diabetes.

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Cleopatra studied math, philosophy, and astronomy and spoke at least 12 languages, despite being remembered largely for her beauty today.

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The mummy of priestess Henut Taui was later found to contain traces of cocaine, hashish, and nicotine, all substances originally unique to the Americas, thus fueling the theory that the Ancient Egyptians may have reached the New World thousands of years before Columbus.

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When a body was mummified, the brain was removed through one of the nostrils, and the intestines were also removed and placed in canopic jars. The only internal organ that was not removed was the heart because Ancient Egyptians considered it to be the seat of the soul.

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Everyday items such as paper, keys, and locks were invented in Ancient Egypt.

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The Ancient Egyptians didn’t invent mummification. In fact, South Americans had been doing it for 2,000 years prior.

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King Tut left only a small mark on Ancient Egyptian history, and only holds his current place in the popular imagination today because of the 1922 discovery of his nearly intact tomb.

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Some historians theorize that loincloths were used as condoms in Ancient Egypt to protect against disease.

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Pharaoh’s hair was considered sacred and was never to be seen. He or she would always wear a crown, or a headdress called a nemes, made famous by Tutankhamen’s golden mask.

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Three female pharaohs existed, wit most historians considering Hatshepsut to have been the greatest.

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The Great Pyramid of Giza contains an estimated 2,300,000 separate stone blocks.

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King Tut wore sandals with his enemies painted on the soles so that wherever he went, he was trampling on his foes.

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Ancient Egyptians believed that the tears of the goddess Isis made the Nile overflow every year and would celebrate with a festival called the “Night of the Tear Drop.”

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In the early days of Ancient Egypt, servants were buried with their pharaohs. In later times, they used model servants called shabti to replace them.

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While Egyptians are famed for their love of cats, they also kept a wide array of other animals as pets, including hawks, ibises, dogs, lions, monkeys, and baboons.

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More than 1,000 different gods and goddesses were worshipped in Ancient Egypt.

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Ramses the Great had eight wives and nearly 100 concubines and was over 90 years old when he died in 1213 BC.

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The Great Pyramid of Giza was Earth’s tallest manmade structure for nearly 4,000 years.

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Because hieroglyphics contained no vowels, we’ll never know for sure how Ancient Egyptians actually pronounced their words.

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Most Ancient Egyptian pyramids were built as tombs for pharaohs and their families. To date, more than 130 pyramids have been discovered in Egypt.

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Hieroglyphs, the 2,000 characters used in formal Ancient Egyptian writing, make up one of the oldest writing systems in the history of human civilization.

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In Ancient Egypt, the scarab beetle was sacred and symbolized life after death and resurrection.

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The Ancient Egyptians invented toothpaste — albeit one made of pepper, iris flowers, and rock salt.

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Ancient Egyptians believed that the Earth was flat and round (like a pancake) and that the Nile flowed through the center of it.

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The Great Pyramid of Giza has vents that point to the constellation of Orion so that a spirit could fly straight to the heavens.

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Ancient Egyptians used three different calendars: an astronomical calendar, a lunar calendar, and an everyday farming calendar.

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Ancient Egyptians believed that by preserving a dead person’s body — which they did through the process of mummification — that their soul would live on in the afterlife forever.

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Ancient Egyptian polymath Imhotep is often considered to be the first physician, the first engineer, and the first architect.

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Ancient Egyptian fly swatters were sometimes made with giraffe tails.

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