Sunday April 2nd, 2023
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8 Modern Practices & Inventions That Ancient Egyptians Pioneered

They were a clever bunch, our ancestors.

Staff Writer

Our great ancestors were always looking to push civilisation further, and it's pretty crazy when you realise how advanced they were for such a primitive time. Ancient Greeks are always known to be the "inventors", but don't underestimate Ancient Egyptians and their pioneering skills. We did it first!


But it was the Greeks who did theater first!” we hear you lament. Nope. Contrary to popular belief, Ancient Egyptians were the first to ever perform shows publicly, and they often did it right in the middle of the street, if not in a temple. According to the Ramesseum Dramatic Papyrus, which is the oldest surviving illustrated papyrus, these were ceremonial theatrical performances, as well as religious rituals and story-telling dramatic performances. The papyrus includes a scripted play showing Pharaoh Senusret of the 12th dynasty’s rise to the throne. It also depicts a religious drama during the Horus Festival, as well as a drama called “Isis and the Seven Scorpions” (no, not THAT ISIS), which points to Ancient Egyptians’ understanding of human psychology.


Ancient Egyptians were truly pioneers of modern construction; they achieved extraordinary things in engineering, and all with primitive technology. Our ancestors transported massive stones for really long distances using rollers, ropes, and sledges pulled by a very large number of 'workers'. Ancient Egyptians are credited with inventing the ramp, lever, lathe, irrigation system, plywood, enameling, and a bunch of other cool things that only a construction major would understand. Oh, and who can forget the Pyramids, of course, who many still insist was the work of aliens.


The slow flowing Nile was ideal for transportation, so it was only natural that ancient Egyptians built ships for transportation, but they also used them for fishing and enjoyment. Not much is left of the actual boats, though some remains were found at Tarkhan and Abydos, and King Khufu’s ship is the best model we have as we were able to re-assemble it. No metal parts were used at all, it’s just wood and rope.


It’s crazy to think that prosthetic surgery, which is still making advances today, was already practiced 4,000 years ago. Upon studying an Egyptian mummy dating between 1550 and 700 B.C., researchers found that it had an amputated big toe, which was clearly taken off while the person was alive, and then replaced with a wooden toe, which attached to the foot and was kept in place by wooden plates and leather strings. "The observations provide compelling evidence that the surgical expertise to carry out toe, and possibly other, amputations, sometimes followed by prosthetic replacement, was present in Egypt during this period, said German researcher Andreas G.Nerlich. I mean, it does sound a little dodgy, kinda like a DIY prosthetic, but hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?


The Nile was, and remains, the life blood of Egypt and the Pharaohs made quick work of finding ways to make best use of it. The first major irrigation system was built in 3100 B.C., under King Menes in Egypt’s first dynasty. He used dams and canals, one measuring as long as 20 kilometers, to divert the flood waters of the Nile into a new lake called 'Moeris', and then using that water for irrigation and drinking.

In places where fields were too high to receive water from the canals, water was brought from the canals or the Nile directly by a shaduf. You can see the system on the lovely hieroglyph above.


Egyptians are one of the first civilisations to remove humans organs and examine them, practicing surgery, autopsy, and embalming where they removed the brain, lungs, stomach and intestines, but not the heart as they believed a person’s intellect and knowledge was stored in that organ. Our ancestors also did some other pretty weird things with organs; since Egyptians placed great value on afterlife, they believed you would need access to your organs, so they dried a person’s liver, lungs, stomach and intestines and stored them in four jars that they kept with the body. Apologies to those of you having lunch.


Ancient Egyptians were known for their 'bling' and what can only be called by today's standards, avant-garde fashion. Hmm, I wonder if they listened to rap, too. They loved to dress in exotic jewelry, head dresses, and hair style, and took their fashion seriously, “a la Kanye West”. They used sulfites and malachite minerals as eye enhancements and liners, and used seaweed, iodine, and carmine beetles for lip color. Make-up was so important to Ancient Egyptians that its application in tombs was an act of honor to their gods and goddesses. Let’s not forget Cleopatra, the last active pharaoh of Egypt, who left behind a legacy of beauty rituals, like cosmetic uses for almond oil, apple cider vinegar, dead sea salt, honey and milk baths as anti-aging techniques. Perfumes were widely used, too. Damn our ancestors were clever.



oldest papyrus in the World

The word paper comes from the word papyrus, a thick-paper like material that you’ve probably come across before. It’s produced from the pyth of the Cyperus Papyrus plant which was used in Ancient Egypt and other Mediterranean societies for writing. Egyptians greatly believed in recording things such as religion and government, so they naturally turned to papyrus to inscribe this. Many papyrus rolls have now been discovered; the oldest papyrus in the world, which is said to be 4500 years old, has been displayed in Cairo Museum in 2016, and it shows the construction steps of the great pyramid of Giza and the daily lives of workers.