Home Blogs Over 15 Surprising Insights into Ancient Egyptian Life That Might Astonish Even Your History Teachers

Over 15 Surprising Insights into Ancient Egyptian Life That Might Astonish Even Your History Teachers

Over 15 Surprising Insights into Ancient Egyptian Life That Might Astonish Even Your History Teachers

Our understanding of Ancient Egypt typically comes from textbooks and films, presenting iconic pyramids and illustrious monarchs surrounded by opulent tombs. While these elements are captivating, there is much more to discover that isn’t commonly known.

Here at Now I’ve Seen Everything, we’ve gathered a collection of lesser-known, intriguing facts about the ancient Egyptians.

Women in Ancient Egypt enjoyed equal rights to men. They had ownership and control over property, which was passed down through maternal lines. Egyptian women could dress as they wished, choose their own spouses, divorce, and remarry.

Wet nurses held a status akin to deities, given the relative advancement of medicine but lacking focus on childbirth, leading to high mortality rates during delivery. Due to the climate, breastfeeding was crucial for preventing dehydration in infants, prompting affluent families to contract wet nurses for their newborns should the mother perish.

The pyramids were not constructed by slaves but by compensated laborers, as evidenced by the tombs near the Giza pyramid complex. Analysis of the skeletal remains indicates they endured strenuous physical work, and their burial proximity to the pharaohs suggests they were respected, not enslaved.

This view is supported by the fact that most Ancient Egyptians were farmers, who were free to work for the pharaohs when agriculture was not in season.

Birthdays weren’t celebrated by common folk in Ancient Egypt, only by pharaohs, and they celebrated not their birth but the day of their coronation, elevating them to god-like status.

Egyptians believed in keeping their names secret to prevent others from magically influencing them, leading them to use nicknames. Pharaohs often adopted the names of esteemed predecessors upon ascending to the throne to ensure their own protection.

Travel was rare among Egyptians due to a fear of dying outside their homeland and not being able to reincarnate if not buried in the Nile Delta’s soil. This limited their exposure to foreign cultures compared to, for instance, the Greeks.

Discoveries of gold dental bridges in some mummies indicate the use of dental prosthetics, though it’s unclear if these were used during the individuals’ lifetimes or posthumously during embalming.

Personal cleanliness was paramount in Egyptian society, with people from all social classes bathing daily. The poorest bathed in the Nile while the wealthy had baths in their homes, serviced by servants, using natron—a mix of four salts—also used in mummification.

Egyptians may have been among the first to use a form of penicillin by placing moldy bread on wounds, emphasizing their commitment to hygiene. This practice contributed to a lower post-operative mortality rate than European hospitals until the mid-20th century.

To deter lice and protect from the sun, Egyptians of all social strata shaved their heads and wore wigs, with the affluent opting for elaborate wigs intertwined with gold and silver, while the less fortunate made do with papyrus.

While not everyone could afford footwear, many, including nobles, frequently went barefoot, particularly indoors. They used special ointments for protection against the sun and insects, and the richest individuals even had personal nail care specialists noted for their skills on their tombs.

Incest was initially practiced within royal families to preserve lineage purity and minimize inheritance contenders, with pharaohs often marrying their siblings. Over time, these practices permeated broader society, becoming normalized among the general populace.

Research indicates that Tutankhamun’s parents were siblings, and he married his half-sister. They had two daughters, both of whom were stillborn. Cleopatra was married to her brother Ptolemy III for three years.

Regarded as one of Egypt’s most formidable pharaohs alongside Thutmose III, Ramesses II lived to be about 90 or 91 years old and fathered over 30 children with multiple spouses, including four of his daughters.

Despite popular belief, Cleopatra was not renowned for her beauty but her leadership, ruling Egypt for 22 years. Historical accounts suggest she had prominent features, such as a large nose, rather than the slender beauty often depicted in modern portrayals.

This compilation reveals the rich, nuanced life of Ancient Egyptians, a period full of marvels that continue to fascinate us today. Which fact did you find most surprising? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Preview photo credit Cleopatra / 20th Century Studios and co-producers, Exodus: Gods and Kings / Chernin Entertainment and co-producers


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