Over thousands of years, Egypt’s pharaohs tamed wildernesses, built monuments that have stood the test of time, and created legends that still live today. The Egyptians are also responsible for inventing some items and activities still in use today. Here are some of them.
British archaeologist William Matthew Flinders Petrie led many important excavations in Egypt in the early nineteenth century. Petrie uncovered almost 3,000 ancient graves full of possessions and items meant to protect the spirit after death. During his time there, he discovered the game, Skittles.
According to Petrie, a tomb dated 5200 BC contained several balls and nine stones shaped like vases. Archaeologists initially thought they were ornaments but soon realised they had discovered an incredible ancient Egyptian invention: bowling.
The Egyptians invented modern calendars and timekeeping methods. Based on solar and lunar cycles, the Egyptian calendar was divided into 12 months, which were each made up of 30 days. It also included five extra days at the end of the year to bring the total to 365 days. There is no doubt that this invention has stood the test of time. The Egyptians, however, recognised only three seasons, according to which they decided when to plant and harvest their crops.
Even though writing predates the Egyptians, paper and ink, which we now consider essential to the written word, were inventions of the ancient Egyptians. Originally, papyrus, a grassy reed that grows along the Nile, was used to make paper.
First, the stem was cut into strips, soaked in water to expand the fibres, and then laid out in overlapping layers. Although ancient papyrus wasn’t as smooth as modern paper, its layers fused into a flat surface. Documents made from papyrus were highly durable due to the dry Egyptian climate.
In 4000 BC, the Egyptians invented eye makeup, which has never gone out of style. Even more impressive, some cosmetically conscious cultures continue using ancient Egyptian makeup techniques.
Using soot and galena as ingredients, they created an ointment known as kohl, which is still popular today. Women used the black mixture to bolden around their eyes. This was based on the Eye of Horus which also heavily influences modern games such as the Rich Wilde and the Amulet of Dead slot, which features an Eye of Horus Wild symbol. So apart from the use of make up itself, the Egyptian symbolism and lore is also heavily used in the entertainment industry.
Another invention made by the Egyptians was the breath mint. Rather than smelling the acrid odour of rotting teeth, the ancient Egyptians sucked honey drops infused with herbs and spices, such as cinnamon and myrrh. Despite modern mints being a breath of fresh air compared to those of old, adding mint to toothpaste to improve breath remains ubiquitous in dental products today.
Even though ancient Egyptian tumbler locks are less complex than modern keys, they represent a significant change in engineering history. The prongs of the matching key lifted a series of mini bolts inside the door, and the bolt was pulled back when the matching key was inserted. Initially, these were made of wood and tended to be large, sometimes reaching two feet in length. Although locks were uncommon during the Egyptian age, the wealthy used them to protect their possessions, and archaeologists discovered door locks inside pyramids.
5000 BC records indicate that barbers in ancient Egypt had to cut and groom hair and beards with sharpened flints and shells. Historically, barbers were priests or doctors and were respected even after their craft became professionalised. Egyptians typically had their barbers, much like butlers, or at least had one come to their homes. At the same time, for the masses, haircuts were usually done by street barbers. This tradition continues today in many cultures.
All that papyrus was useless without a way to write on it. The ink was more convenient for the Egyptians than clay, stone, or wax used by the Mesopotamians. With a brush or stylus, they applied a mixture of pigments and ores to papyrus by grinding them together with water to make a thick liquid. The Egyptians produced various colours of ink by combining copper, iron, quartz, and malachite. Still, the most common colours were black, red, and blue.
Ancient Egyptians are why many things on this list exist, which is quite impressive. Although we consider these things simple today, they were believed to be innovations back then. Remember where these things come from the next time you apply eye makeup, write a note or freshen up your breath.