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Regardless of how many dusty mummies you've
watched Brendan Frazier blast apart with a shotgun, odds are
you have no idea what ancient Egypt was really like.
So it might surprise you to learn
that everyday life in the time of the pharaohs
was pretty modern in a lot of ways.
Today, we're exploring what everyday life
was like for ancient Egyptians.
Education and medicine were remarkably sophisticated,
and men and women enjoyed an equality
under the law that wouldn't be seen
in other societies for centuries to come.
But before we get started, make sure you subscribe
to the Weird History channel.
Now, let's go to Egypt.
In addition to being the primary source of water
for crop irrigation and clothes making,
the Nile River was basically the interstate in ancient Egypt.
Both the lower and upper class alike traveled along it
in simple skiffs and wooden boats
to get from place to place.
It was also used to transport the heavy stone blocks used
to build the pyramids, and to ferry the bodies of dead nobles
in elaborate funeral processions.
But rather than having to keep an eye on their speed
and watch for state troopers, the Egyptians
had to constantly be on guard against hippo and crocodile
attacks.
The Pharaoh Menes was killed by a hippo while traveling
on the Nile, and it's been suggested
that a hippo may have maimed King Tut in a similar attack,
leading to his premature death.
Insert Hungry Hungry Hippos joke here.
Beer making was first recorded 18,000 years ago
in ancient Egypt.
Like my uncle Gilbert, Egyptians loved beer.
Beer was considered a staple meal, which
is why both children and adults drank it,
and wages were paid in brewable grain.
That said, beer in ancient Egypt wasn't
like the stuff you order by the glass at the local pub.
It was more like a thick, sweet soup,
with a lower alcohol content so you
could have a bowl or two for dinner
without getting into a drunken fistfight with a hippo.
Despite what you may have assumed,
ancient Egyptians practiced a number
of advanced medical fields, including
dentistry, gynecology, surgery, and even autopsy.
Although, maybe that last one isn't too surprising to anyone.
Medical procedures were a mix between medical treatment
and religious ceremony, but weren't
restricted to the upper class.
Health care was apparently available to everyone,
including slaves.
And hygiene was a big deal in ancient Egypt,
because the Egyptians had realized that walking around
with a three inch layer of sweat ripened filth clinging
to your skin was a Petri dish for disease.
As a result, they bathed constantly,
using soap made from salt and animal and vegetable oils,
and it was commonplace for both men and women
to completely shave off all their body hair, even
the hair on their heads.
The Egyptians also made fragrances.
Perfumes brewed from lily, myrrh,
and cardamom were common, and they
may have even created the first deodorant
using a mixture of citrus and cinnamon.
We call that scent breakfast.
Despite the undeniable anatomical knowledge
the ancient Egyptians possessed, they
hadn't figured out everything about the human body.
They believed that the mind was located in the heart, or ibb,
and that all thought originated from it.
The heart was also thought to be the seat of intense emotions
like love, sadness, and bravery, a belief
shared by almost every culture.
As for the brain, the ancient Egyptians clearly
didn't think much of it, because it was simply
thrown in the trash during the mummification process.
Maybe they thought it was just skull filling.
The judicial system in ancient Egypt
was split between two courts, the Kenbet and the Great
Kenbet.
The lower Kenbet basically dealt with misdemeanors,
while the Great Kenbet was reserved for serious crimes
like robbery and murder.
Typically the pharaoh's vizier ruled over each case,
with ultimate judgment coming from the pharaoh himself.
But in especially complicated cases,
the courts would defer to the wills of the oracles.
Or, since the oracles never bothered to show up,
the statues of the oracles.
In these cases, both the prosecution
and the defense teams would write out their arguments
on a slip of paper and place them
on opposite sides of the street.
Whichever direction the statues appeared to lean more towards
was declared the winner, and the defendant
was judged accordingly.
That is the most elaborately arbitrary system of justice,
ever.
As we mentioned earlier, gynecology
was a medical field present in ancient Egypt.
But much like the heart and brain debate,
the ancient Egyptians hadn't quite worked out all the kinks
yet.
They knew that sex led to childbirth,
but they believed the womb was connected
to the alimentary canal, the path that
carries the food from your mouth to your anus.
So in order to test whether or not a woman was fertile,
a clove of garlic was inserted into a woman's hoo hoo.
And if the garlic could be smelled on her breath,
it meant she was able to bear children.
If the garlic couldn't be smelled,
that meant there was some kind of blockage, or obstruction,
and kids were out of the picture.
While garlic is a fine ingredient in penne pasta,
we cannot recommend its use in this scenario.
Board games were a popular pastime in ancient Egypt,
and easily the most popular one was a game called Senate.
Senate was played on an elongated, chess-style board,
with each player rolling dice or throwing
sticks to move the pieces.
Senate was so popular that paintings
of Nefertari playing the game have been discovered
on ancient temple walls.
Archaeologists have yet to discover evidence
of anyone playing Hungry Hungry Hippos, that game just hit too
close to home.
In modern cultures, male infants are circumcised at birth.
But in ancient Egypt, it was seen
as more of a rite of passage into manhood,
and as such, it wasn't performed until much later.
There are temple paintings depicting priests performing
the procedure on boys and their mid-to-late teens,
in case you were wondering whether or not nightmares
existed in ancient Egypt.
History is unclear about the cultural significance
of circumcision in ancient Egypt.
For instance, most pharaohs were circumcised,
but the procedure was also done to humiliate captives and mark
slaves.
Confusing.
Makeup was ubiquitous in ancient Egypt.
Men were not afraid to dip into the mid-2000s Pete Wentz
catalog to wear some pretty amazing eyeliner.
The eye makeup was made from grinding lead ores
into a substance called kohl, to produce what was essentially
lead paint.
The makeup used by ancient Egyptians
was high in nitric oxide, which boosts the immune system
and helps fight off disease.
So the eyeliner might have had the added effect
of protecting the eye from infections,
while hopefully balancing out that whole lead poisoning
thing.
Temples in ancient Egypt were true community centers,
in that they acted both as places of worship
and as depositories for the nation's wealth.
That meant for most of the period
each temple was also a granary.
Remember earlier when we said that people were paid in beer?
That's partially because beer is delicious,
but mostly because money just didn't exist yet.
Coinage didn't appear in Egypt until much later,
which meant grain was the currency everyone used.
Administrators at each temple would dole out grain
accordingly, to pay everyone's wages, with a low income
job bringing home about 10 loaves of bread
and two jugs of beer.
Despite living next to one of the mightiest
rivers in the world, people in ancient Egypt
didn't eat much fish.
In fact, they ate very little meat at all.
The ancient Egyptian diet consisted mostly
of wheat and barley, which makes complete sense when
the majority of your population was paid in bread and beer.
Fruits and vegetables, such as celery, dates, pomegranates,
and of course, garlic, were also plentiful.
And even though meat wasn't common,
it was still occasionally enjoyed during festivals.
Or if you were rich, pretty much whenever
you felt like having a steak.
If you've ever lived close to the equator,
or watched Miami Vice in the '80s,
you're familiar with the appeal of linen clothing.
Linen is specifically good for hot weather
because it's a thin, breathable fabric that
feels cool to the touch, and the ancient Egyptians
made plenty of it.
Linen was made by picking flax plants
from the banks of the Nile and spinning them into threads that
could be then woven into cloth.
In addition to simply being a practical garment
for the desert climate, the fabric
was also a symbol of status, the finer the weave
and the lighter the color, the more important you
we're in the social hierarchy
In ancient Egypt both sexes appeared to be equal as far
as the law was concerned.
Women could buy and sell property,
including both slaves and land, and were
also able to file lawsuits and petition for divorce.
Additionally, the Egyptians did not
practice female infanticide, which
indicates baby girls were just as valued as baby boys.
This seems like the absolute bare minimum of gender equality
until you consider that the practice was
common in other societies at the same time period.
When the Greeks conquered Egypt in 332 BCE
they were surprised to find that Egyptian women had
more independence and civil liberty than Greek women,
which we assume some Greek general discovered
when he tried to give an Egyptian noblewoman his drink
order.
Education was a privilege exclusively
reserved for the children of upper class citizens.
Students studied a variety of subjects
that, more or less, resembled a modern curriculum, including
reading and writing, mathematics, history, science,
and medicine.
The wealthiest kids, such as the pharaoh's sons
and the sons of nobility, went to the Prince's School.
But scholarships did exist that allowed
certain exceptional lower class students to attend.
It's unclear whether the scholarship
was awarded in beer.
Ancient Egypt was surprisingly modern in several ways,
allowing its citizens to lead lives not totally
unrecognizable from the ones we lead today.
Would you like to live or walk like an Egyptian?
Let us know in the comments below, and check out
some of these other videos of our weird history.
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Ancient Egypt | What Everyday Life Was Actually Like

562 Folder Collection
April Lu published on April 24, 2019
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