What do you think of when you think about ancient Egypt? If you’re like most people, you think of mummies, pyramids, and perhaps King Tut or Cleopatra. This is the imagery that has captured our imagination, thanks to movies, TV, and books on the topic of early recorded Egyptian civilization. Although those things all signify ancient Egypt, there is a lot more to this beautiful country and its history.
Although the land of Egypt has always been shrouded with legends and mysteries, there are some common myths that need to be debunked. First of all, let’s talk about the geography of the country. What many people don’t realize is that Egypt, while known for being a part of the Middle East, is actually situated in North Africa. The country is concentrated along the Nile River, near the lower reaches.
Here are four little-known facts about this ancient culture.
1. The world’s oldest dress was found in Egypt
Did you know that the world’s oldest dress was found in Egypt? This probably doesn’t surprise history buffs or ancient Egypt enthusiasts. It was in 1913 that archaeologists excavated a garment from a tomb in Tarkhan.
As technology grew and improved over the decades, scientists at the University of Oxford were eventually able to use radiocarbon to date the garment. The testing showed that the dress dated back to 3482-3102 BCE (Before Common Era), making it about 5,500 years old.
That was when they knew that they had found the world’s oldest dress. This garment is commonly known as the Tarkhan dress and it lives at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at the University College London.
2. Salaries employees built the great pyramid
It’s commonly believed that enslaved people built the Great Pyramid, but the truth is different from that myth. The myth was put out there by Herodotus, a famous classical historian.
The assumption grew to imply that slaves worked in the hot Egyptian sun to build the huge pyramid. However, these days, many archaeologists claim that the Great Pyramid wasn’t built by enslaved men, women, and children. In fact, archaeological evidence supports the idea that the people who built the pyramid were paid a salary.
Specifically, the evidence suggests that there are about 20,000 temporary salaried workers and 5,000 permanent workers. That’s a big team! Let’s hope they had a good 401K and good benefits.
3. Egyptians invented the world’s oldest board game
Do you know what the world’s oldest board game is? If forced to guess, a lot of people might say chess or Chinese checkers. These have both been around a long time. However, the world’s oldest board game originated in Egypt.
The game is Senet (sometimes spelled Senat) and it’s considered to be the oldest board game in the world. The game set that researchers have identified dates back to about 3100 BC.
But what is Senet exactly? Senet consists of a board that has three rows of ten squares each. The squares are called houses. People playing Senet throw a stick to advance their game pieces between the squares.
Different historians believe that Senet didn’t actually have rigid game rules and it’s unclear exactly what the rules are.
4. Not all Egyptians became mummies when they died
If you think about what survives centuries of being buried in the dirt, it’s going to be expensive stuff. A poor fellow who was buried in a sack or plain box isn’t going to still be around in 3,000 years, unfortunately.
Although mummies are an important part of the study of ancient Egypt, the fact is that the tightly-wrapped bandaged corpses were made popular by movies, video games, and books, for the most part. The plain truth is that most Egyptian people weren’t mummified.
Mummification was an expensive and time-consuming process that was only affordable to very rich Egyptians. Some things never change, right? Only the rich folks could afford this process and the gold caskets.
Egyptian history is fascinating.