Top 20 Inventions and Discoveries of Ancient Egypt Used Today

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The ancient Egyptian civilization started its rapid development after the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. It was ruled by several dynasties and many different rulers left permanent traces on this area of the world.

Creativity and science flourished during long periods of internal stability which was fundamental for the development of trade. Trade brought the necessary cultural and ideational exchange and Egypt became one of the prime hubs of innovation.

In this article, we’ll be taking a close look at the top 20 inventions of Ancient Egypt that led to the advancement of the civilization. Many of these are still in use today.

Paper

Ancient writings

In 3000 B.C., the Ancient Egyptians developed and perfected the craft of making paper. The first paper was made from the pith of the papyrus, a type of plant that grew on the banks of the River Nile.

The core of papyrus plants was cut into thin strips that were then soaked in water so that the fibers would soften and expand. These strips would then be stacked on top of one another until a wet paper-like form was achieved.

The Egyptians would then press the wet paper and leave it to dry out. This took little time due to the warm climate.

Paper made of papyrus was slightly harder and had a texture more similar to that of plastic. It was of good quality and was quite durable. Some of the ancient Egyptian scrolls made from papyrus still exist to this day.

Ink

Ink was invented in Ancient Egypt as early as 2,500 BC. The Egyptians wanted to document their thoughts and ideas in a simple way that would take little time and effort. The first ink they used was made by burning wood or oil, and mixing the resulting concoction with water.  

Later on, they began mixing different pigments and minerals together with water to create a very thick paste which was then used for writing on papyrus with either a stylus or a brush. Over time, they were able to develop differently colored inks like red, blue, and green.

Black ink was typically used for writing the main text while red was used to highlight important words or headings. Other colors were mostly used for drawings.

Water Wells

Water well

The Ancient Egyptians depended on wells as their source of pure water and they were extremely skilled at building them. The ‘Well of Joseph’, which was built around 3000 BC near the Pyramids of Giza shows their prowess in dowsing. It was a 300-foot well that had to be dug through solid rock in order to tap into the water below.

Remains of what is considered one of the oldest water wells were found in Nabta Playa, a regional ceremonial center and astronomical site located in the Nubian Desert. This is one of the oldest archaeological findings from the Egyptian Neolithic period dating back to 7500 BCE.

Irrigation Systems

irrigation system

The Egyptians used the waters of the Nile for various purposes and for this, they developed irrigation systems. The earliest known practice of irrigation in Egypt predates even the earliest known Egyptian dynasty called Dynasty 0 (or Zero Dynasty).

Although Mesopotamians also practiced irrigation, ancient Egyptians used a very special system called basin irrigation.  This system allowed them to control the regular flooding of the river Nile for their agricultural needs. When floods came, water would get trapped in the basin which was formed by walls. The basin would hold the water much longer than it would have stayed naturally, which allowed the earth to become well saturated.

The Egyptians were masters at controlling the flow of water and used the floods to bring fertile sediment that would settle on the surface of their plots, improving the soil for later planting.

Wigs

In ancient Egypt, both men and women preferred to have their heads clean-shaven or had very short hair. They would often wear wigs on top of their head to protect their scalp from the harsh sun and to keep it clean.

The earliest Egyptian wigs which can be dated back to 2700 B.C.E., were mostly made of human hair. However, there were also cheaper substitutes such as wool and palm leaf fibers. The Egyptians applied beeswax or lard to fix the wig in place on their heads.

Over time, the art of making wigs became sophisticated. Wigs denoted rank, religious piety, and social status. The Egyptians began decorating them and making different types of wigs for various occasions.

Peace Treaties

The earliest known peace treaty in history was drawn up in Egypt between pharaoh Ramesses II and the Hittite king Muwatali II. The first recorded peace treaty (dated c. 1274 BCE) was drawn up after the battle of Kadesh that was fought on the territory of modern-day Syria.

The entire region of Levant was at the time a battleground between the two great powers. The peace treaty was a result of the fact that both sides claimed victory after fighting for more than four days.

Since the war seemed to drag on it became quite clear for the two leaders that further conflict would not guarantee victory to anyone and could be very costly.

As a result, the hostilities ended with the peace treaty that set up some notable standards. It primarily set up a practice for peace treaties between two states to be concluded in both languages.

Gardens

It’s not exactly clear when gardens first appeared in Egypt. Some Egyptian tomb paintings from the 16th century BC depict ornamental gardens with lotus ponds surrounded by rows of palms and acacias.

The earliest Egyptian gardens most likely began as simple vegetable gardens and fruit orchards. As the country continued to grow richer, these evolved into ornamental gardens with all sorts of flowers, decorative furniture, shade trees, intricate pools, and fountains.

Turquoise Jewelry

Turquoise gemstones

Turquoise jewelry was first invented in Egypt and can be dated back to 3000 BCE, according to the evidence uncovered from ancient Egyptian tombs.

The Egyptians coveted turquoise and used it for various types of jewelry. It was set in rings and gold necklaces and was also used as an inlay or carved into scarabs. Turquoise was among the favorite colors of Egyptian Pharaohs who often wore heavy jewelry set with this gemstone.

Turquoise was mined all over Egypt and the first turquoise mines began operating as early as the first Egyptian dynasty in 3000 BCE. Over time, Egypt became known as the ‘country of turquoise’.

Toothpaste and Toothbrushes

Egyptians are the earliest known users of toothpaste and toothbrushes as they valued cleanliness and oral health. They are believed to have started using toothpaste around 5000 BC, long before toothbrushes were invented.    

Egyptian toothpaste was made from powder that contained ground ashes of ox hooves, eggshells, rock salt, and pepper. Some were made of dried iris flowers and mint which gave them a pleasing fragrance. The powders were mixed into a fine paste with water and then used in the same way as modern toothpaste.

Toothbrushes were made by fraying the ends of twigs to create bristles and these were called “chew sticks”.

Bowling

Ancient Egyptians were probably one of the earliest peoples that were known to practice sports and one of the most popular was bowling. Bowling can be traced back to ancient Egypt, around 5000 BCE, according to the artwork found on walls of Egyptian tombs dating as early as 5200 BCE.

Bowling was most probably a popular game in ancient Egypt, who rolled large stones along a lane at various objects with the goal of knocking these objects over. Over time, the game was modified and today there are many different varieties of bowling in the world.

Beekeeping

Harvesting bee hive

According to some sources, beekeeping was first practiced in ancient Egypt and the earliest evidence of this practice can be dated back to the Fifth Dynasty. Egyptians loved their bees and depicted them in their artwork. Beehives were even found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun.

The beekeepers of ancient Egypt kept their bees in pipes which were made using bundles of grass, reeds, and thin sticks.  They were held together by mud or clay and then baked in the hot sun so that they would hold their shape. Art that dates back to 2422 BCE shows Egyptian workers blowing smoke into beehives to extract honey.

Frying Food

Frying foods

The practice of frying food first began around 2,500 BCE in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians had different ways of cooking including boiling, baking, stewing, grilling, and roasting and soon they began to fry food using various types of oils. The most popular oils used for frying were lettuce, safflower, bean, sesame, olive, and balanitis oil. Animal fat was also used for frying.

Writing – Hieroglyphs  

Egyptian hieroglyph

Writing, one of the greatest inventions of humanity, was independently invented in about four different places at different times. These places include Mesopotamia, Egypt, Mesoamerica, and China. The Egyptians had a system of writing using hieroglyphs, that was developed as early as the 4th Millennium BCE. The Egyptian hieroglyphic system emerged and developed based on the previous artistic traditions of Egypt that even predate literacy.

Hieroglyphs are a form of a pictorial script that shows distinctive figures. The Egyptians first used this system of writing for inscriptions that were painted or carved on the walls of temples. It’s commonly established that the development of hieroglyphic script marks the beginning of Egyptian civilization.

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement, or the police, was first introduced in Egypt around 3000 BCE. The first police officers were in charge of patrolling the river Nile and ensuring that the ships were protected from thieves.

Law enforcement did not react to all crimes in Egypt and was most active in protecting the river trade, ensuring that it remained uninterrupted. Protecting the trade along the Nile was considered to be paramount for the survival of the country and police had a heightened role in the society.

In the beginning, nomadic tribes were employed to patrol the river, and eventually the police took over other areas of protection like patrolling borders, safekeeping of the pharaoh’s possessions and guarding the capital.  

Historiography

Egyptians meticulously noted down their history, especially the histories of their many different dynasties. They were known for creating the so-called king lists and wrote down everything they could about their rulers and people.

The first examples of Egyptian historiography date back as far as 3000 BCE.  The author of the first king list tried to note down the significant events that occurred every year of different Egyptian dynasties.

Medicines

Making medicine

The Egyptian civilization, like most of the other civilizations that existed around the same time, believed that illness came from gods and should be treated with rituals and magic. As a result, medicines were reserved for priests and in cases of serious illnesses, for exorcists.

However, over time, medical practice in Egypt began to advance rapidly and more scientific methods introduced actual medication besides religious rituals to cure illnesses.

Egyptians made medicine with what they could find in their natural surroundings such as herbs and animal products. They also began to perform early forms of surgery.

Birth Control

The earliest forms of birth control were found in Ancient Egypt as far back as 1850 BC (or, according to some sources, 1550 BCE).

Many Egyptian papyrus scrolls were found containing the directions on how to make various types of birth control using acacia leaves, lint, and honey. These were used to form a type of cervical cap that would prevent the entrance of sperm into the womb.

These contraceptive devices, along with concoctions that were inserted into the vagina to kill or block sperm were known as ‘pessaries’. Today, pessaries are still used as forms of birth control around the world.

Hospitals

Ancient Egyptians are credited with practicing some of the early forms of pharmacy and developing some of the earliest medicine made from various herbs or animal products. Around 2000 BCE, they established the first hospitals, which were rudimentary hospital-like institutions for caring for the sick.

These institutions were not exactly like the hospitals we know today and they were known as the houses of life or Per Ankh.

Early hospitals had priests and doctors working together to cure illnesses and save lives. Around 1500 BCE, workers who were building royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings had doctors on site that they could consult regarding their health concerns.

Tables and Other Types of Furniture

Old furniture

In the ancient world, it was not uncommon for people to simply sit on the floor or use small, rudimentary stools or stones and primitive benches to sit on.

In ancient Egypt, carpenters began developing furniture around the middle of the 3rd century BCE. The first pieces of furniture were chairs and tables that stood on wooden legs. Over time, the craftmanship continued to develop, becoming more ornamental and complex. Ornamental patterns and shapes were carved in wood and carpenters created furniture that stood higher from the floor.

Tables became some of the most popular pieces of furniture and the Egyptians began using them for dining and various other activities. When carpentry first emerged, chairs and tables were considered a status symbol. These early pieces of furniture were reserved only for the wealthiest Egyptians. The most prized furniture was a chair with armrests.

Make-Up

Egyptian makeup

The earliest form of cosmetics and make-up appeared in ancient Egypt and can be dated back to almost 4000 years BCE.

The trend of putting make-up caught on fire and both men and women enjoyed highlighting their faces with it. Egyptians used henna, red ochre for their hands and faces. They enjoyed drawing thick black lines with kohl that gave them their unique look.

Green was one of the most popular and fashionable colors for makeup in Egypt. Green eye shadow was made from Malachite and was used with other pigments to create stunning looks.

Wrapping Up

The Ancient Egyptians were responsible for hundreds of inventions that we commonly use and take for granted in the modern world. Their ingenuity advanced human civilization in many aspects, from medicine to crafts and leisure. Today, most of their inventions have been modified and continue to be used across the world.