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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Did women use cannabis as medicine in ancient Egypt? | Leafly

Did women use cannabis as medicine in ancient Egypt?

July 30, 2020

An empire that spanned 3,000 years, from 3100 BCE to 332 CE, ancient Egypt amassed enormous wealth thanks to its rich agricultural lands and abundance of minerals such as gold, granite and, turquoise. Protected from invasions by the area's unique geography of desert, coastline, and Nile river floods, the region also benefitted from relative political stability—especially when compared to neighboring regions where warlording was fierce and ongoing.

Wealth and stability in ancient Egypt allowed for specialized education to flourish, especially medicine. Egyptian doctors—both men and possibly women—were the best in the ancient world and highly sought after by foreign kings and queens. Even as Egypt's political power faded, scholars say medical knowledge flowed up from Alexandria into the bourgeoning empires of Greece and Rome, and not the other way around.

Ancient Egyptian remedies included things like honey, crushed insects, opium, and also cannabis, according to some scholars (but not all). Archeologists think a woman's role in medicine was mostly relegated to gynecology and obstetrics, with medical treatments listed in ancient scrolls that include cannabis. In the late antique era, many more women functioned as professional practitioners of magic and spells. Could cannabis have been among the common herbs used in their rituals? 

Was cannabis used in ancient Egypt?

Whether through human activity or blown in with the desert sands, cannabis pollen was found in the tomb of Ramses II, circa 1200 BCE, along with two additional soil samples from pre-dynastic periods (prior to 3200 BCE). While archaeologists maintain there is weak physical evidence of cannabis use in ancient Egypt, there are written references to a plant some scholars are confident was indeed cannabis.

In 2350 BCE, the Pyramid Texts from the Old Kingdom were carved into stone. On these stone tablets is the hieroglyphic symbol smsm.t—or "shemshemet"—which references "a plant from which ropes are made." Archeologist W.R. Dawson argued in a 1934 edition of The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology that this is a reference to hemp. Not all scholars today agree, but many accept that shemshemet refers to cannabis, as it's also written in medicinal contexts on ancient scrolls, called papyri. 

Whether or not ancient Egyptians used cannabis for its euphoric qualities is also debated by archeologists—"let's get high!" was not explicitly written down by ancient scribes. However, medicine and magic were inextricably linked in the ancient world: ritual fumigations accompanied by spells and incantations were as much a part of medicine as diagnostics.

Could cannabis have been used in fumigations for the unwell, spiritually compromised, or to rouse the gods? There is no hard proof, but it's possible.

Women, medicine, and magic

Women in ancient Egypt had full rights under the law and enjoyed more freedoms than their contemporaries in neighboring lands. They held property, personal wealth, and ran their own businesses. While peasant girls (and boys) weren't typically educated, daughters from wealthier households were privately schooled alongside their brothers.

In the medical field, midwifery was largely the domain of women, while it's thought mostly men became physicians. In Women of Ancient Egypt (2013), Egyptologist Barbara Watterson writes of a school of midwifery at the Temple of Neith (goddess of creation) in the city of Sais.

A school thought to have trained women, one can speculate Agnodice of Athens went here to learn. As the legend goes, Agnodice, from the 4th century CE, went south to Egypt for medical training after being denied it in her native Greece. Upon her return to Athens, disguised as a man, she was so good at her job that jealous Greek doctors accused her of seducing patients and put her on trial.

In addition to obstetrics, midwifery students learned of herbs, spells, incantations and special amulets to protect mothers and newborns from malevolent spirits. Writes Watterson: "The earliest 'doctor' was a magician, for the Egyptians believed that disease and sickness were caused by an evil force entering the body."

It wasn't just educated women that deployed herbaceous healing spells—or curses. From the late antique era, between 250 and 750 CE, multiple manuscripts have been found for common folk containing magic recipes. Listing things like "wild herbs, froth from the mouth of a black horse, and a bat," these spells were drawn up and carried out by professional herbalists and healers who were often old women.

Because we know Greek and Roman doctors were writing about cannabis in the same time period, and the plant had long been used in neighboring Syria and Mesopotamia, it's easy to speculate cannabis was also included in these laypeople's spells for love, luck, health, and revenge. The Coptic Magical Papyri Project is currently collecting hundreds of these recovered manuscripts on magic in an attempt to decode and organize them all, with a projected completion date of 2023.

Seshat: Goddess of medicine, learning, and cannabis

Seshet, egypt,                    medical cannabis

The goddess Seshat, with her seven-pointed-star headdress. (Bradhenge/AdobeStock)

We can't talk about ancient Egypt, medicine, magic and cannabis without mentioning goddess Seshat or Seshet: patroness of scribes, mistress of builders, goddess of the House of Life—a term to include all medical schools.

Seshat's headdress, a seven-pointed star, bears a striking resemblance to cannabis. It was thought that when mortal scribes committed words to paper, Seshat received a copy and catalogued it with the gods. When temples were built, rituals in honour of Seshat included "stretching of the cord" which some scholars say was hempen rope.

It was uncommon for a female deity to preside over men, making Seshat a curious choice to officiate medical schools. Because we know that writing things down in ancient times was expensive, time-consuming, and mostly reflected the interests of those who could afford scribes (i.e., men of influence), it's possible more women were active in medicine, magic, and the healing arts than what was recorded a few thousand years ago. 

What is clear is ancient Egyptian elites placed immense value in writing down diagnostics and medico-magical treatments, which could have been used by anyone trained to read, male or female.

A timeline of ancient medical cannabis use

If we follow that shemshemet is cannabis, there are a number of applications cited by ancient papyri that make sense today, given modern cannabis' track record of easing pain, nausea, and anxiety. Here's what's been found so far:  

1880 BCE: The Kahun Papyrus is considered the first textbook on gynecology and believed to be a copy of a much older document. While it doesn't mention shemshemet directly, it does include fumigation, suppositories, edible medicines, and massages made from plant, animal, and mineral matter for almost all maladies of the uterus.

1700 BCE: According to ethnobotanist Ethan Russo, the Papyrus Ramesseum III has the earliest mention of cannabis as an eye treatment: "celery, hemp, is ground and left in the dew overnight. Both eyes of the patient are to be washed with it early in the morning."

1500 BCE: A complete medical tome, the Ebers Papyrus is 65 feet (20 meters) long, listing hundreds of spells and remedies. Shemshemet is mentioned:

  • To "cool the uterus": shemshemet is ground in honey and used as a vaginal suppository. Whether this was for laboring women, menstruation, or a different gynecological issue is unclear.
  • To dress a painful toenail, shemshemet was mixed with honey, ochre, and other herbs as a poultice. (Many Egyptians worked barefoot in flooded agricultural fields, making infected toenails a common problem.)

1300 BCE: The Berlin Papyrus offers a treatment for aaa, thought to be schistosomiasis, or fluke worms, which enter the bloodstream via the soles of the foot. Driving away aaa included fumigating the patient with a combination of shemshemet, ground up insects, and grains. Another passage mentions cannabis made into an ointment for fever.

1200 BCE: The Chester Beatty Papyrus offers a rectal suppository made of shemshemet, goose fat, and acacia leaves to treat diarrhea (likely cholera). Another prescription for headaches is said to include cannabis.

800 BCE: In the Greek epic The Odyssey, Helen of Troy sprinkles into wine "a drug that can lull all pain and anger," a remedy shown to her by an Egyptian woman. Called "nepenthe," some scholars say the drug in question was opium, while others argue the effects described in the story are closer to cannabis.

In the first century CE, Greek historian Diodorus Siculus documented Egyptian women using nepenthic potions reminiscent of Homer's Odyssey. Egyptian wine vessels excavated from the Coptic era (third and fourth centuries CE) also contain traces of cannabis, making it plausible nepenthes were cannabis-based.

100-200 CE: Ethan Russo offers that the word for cannabis changed to msˆy during these centuries. A papyrus from this time mentions treating abscesses with cannabis poultices, and tumors with cannabis heated along with minerals and other plants. "The latter passage is particularly interesting in its specification for heated cannabis, suggesting decarboxylation of phytocannabinoid precursors might have been operative," he wrote.

Egyptology is an evolving science. The painstaking academic care used today to uncover and classify artifacts, along with technologies that can back up educated guesses, were not in place when Western archaeologists lifted ancient objects from their resting places in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

As such, what has been written (in the West at least) about ancient Egypt can be refuted in the future with a new discovery or by re-evaluating old assumptions with a fresh perspective. The controversy surrounding ancient Egyptian use of cannabis, and medical women who wielded the herb, may not be inconclusive forever.  

Colleen Fisher Tully's Bio Image

Colleen Fisher Tully

Colleen Fisher Tully is a freelance writer and editor with recent work in Clean Eating, Today's Parent, The Walrus and Local Love. She posts random thoughts on Twitter @colleenftully

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Desert Resources Contributed to Rise of Ancient Egyptian Civilisation - HeritageDaily - Archaeology News

Desert Resources Contributed to Rise of Ancient Egyptian Civilisation

Archaeologists suggest that the natural raw materials transported from the Libyan Desert in the west, and the much smaller Arabian Desert in the east contributed to the rise of the Egyptian Civilisation.

Researchers from the Archaeological Museum in Poznań have been conducting a study of the various inscriptions, depictions, and symbols carved into the desert rock, covering a chronological timeline over a period of a thousand years in and around the Dakhla Oasis.

Such inscriptions indicate that caravans were sent on expeditions to transport raw materials across the vast deserts more than 5,000 years ago before the establishment of the Pharaonic state, and through into Pharaonic times to construct the giant monuments and tombs erected by the Ancient Egyptians.

One such site is a hill located south-west of the Dakhla Oasis, which contains various inscriptions indicating that caravans were sent by rulers such as Khufu, (the pharaoh who commissioned the famous Great Pyramid of Giza) in order to obtain the raw material known as 'mephat'. Dr. Paweł Polkowski from the Archaeological Museum in Poznań said: "We suspect that it was one of the shales common in the area, rich in iron oxides, probably used to obtain a powder for red dyes, which in turn could be used to decorate tombs."

The Pharaohs subjugated the inhabitants of the larger oases of the Western Desert – the Dakhla and Kharga during the Old Kingdom (at the time when the pyramids were erected), with the regions becoming a primary source of rare materials such as Libyan desert glass and copper.

In recent decades, archaeologists have discovered several places in the Libyan Desert that they refer to as stopping stations. It was a system of smaller (approx. every 30 km) and larger (approx. every 90 km) stops with stations supplying travellers with water and animal feed. These stations were used several thousand years ago and allowed communication between Dakhla and Jebel Uweinat.

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Dr. Paweł Polkowski from the Archaeological Museum in Poznań said: "Copper used to manufacture tools, that was necessary to process stone blocks for the construction of temples and pyramids was obtained from the Sinai Peninsula or the distant Nubia, south of Egypt. Were it not for these materials and other resources, this civilisation would probably look very different".


Header Image Credit : Paweł Polkowski

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ANE TODAY - 202007 - What Actually Happened in Syria at the end of the Late Bronze Age? -

What Actually Happened in Syria at the end of the Late Bronze Age?

By Jesse Michael Millek


Sites "destroyed" in Syria at the end of the Late Bronze Age ca. 1200 BC.

The year, approximately 1200 BCE. The place, the geographic area of modern-day Syria. War has broken out as marauding pirates and nomads ravage the great cites of Ugarit, Emar, and Carchemish, looting and burning everything in their way. These groups became known in the Egyptian records as the infamous Sea Peoples.

Famine plagued the region as climate change slowly deteriorated the ability to grow crops, and the final nail in the coffin were earthquakes, which destroyed anything left untouched by the ruinous hordes. Once all these calamities passed, the Late Bronze Age came to its end, and the region entered a Dark Age for the next 200 years.

Or at least that's how the Hollywood blockbuster version of events would go. But reality is far more complicated than modern scriptwriters – and many archaeologists -would lead us to believe.

The Sea Battle of Ramesses III Year 8. Medinet Habu, drawing of relief on exterior wall of temple of Ramses III showing Ramses shooting at enemy ships, The Epigraphic Survey, (1930), Pl. 37.

What about the supposed "wave of destruction?" The Sea Peoples are alleged to have destroyed many sites in Syria including Ugarit, Tell Sukas, Tell Tweini, Carchemish, Kadesh, Qatna, Hama, Alalakh, and Emar. The trouble is that only two of these were actually destroyed around 1200 BCE.

Both Qatna and Hama were destroyed in the mid-14th century BCE, well before the end of the Late Bronze Age, and neither show any evidence of destruction around 1200 BCE. For Alalakh, a reanalysis showed that the supposed 1200 BCE destruction by the Sea Peoples occurred a century earlier, around 1300 BCE.

Excavators also presumed that the Sea Peoples had destroyed Tell Sukas and Tell Tweini. But a closer examination of the archeological record reveals that neither site was actually destroyed. At Tell Sukas, the Late Bronze Age buildings show no signs of burning or collapse; only some patches of floor had been burned, hardly evidence of a tremendous destruction event. At Tell Tweini, what had been assumed to be evidence of a massive destruction event turned out to be debris from rebuilding activity that took place hundreds of years after 1200 BCE.

The same pattern is found elsewhere, sites are listed as destroyed but no evidence of destruction has been uncovered. At Tell Nebi Mend, ancient Kadesh, excavations demonstrated that the site continued to be inhabited from the Late Bronze to the Iron Age without interruption. The same is true for Carchemish. There was a smooth transition from the Late Bronze to the Iron Age. This is despite the fact that Carchemish is listed as destroyed in the Egyptian records chronicling the march of the Sea Peoples.

Not all sites were spared. Emar was destroyed and abandoned sometime around 1187–1175 BCE but only the monumental and religious structures were burned, while domestic buildings were left untouched. Most of Ugarit, a major port, was burned except for one residential neighborhood. In the streets, houses, and open spaces of this residential district, excavators uncovered 32 arrowheads and 12 other weapons of war. After the city had been burned, Ugarit was abandoned.

Plan of Ugarit. J. Haydar, et al., Rapport préliminaire sur les activités de la mission archéologique syro- française de Ras Shamra-Ougarit en 2009 et 2010 (69e et 70e campagnes), Syria 90 (2013): 443.

Plan of where weapons were found in the residential neighborhood of Ugarit. The houses have been lettered while streets and open spaces have been left blank. O. Callot, La tranchée "Ville Sud," Études d 'architecture domestique, Ras Shamra–Ougarit X, (Paris, 2013): Fig. 309.

So who or what destroyed Ugarit and Emar? For one thing, it was not an earthquake. The weaponry in the streets of Ugarit testifies to a battle in the city before it was burned, and evidence of earthquake damage is lacking. Similarly, at Emar, there is no evidence pointing to an earthquake; only monumental or religious structures were targeted and burned by an unknown assailant.

The Sea Peoples are the alleged perpetrators behind Ugarit's destruction. One reason is Pharaoh Ramesses III's claims that the Sea Peoples were 'agents of destruction' as they made their way toward Egypt on land and by sea. The other is that several texts uncovered in the ruins of Ugarit mention "enemies on boats" which led many scholars to believe that this was evidence of the Sea Peoples raiding before they destroyed the city. But modern scholars have indicted the Sea Peoples for a crime that no one in ancient times ever accused them of committing.

Detail from Medinet Habu of one of the ships of the Sea Peoples. S. Wachsmann, The Gurob ship-cart model and its Mediterranean context, (College Station, 2013), Fig. 2.5.

The claim that the Sea Peoples destroyed Ugarit unravels when we look at what Ramesses actually said. While he lists several places as having been "cut off" by the Sea Peoples, he never mentions Ugarit. Ramesses mentions Carchemish, which led some scholars to assume he meant all of Hittite Syria including Ugarit. The problem with this is that in Egyptian texts, Ugarit and Carchemish are listed separately and there is no reason to assume that Ramesses meant Ugarit when he said Carchemish.

There are also problems using the Ugaritic texts that mention "enemies on boats" as evidence that the Sea Peoples destroyed the city. Other texts found at Ugarit show they knew the names of several Sea Peoples groups, but the mysterious "enemies on boats" are never named. So, the victims of the crime knew the accused, but failed to identify them by name. The lead witness Ramesses III never even mentioned them as having been at the scene of the crime, and while we cannot say who actually destroyed Ugarit it seems it was not the Sea Peoples.

So, was the end of the Late Bronze Age really as bad as it has been made out? Yes and no. Some sites were burned but others were not. There was climate change, but it was not apocalyptic; rather, there was 150 years of gradual cooling and drying that did not affect all regions equally. The destruction and abandonment of Ugarit and Emar were tragic for their inhabitants, but for Carchemish this period of instability proved to be a boon. Because the Great King of the Hittite Empire disappeared without an historical trace, Kuzi-Tešub, the king of Carchemish, was able to take up the title of Great King for himself and established a Neo-Hittite kingdom.

What was bad for some, was good for others. There is still much to discover about the end of the Late Bronze Age in Syria, but it does not appear to have gone out with a cataclysmic, Sea Peoples destroying, climate driven, earth-shaking bang.


Jesse Millek is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Middle East Studies at the University of Michigan and a Research Fellow at the German Research Foundation.


For further reading:

2020 Millek, J. M. "Just how much was Destroyed? The End of the Late Bronze Age in the Southern Levant," Ugarit-Forschungen 49: 239-274.

2019 Millek, J. M. "Crisis, Destruction, and the End of the Late Bronze Age in Jordan: A Preliminary Survey," Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 135(2), 119-142.

2019 Millek, J. M. "Destruction at the End of the Late Bronze Age in Syria: A Reassessment," Studia Eblaitica 5, 157-190.

2018 Millek, J. M. "Destruction and the Fall of Egyptian Hegemony over the Southern Levant," Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 19, 1-21.

2017 Millek, J. M. "Sea Peoples, Philistines, and the Destruction of Cities: A Critical Examination of Destruction Layers 'Caused' by the 'Sea Peoples.'" In: P. M. Fischer and T Burge (eds.), The "Sea Peoples" Up-To-Date. New Research on the Crisis Years in the Eastern Mediterranean, Contributions to the Chronology of the Eastern Mediterranean (CchEM). Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences, 113-140.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Shelbourne’s banished statues were part of mania for all things Egyptian

Shelbourne's banished statues were part of mania for all things Egyptian

Story of Nubian princess became known in 19th century after hieroglyphics translated

A plinth outside the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, after a            statue had been removed in recent days. Photograph Nick            Bradshaw

A plinth outside the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, after a statue had been removed in recent days. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Statues of Nubian princesses and their slave girls which have been removed from outside the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin were erected at a time when Egyptology was in vogue around the world, a historian has said.

John Ducie, a tour guide and former vice-chairman of An Taisce, said the story of the princess captured by the Egyptians was the inspiration for countless books, statues and most famously of all Verdi's opera, Aida, which premiered in 1871 but had been in preparation for years beforehand.

The captured Nubian princess who became queen of Egypt when the pharoah fell in love with her was known to people in 19th century society when Egyptologists learned to translate hieroglyphics.

"The story itself is from the 1850s. Verdi's opera is just the best known of a series of playwrights and operatic composers from that period who used the story. It was used over and over again," Mr Ducie explained.

One of the statues depicting slave girls holding torches.          Photograph: Wikimedia Commons
One of the statues depicting slave girls holding torches. Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

The four statues were erected at the front of the Shelbourne in 1867 and have been there since, until their removal on Monday.

You will find these statues all over the place. People put them in their homes. Everything Egyptian was so chic

They depict two Nubian princesses from Nubia in modern-day Sudan and their shackled slave girls. The pieces were commissioned from the MM Barbezat studios in Paris.

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Brazilian researcher looks into Ancient Egypt households - ANBA News Agency

Brazilian researcher looks into Ancient Egypt households

For her doctoral work at the University of Oxford, Brazilian Egyptologist Thais Rocha looked into the notion of 'home' in connection with the worker villages of Ancient Egypt. She joined fieldwork in Amarna, where public areas were also viewed as places of residence.

Thais Sousa

São Paulo – It was a long road for Brazilian Egyptologist Thais Rocha (pictured above) from her childhood dreams until the day she first set foot in Egypt. "I've been interested in Egypt since I was a kid. I've been blessed, because my family has always encouraged me. I took History because undergraduate courses in Egyptology are not available in Brazil," she told ANBA. Rocha completed her doctorate studies at the University of Oxford, UK last February, and she makes a point of not glamorizing her profession. "Some people ask me how I 'made it,' but there's no easy answer. I taught History in high school for a long time. I also worked at MASP (the São Paulo Museum of Art) to earn a living. Doing research in Brazil isn't easy," she said.

Rocha graduated in History from the University of São Paulo (USP) back in 2001. In 2010, she began her master's studies in Jewish and Arab Studies, also at USP. During the near-decade-long hiatus between the two, she worked at different institutions and kept taking classes and studying aspects of anthropology. For her master's studies, she delved into a subject that she's still working on: the study of domestic space in Greek-ruled Egypt – the so-called Hellenistic Period. "The household space is so obvious because it's your first experience ever, but it's being so obvious means you don't question it," she noted.

While pursuing her master's she also explored a more specific perspective: gender. "I wrote a dissertation on letters written by Egyptian women. I always found letters to be a very personal thing, almost as if you could hear the writer speak. We're talking about the elite; it's a social stratum that had access to reading. Women at that time had way more space in society than we imagine," Rocha explained.

More than questioning how Egyptian women were viewed, the researcher began to reconsider that society's definition of home. As she completed her master's, instead of certainty she had a new question in mind. "I began to inquire what domestic space was, and not just in the Hellenistic Period. Many people talk about how women would occupy the space of the household, but no one says anything about what Egyptian houses were like," she said.

Thais Rocha

Household structures at the workers' village

In exploring this issue, Rocha relied on support from researchers whom she'd met before she'd even begun her master's studies. "When I went to England and Chicago, I had the chance to do research and I introduced myself to the [Oxford] Egyptologist team. They generosity of professors in England was amazing. I kept corresponding with them once I got back to Brazil. during my master's studies, one of my supervisors, Elizabeth [Frood, of the Faculty of Oriental Studies], who told me I could apply for a doctorate. I thought she was just being nice, but when I completed my master's she talked to me about it again, so I thought 'Let's do this!'".

Going to Oxford wasn't without its hitches. For her first attempt, in 2014, she got accepted, but couldn't get a scholarship. "Picture the frustration: you get approved to a world-class institution like that one and then you cant' go. I tried to get a sponsor but couldn't. I lost my seat and had to do it over. And there's things in life that you don't expect, because the following year I got three scholarships to choose from," said Rocha, who relied on funding from the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for her stint at Oxford.

During the four years she spent pursuing her doctorate, her supervisor fell ill. She had to find another professor to support her, and that's when she met Linda Hulin of the School of Archaeology. "Finallly, Elizabeth returned, so I was able to count on these two supervisors, one of whom is a go-to source on Egyptology, and the other on Archaeology," she recalled.

Rocha started her work by delving into two worker villages in Egypt: Deir el-Medina and Amarna. As she dug deeper into her studies, she decided to focus only on Amarna. The village was excavated in 1921 and 1922, and it is lately an object of study of the Amarna Project, which involves universities including Oxford. For her second year of doctorate studies, Rocha asked if she could see the work being done at the village – she'd never been to Egypt. "I asked the deputy director and I ended up in the team! It's one of the biggest digs, it has been studying the archaeology and the history of Amarna for at least 40 years now," says Rocha, who's a member of the Amarna Project until this day.

She spent two months in 2017 and one month in 2018 doing fieldwork in Egypt. "I had a lot of support from the researchers. This is important, because you get to talk to the professionals. Amarna is the best place in which to study households in Egypt," she said.

The household in shared spaces

The village in Amarna was inhabited by wage workers during the time of pharaoh Akhenaton. It was only populated over a 20-year period. Rocha found that these villages were created by the Egyptian State. "The State would supply the material and the blueprints, and it is very likely that people would build their own homes. The villages were maintained by the State, which would deliver water, food and tools. The settlement was one big domestic space. The village was like a home, a space of coexistence. This approach to space was similar when it came to elite houses. Since the houses are small in the workers' village, they will create shared spaces," the Egyptologist revealed.

Thais Rocha

Household structures at the workers' village

The definition of 'house' in that society encompassed broader spaces. "Those populations would experience the domestic space outdoors, more so than indoors. My research also touches on gender issues. Even though it's not the primary subject, it's in there too," she said.

According to Rocha, the areas where workers' houses would be were demarcated first thing. The walls surrounding each property would get built first. Residents had to organize and to go about activities such as raising animals and even practicing their religion outside these walls. "This raises another question: what period did this approach emerge in? Is it featured in other archaeological sites?", she inquires, pointing out that the notion of home hinges on variables like historical period, location, and culture. "The most private space [in Ancient Egypt] is the desert. That's where one is completely alone. And the household is a shared space," she says.

Now, Thais Rocha is planning to find out whether this approach to housing existed elsewhere in Egypt. She has partnered up with one of her Oxford supervisors to try to bring the project to fruition. She is glad to see an improvement in Brazilian Egyptology. "Things have really improved over the past ten years. Some of my colleagues are having the opportunity to study abroad, or to take sandwich PhDs. I'm so glad things have gotten better," says Rocha, who believes in the potential of scholarships like the CNPq's to improve the professional lives of future researchers.

Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Egypt announces new archaeological discovery from Ramses II era | MENAFN.COM


Egypt announces new archaeological discovery from Ramses II era

(MENAFN - Daily News Egypt) Egypt's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced, on Monday, the discovery of new archaeological finds dating from the reign of Ramses II and from Egypt's Coptic era.

In a statement, the Supreme Council of Antiquities announced that a number of carved stone blocks and statues were discovered during excavations 2km southeast of Memphis, in the modern day area of Mit Rahina, in Giza.

Memphis was Ancient Egypt's capital in the Old Kingdom, and remained an important city throughout Ancient Egyptian history.

Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, said the statues are made of pink and black granites as well as limestone.

The excavation mission that made the discoveries also found limestone blocks dating back to the Coptic era, indicating that the blocks were recycled in later eras.

Waziri added that the mission also discovered a statue of the Pharaoh Ramses II, which was accompanied by a number of statues representing different deities. These include the warrior goddess Sekhmet, who was seen as the protector of the Pharaohs and led them into warfare, and the sky goddess Hathor, who the Pharaohs took up as a symbolic mother.

A statue of Ptah, who was regarded as the god of creation and who existed before all other things, was also discovered.

The excavation work will continue until all the archaeological pieces and monuments at the site have been conserved, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquitiesadded.

Ramses II is widely regarded as one of the most powerful pharaohs of the Nineteenth Dynasty and the New Kingdom, as well as one of Ancient Egypt's longest lived monarchs. During the early part of his reign, Ramses II focused primarily on building cities, temples and monuments, which have left a lasting legacy that can still be seen today.

His reigh, however, has become just as well known for the several successful military expeditions he undertook in the Levant, Libya and Southern Nubia. Archaeologists believe that he took the throne in his late teens, ruling Egypt from 1279 BCE to 1213 BCE.


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12 Incredible Ancient Egyptian Inventions You Should Know About

12 incredible ancient Egyptian inventions you should know about

egyptian inventions

In one of our earlier articles, we talked about how Mesopotamia is widely considered to have fueled some of the most crucial inventions in human history, ranging from the cursive script, advanced astronomy to complex mathematics. Now from the perspective of objective history, the ancient Egyptians 'followed it up' to bring forth their brand of innovations. And quite interestingly, many of these ancient Egyptian inventions are intrinsically related to personal hygiene, health, and even fashion – thus almost serving the evolutionary pattern of societal development (with focus on the well being of the individual).

And as in the case of Mesopotamian inventions, we shouldn't view these Egyptian inventions as singular events that happened overnight. On the contrary, many of these historical innovations were fueled by centuries of development since the epoch of the Neolithic Revolution.

1) Eye Makeup –

egyptian inventions_1

Source: Pinterest

While counted among one of the fashionable (and rather timeless) ancient Egyptian inventions, the scope of the eye makeup, however, went beyond just style statement. Possibly invented by circa 4000 BC, such makeups were not limited to women. Furthermore, different facial make-ups also reflected the status of the person, with noble ladies tending to make more use of multifarious pigments and ointments to appear distinguished. And as we fleeting mentioned before, other than the fashionable take, Egyptians also believed that the kohl of their eye makeup protected them from various infections and the proverbial 'evil eye'.

Now in terms of the composition of these ancient Egyptian inventions, malachite, a copper carbonate pigment was used for the greenish eye paint (especially in the pre-dynastic period). As for the kohl, the black ointment was created by combining soot with galena, a dark gray ore of lead. Interestingly enough, both of these minerals were not readily available in ancient Egypt and thus hints at advanced chemical synthesizing processes that entailed filtering of rock salt and natron.

2) Ancient Egyptian Technology Of Glass Making –

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Polychrome glass vessel in the form of a 'bulti'-fish, dated from circa 14th century BC. Source: Electrum Magazine

Naturally occurring glass obsidian was used by various Stone Age groups as sharp cutting tools, while evidence of rudimentary glass-making has been found in Mesopotamia, dating from circa 3500 BC. However back in 2016, a group of researchers theorized that these ancient glass-makers possibly borrowed ideas from more refined techniques that were being used in ancient Egypt. In favor of their notion, the scholars talked about how the numerous old Egyptian glass items displayed a varied range of tints, hues, and patterns, especially when compared to the Mesopotamian Nuzi items.

In any case, by late Bronze Age, the standardized (and far more improved) glass making technology can be perceived as one of the ancient Egyptian inventions. For example, by circa 1500 BC, Egyptian artisans created the very first multi-colored glass ingots and vessels that sometimes replicated carvings made of semi-precious stones. Many of these intricate items were probably made by the core-forming technique, as described in an excerpt from Khan Academy

Glassmakers shaped the body of the vessel around a core of ceramic-like material, wound colored trails of hot glass around it, and added handles and a rim. They then let the vessel cool and removed the core. Most early core-formed containers were small flasks for perfumed oil.

3) Woven Dress –

The above pictured Tarkhan Dress, which now looks more like a stained and tattered shirt, has been identified as Egypt's oldest garment as well as the oldest surviving piece of woven clothing in the entire world. In that regard, the standardized methods of spinning and weaving can be counted among one of the ancient Egyptian inventions, with their development taking place around the period of circa 3500 BC. And despite its current decrepit state, the Tarkhan Dress, as the researchers pointed out, was once a fashionable linen garment, featuring knife-pleated sleeves and bodice with a naturally-beautiful pale gray striped design. Unfortunately, the lower part of the dress is still missing, which is why its original length is currently unknown.

In any case, according to Alice Stevenson of the University College London, who played her part in a 2016 study that precisely dated the Tarkhan Dress to circa 3482 BC –

The survival of highly perishable textiles in the archaeological record is exceptional, the survival of complete, or almost complete, articles of clothing like the Tarkhan Dress is even more remarkable. We've always suspected that the dress dated from the First Dynasty, but haven't been able to confirm this as the sample previously needed for testing would have caused too much damage to the dress.

4) Black Ink For Writing –

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Source: Brooklyn Museum

While the cursive writing was invented by the ancient Mesopotamians, their script was often inscribed as marks on clay tablets. Ink, on the other hand, has a far older history, with its usage harking back to at least around 40,000 years ago, as could be evidenced by earliest known cave paintings found in Spain and Indonesia. During this incredible epoch, the ink was probably derived (primarily) from red ochre, along with consequent uses of black manganese dyes, plant saps and possibly even blood.

However, the first known use of ink specifically for the purpose of writing (as opposed to art) comes from a much 'later' date of circa 2500 BC. Historically, this ink-writing trend emerged from both ancient Egypt and China, possibly in an overlapping time period. Now pertaining to the former, the emergence of ink-based writing complimented the use of papyrus, the precursor to parchment and paper – and so we have included black ink as one of the essential ancient Egyptian inventions.

The main pigment of such black ink products consisted of a type of carbon known as lamp black. It was created by tepidly burning tar with vegetable oil and then suspended in some kind of adhesives like gum or other glue-like substance (as a bonding agent), for enhancing its sticking attribute to the papyrus surface. Incredibly enough, the longevity of carbon also allowed many such papyrus writings to survive over millennia.

5) Police of Ancient Egypt –

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Source: Reddit

Like most ancient societies, the Egyptians during the Old Kingdom phase relied on local warriors and privately employed guards (who were paid by rich landowners and nobles) to guard their strongholds, religious buildings, and more importantly storehouses. However by the end of this epoch, especially by the time of the 5th Dynasty, Egyptian royalty and nobles began to employ more dedicated people for the important guarding posts. These guards were mostly recruited from military factions, ex-military servicemen, and even foreign mercenaries. One of the prime examples would pertain to the elite Medjay, who were basically Nubian desert scouts, and these men were tasked with protecting the high-value public places like markets and temples. They were even accompanied by trained monkeys and dogs to catch criminals – as depicted inside a 5th Dynasty tomb (pictured above).

Thus, the world's first known police force came into being in ancient Egypt in the field of personal security. And by the time of the Middle Kingdom (circa 2050 – 1800 BC), the overlapping system of employing soldiers (or ex-soldiers) as guards were relegated in favor of raising a full-time professional police force. In addition to guarding strategic and high-value sites, these ancient Medjay 'cops' were also tasked with keeping order in their respective zones and protecting trade caravans. And just like our modern times, the burgeoning police force was fueled by a state-administered body that selected the Chief of the Medjay. The Chief of the Medjay, in turn, chose his sub-chiefs, and they went on to appoint their deputies and constables in specific precincts inside the city.

6) Wigs –

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Formal wigs worn by an Egyptian couple of 5th dynasty, circa 24th century BC.

Like some contemporary ancient societies, many Egyptians did practice shaving their head. Historians have reasoned that the typically hot climate of Egypt actually made people comfortable with their bare scalps. Some scholars have also put forth the theory that regular shaving countered the infestation of lice, which could have been a predicament in many an ancient culture. However, interestingly enough, in spite of the comfort level, many of the folks did prefer some degree of 'hair' over their head, and thus came forth the solution of wig – one of the stylish ancient Egyptian inventions.

To that end, both free men (with the exception of priests and possibly scribes) and women wore wigs in ancient Egypt, while slaves were not even allowed to shave off their natural hair, by law. And oddly enough, the richer folks and nobles wore wigs made of actual human hair, which rather mirrored their high status. Suffice it to say, women tended to flaunt more decorative wigs that were often bedecked with headbands, flowers, jewelry items, ribbons, and caps. Occasionally, some of the wig designs even displayed exquisite colors, like the dark blue wig of Queen Nefertiti. On the other hand, the commoners wore simple wigs mostly made of dyed sheep wool and cheap vegetable fibers.

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7) Door Lock –

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Reconstruction of the ancient Egyptian door lock. Credit: Wheaton Lock Service

The oldest known evidence of a door lock comes from the ruins of an ancient Egyptian palatial complex, dating from circa 2000 BC. The fascinating design entailed a simple but effective pin tumbler lock, and it has been described as

A wooden bolt securing a door, with a slot with several holes on its upper surface. A device attached to the door contained wooden pins which would drop into the holes and secure the bolt. The key, also wooden, was a large toothbrush–shaped affair, whose 'bristles' were actually pegs that matched the holes and pins in the lock. To open the door, it would be inserted into the keyhole located below the pins and lifted, raising the pins and allowing the bolt to be slid out.

Incredibly enough, the core design element of the pin tumbler lock is still in use today, though ancient Egyptian keys were significantly larger than our modern counterparts. In any case, the door lock remains as one of the essential ancient Egyptian inventions, and such devices were usually reserved for places of high value, like royal palaces and religious structures –
buildings that often housed treasures and precious objects.

8) Surgery Treatise –

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The Edwin Smith Papyrus is a comprehensive medical text on surgery from ancient Egypt that was written around 1600 BC. It is perceived as a treatise that mainly deals with trauma, and predates the famous Hippocratic Oath by almost a thousand years! Simply put, it is the world's oldest known surgical treatise and is dated from the Second Intermediate Period of the history of ancient Egpyt. Quite intriguingly, it should be noted that the papyrus document exclusively contains only cases and not recipes for treatment of various traumas. These 48 cases are arranged in an immaculate manner with consideration to the location of the injury. In other words, the injuries mentioned proceed systematically from the head down to the spine, much like any of its modern-day counterpart. The cases even individually comprise the sub-categories that are divided into the title, examination, diagnosis and finally the treatment.

The astonishing part is how the organized state of affairs is equally complemented by the rationalized inputs of treatment. Quite possibly, the treatise may entail the first historical mentioning of 'brain' in any language. To that end, many contemporary neurosurgeons (with the help of historians) have actually identified the descriptions of various brain-related sections like cranial sutures, the meninges, the cerebrospinal fluid and the intracranial pulsations. Furthermore, the treatment processes encompass realistic solutions like surgical stitching and different types of injury dressing.

From the historical perspective, what is even more baffling pertains to the hypothesis that the papyrus was actually a copy of a previous medical treatise. James H. Breasted, the then-director of University of Chicago Oriental Institute, ascertained in 1930 that the original source was an Egyptian composite manuscript that was written between the period of 3000 – 2500 BC, probably by the renowned high priest, architect, and medicine practitioner Imhotep. According to Breasted, the scribe who copied this 'archaic treatise' made many errors and finally left the Edwin Smith Papyrus incomplete. Thus we only see the traumas and their treatment coverage ranging to the spine, and not the legs. And the amazing scope also suggests how surgical treatments (at least on the theoretical level) can be counted among the ancient Egyptian inventions of prominence.

9) Breath Mint –

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From personal appearance to personal hygiene, one of the 'coolest' ancient Egyptian inventions possibly pertained to the breath mint. Now while dental hygiene was probably not very high on the priority list, many ancient Egyptians, like most contemporaries of their time, had to deal with deteriorating teeth, partly because of their diet pattern (that did include honey and later even sugar).

Suffice it to say, bad breath was a predicament, especially for the nobles and royals who considered themselves 'pristine'. The solution came in the form of the first breath mint, made from a combination of myrrh, cinnamon, and frankincense. These ingredients were often boiled together in a honey base and then shaped into pellets for easy consumption. This scope of personally maintained fragrance also extended to other items, like the famed kyphi, a compound incense, first mentioned in a 16th century BC papyrus, made from a fusion of aromatic substances like honey, wine, pine resin, and juniper berries.

10) Toothpaste –

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While the earlier entry dealt with freshening one's breath, one of the fascinating ancient Egyptian inventions might have even pertained to toothpaste itself. To that end, the world's oldest known recipe for a toothpaste comes from ancient Egypt, though the papyrus itself is only dated from 4th century AD and clearly presents a Greek script. In any case, according to the document, the ancient cleaning agent for our pearly whites calls for one drachma (one-hundredth of an ounce) of rock salt, one drachma of mint, and one drachma of the dried iris flower, all mixed with around 20 grains of pepper. According to Austrian dentist, Dr. Heinz Neuman, who tried out the pungent ancient Egyptian toothpaste –

I found that it was not unpleasant. It was painful on my gums and made them bleed as well, but that's not a bad thing, and afterwards my mouth felt fresh and clean. I believe that this recipe would have been a big improvement on some of the soap toothpastes used much later.

And incredibly enough, some of these 'earlier' toothpaste concoctions did include a range of bizarre items including powder of ox hooves' ashes and burnt eggshells, both of which were combined with the abrasive pumice.

11) Tables –

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Source: Pinterest

The very early forms of tables were used by ancient Egyptians, though not as objects for dining or writing. One of the ancient Egyptian inventions in the realm of typical furniture, such tables (or proto-tables) were simply elevated platforms for storing items and keeping them away from the floor. Over time, few of the designs evolved to account for four-legged, three-legged and even one-legged tables. Some of these rare specimens, mostly made of wood (but few made of stone and metal) were used for dining and also for gaming purposes. Pertaining to the latter, Senet, one of the oldest known board games was mentioned in an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph dating from 3100 BC.

However, beyond such uncommon usage patterns, many of the later Egyptian tables were used as offering platforms inside tombs. Some of these tables were actually laden with food and dedicated to the deceased, who was often portrayed as the host. As one particular tomb inscription makes it clear that the funerary food served a visual purpose, rather than an actual feast –

At the table of one greater than you,
Take what he gives as it is set before you;

12) Honorable Mention – Antibiotic (Beer)

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Source: Cairo Scene

While not exactly pertaining to one of the Egyptian inventions, analysis of bones of ancient Nubian people made in 2010 revealed the presence of tetracycline, an antibiotic that is also used in our modern times for treating bacterial infections. The bones specimens were nearly 2,000 years old, and thus the study hinted at how antibiotics were (possibly) familiar to ancient populations before the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928. And the interesting part is – the Nubians probably took in tetracycline through their special beer concoctions that were more akin to sour porridge.

According to the scientists, there is strong evidence that the Nubians actually knew that their beer concoctions made from grain were laced with tetracycline. Now in historical terms, the first batch of beer was possibly contaminated by Streptomyces, a soil bacteria that produces tetracycline and also thrives in arid conditions such as Nubia (the land encompassing present-day northern Sudan and southern Egypt). But the Nubians, over time, must have noticed how the 'accidental' tetracycline antibiotic cured them of various bacterial ailments. So they devised their ingenious ways to propagate and brew this particular variety of beer and consumed them as a part of their diet.

It should also be noted that Streptomyces can produce a golden-colored bacterial colony on the top of the beer, and this particular hue might have enticed the Nubians (who shared cultural entanglement with the Egyptians during parts of history) to consume more of this special 'antibiotic' beer, since gold was venerated by many ancient cultures. But unfortunately, as with many historical traditions of observed science, this specific art of brewing the tetracycline beer was probably lost to time. And lastly, if we stretch the ambit a bit, the profusion of Streptomyces in these African regions might also explain the antibiotic resistance showcased by the native fauna.

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