Top 10 Egyptian Inventions and Discoveries

Ancient Egypt has a significant cultural impact on ancient and modern civilizations with its extensive collection of antiquities, inventions, and monuments. 

Inventions from ancient Egypt molded the world to its current form. The technologies and innovation vary from essential equipment to complex construction projects, mathematics, geometry, astronomy, medicine,  and literature that formed religions. 

They gave the gigantic pyramids as the world’s seven wonders, the beauty of Cleopatra, and many more glorious monuments. 

Egyptian women flaunted their ornate jewelry and wigs, men boxed and wrestled for sports, and children played board games and dolls. 

Here I will be discussing 10 Egyptian inventions that are still popular and applicable today.

What ancient Egyptian inventions do we still use today?

Toothpaste, paper, ink, cosmetics, and even breath mints were first invented in ancient Egypt.

These are some basic things that we still use in our day-to-day life.

What did the ancient Egyptians use for medicine?

Ancient Egyptians believed that religion and supernatural forces played a significant role in the health and well-being of people.

However, they included scientific methods along with these beliefs.

They used charms and incantations and medicines made out of natural ingredients such as honey, juniper, thyme, etc.

What contributions did ancient Egypt make in the sector of beauty?

Egyptians made makeup from natural pigments and made kohl for eye makeup.

They also invented the concept of wigs made out of either vegetable fibers or human hair.

10. Paper and ink

A sample piece of ancient Papyrus
A sample piece of ancient Papyrus

Although the Chinese invented paper, Egyptians were a step ahead with creating a substitute from the papyrus plant: a stiff, reed-like plant that grew in the marshy areas lining the Nile. They named the creation papyrus, now commonly known as paper.

The rigid, fibrous material of the papyrus plant was ideal for making durable sheets of writing material. They also used it to make sails, sandals, and mats.

They kept the process of manufacturing papyrus a guarded secret, enabling them to trade papyrus sheets throughout the region.

The process was not documented, however, it came to light after Dr. Hassan Ragab discovered a way to create papyrus sheets in 1965.

The Mesopotamians carved their letters into clay, stone, and wax; however, the Egyptians developed a less tiring ink method.

They ground different pigments and ores together with water and formed a thick liquid that could be used on papyrus with a brush or a stylus.

Various natural substances such as copper, iron, quartz, and malachite were used to produce different colors like Red, black, and blue.

9. Written Language

An image of Egyptian Papyrus with Egyptian script

An image of Egyptian Papyrus with Egyptian script

Egyptians were the first people to develop their language into an organized form of writing. Before that, all forms of writing were pictograms, a simple portrayal of words, that date back to 6000 BC. 

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Eventually, Egyptians came up with a writing system consisting of alphabets, syllables, and ideograms. They were found inscribed on the Egyptian tombs with tales of war, culture, politics, and incidents.

The Rosetta stone was beneficial to interpret the writing. Along with that, the discovery of the work of Jean-Francois Champollion, a French scholar to decode the stone, marked the end of a fifteen-hundred-year period when Egyptian writing was hidden in mystery.

8. The lock

A sample image of ancient Egyptian tumbler lock
A sample image of ancient Egyptian tumbler lock

In the beginning, the houses in ancient Egypt were protected by a simple bolt across the door. They invented the lock and key during the 2nd millennium BC, which became the new security system.

The Egyptian tumbler lock had several pins forming mini bolts inside, and on inserting the matching key, the prongs lifted, allowing the bolt to be pulled back, opening the door. Some early keys were as large as two feet and were made out of wood.

The locks were mainly used for the protection of rooms and possessions of the wealthy. They have been found inside the great pyramids serving as the toms of the rulers.

Egyptian locks were more secure than the ones developed by the Romans. The Romans had a more straightforward design consisting of a spring instead of a bolt to hold the door in place.

Even though the Roman locks were hidden inside the door, they were comparatively more straightforward to pick than the Egyptians locks.

7. The calendar

One section of ancient Egyptian calendar
One section of the ancient Egyptian calendar

The Egyptians calendar was divided into twelve months of thirty days each, based on the sun and moon. It consisted of five additional days at the end of the year, bringing the total up to 365 

This method has been recognized and used for timekeeping to date. Those five days were elected as religious holidays set aside to honor the children of the gods.

However, the Egyptians were familiar with only 3 seasons, used by the farmers to determine whether the crops required to be sown or reaped. The seasons were: inundation, growing, and harvest. Each season consisted of four months.

Similarly, they also invented the first timekeeping device—the earliest known sundial dated back to 1500 BC.

However, Huge Obelisks developed the first timekeeping device two thousand years ago. 

He could tell the time by observing the way their shadows fell over its engravings. Around the same time, the Egyptians built the water clock.

6. Barbers

A portrait depicting barber's shop in ancient period
A portrait depicting a barber’s shop in the ancient period

The first barbers found in Egypt dated back to 5000 BC. Men were employed to cut and groom the hair and beard with the help of sharpened flints and shells. 

The trends back then, as of now, sometimes stated clean-shaved appearance as fashionable, while at other times long hair and beards were considered fashion.

Priests or doctors carried out some barbering as it had ritual or medicinal purposes. Barbers were considered as skillful men even after the task was professionalized. 

Just like a butler, the elites had their live-in barbers or had one make house calls. As for the ordinary citizens, they had to visit the city’s street barbers to get a haircut.

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Sometimes, the Egyptians took sheep wool and fashioned them into wigs and fake beards. Oddly enough, sometimes those wigs were worn by Egyptian queens as well as kings. 

The fake beards indicated the dignity and social position of the wearer and came in various shapes. 

Common citizens wore small fake beards of around two-inch length, while kings wore artificial whiskers to increase lengths and trimmed them square at the end. 

On the other hand, Egyptian gods had even more luxurious long beards; however, they were turned up at the tip.

5. Makeup and wigs

A collection of cosmetics in Ancient Egypt
A collection of cosmetics in Ancient Egypt

The Egyptians took a step further regarding beauty as they designed various rituals and products to emphasize a woman’s look. They made makeup from natural pigments such as crushed beetles and toxic lead to augment their facial features.

They first invented eye makeup in 4000 BC by combining soot with a mineral called galena, creating a black ointment known as kohl. This is popular to date. 

They created green eye makeup by combining a mineral called malachite with galena to tint the ointment.

Moreover, wigs were trendy among Egyptian women. The cheapest and readily available wigs were made from vegetable fibers, while the royal family got theirs made with human hair. 

Nubian people especially made them boost the Afro style, which was very popular during the second millennium. 

Egyptians used to shave their heads to keep them clean and prevent lice during the hot summers. Priests remained bald as a part of their purification rituals. 

However, the people who could afford it had wigs made for themselves in different styles and set with perfumed beeswax.

4. Bowling

An image of bowling invented in Ancient Egypt

An image of bowling invented in Ancient Egypt

A British archeologist William Mathew Flinders Petrie, dug up almost three thousand graves throughout Egypt. Among many children’s graves, he discovered a set of skittles in a tomb dated 5200 BC. 

It contained a couple of balls and nine stones that were shaped like vases.

Initially, archeologists thought them to be ornaments but later realized that they were the earliest evidence of bowling. The game was simple, involving a ball at a set of stationary objects at a distance. 

The balls were made of husks of corn, covered in leather and bound with string. However, they were also made out of stone or porcelain. Other civilizations, including the Romans, later adopted this form, and gradually it is now made out as one of the most popular games.

Unlike modern bowling, where the balls target to knock down pins at the end of the alley, Egyptian bowlers targeted the hole in the middle.

The competitors stood at opposite ends of the lane and rolled the balls, attempting to strike into the center hole while knocking their opponent’s call off course in the process.

3. Toothpaste and Breath Mints

One of the breath mints
One of the breath mints

Egyptians made their toothpaste by grinding and mixing up several salts, dried flowers, pepper, ashes, and even eggshells. The rough paste was rubbed in their teeth using their fingers or some old toothbrush made of frayed twigs.

This method was successful in cleaning the teeth surprisingly well. However, it did more harm than good, as its gritty texture contributed to bleeding gums and worn-out enamel.

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For the people with risks of dental decay, they also came up with breath mints. Egyptians sucked on drops made out of boiled honey, flavored with fragrant herbs and spices including cinnamon, myrrh, or frankincense to disguise the unpleasant smell of rotting teeth. 

Along with that, they added mints to their toothpaste to improve their breath. This process is still practiced in dental products.

Archeologists also found toothpicks buried alongside mummies, which were used to clean food debris between their teeth.

2. The plow

An art depicting Ancient Egyptian ploughing
An art depicting Ancient Egyptian plowing

Egyptians were among one of the first societies to develop the use of a plow which dates back to 4000 BC.

The plows were very light, hence not being very effective. They are now called ‘scratch plows’ as they could not dig deep into the ground.

The plows were used by hand as per a wall painting. It shows four men pulling together a plow through a field. It was not a very effective way of plowing and had room for improvement.

In 2000 BC, the ineffectiveness of the plow changed as the Egyptians hooked their plows to oxen. In the early stages, they connected the plows to the horns of the cattle. 

This interfered with the animal’s ability to breathe. Later, the design was improved with the application of straps and was much more effective. 

The use of plows transformed farming in ancient Egypt. The plow, combined with the steady flow of the Nile River, made farming easier for the Egyptians.

1. Medicines

Collection of Ancient Egyptian Medical Instruments
Collection of Ancient Egyptian Medical Instruments

The divine and the supernatural played a massive role in the understanding of the health of Egyptian people. However, the Egyptians combine it with a scientific approach to cure sickness. 

They created medicines from natural resources, including minerals, herbs, and animal products. They even performed early forms of surgery.

In 2000 BC, there were institutions known as Houses of Life where priests and doctors practiced medicine. These centers were dedicated to the improvement and protection of human life.

The Egyptians were also responsible for creating the world’s first public health system. In the village of Deir el-Medina, around 1500 BC, artisans, and laborers working on the royal tombs were provided with wages, food supply, and servants. 

Along with that, they were also provided with shared physicians to check and maintain their health.

Egyptians performed several medical surgeries ranging from surgical cases of head, neck, shoulders, breast, and chest injuries.

They used a list of instruments for surgeries, including suturing of wounds with a needle and a thread. 

The tools consisted of lint, swabs, bandage, adhesive plaster, surgical stitches, and cauterization.

Conclusion

The Egyptians had a vibrant culture, and they left much more than the great pyramids. Their inventions have shaped the present world and its daily activities.

From outing on makeup to locking our doors, ancient Egypt had directly impacted many essential things in our lives today.

We have embodied various things, including literature, language, mathematics, and architecture, and still use their inventions such as locks, makeup, wigs, medicine, and many more.

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