10 Amazing Ancient Egyptian Inventions

Download 10 Amazing Ancient Egyptian Inventions

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Taken from How Stuff Works, a look at the top 10 inventions from Ancient Egypt.

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  • 1. Pyramids? Pffft! Here are some really practical inventionsfrom Ancient EgyptSource:http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/inventions/5-amazing-ancient-egyptian-inventions.htm#page=1

2. Since they first invented eye makeup as far back as4000 B.C., it's never gone out of style. Even more impressive, some cosmetically-mindedcultures still create makeup using the same techniquespioneered by the Egyptians thousands of years ago. They combined soot with a mineral called galena tocreate a black ointment known as kohl, which is stillpopular today. They could also create green eye makeup by combininga mineral called malachite with galena to tint theointment. 3. For the Egyptians, makeup was not limited to women. Status and appearance went hand in hand, and as faras the upper class was concerned, the more makeupthe better. Fashion was only part of the reason for the Egyptians'notoriously heavy hand when applying eyeliner. They also believed that applying a thick coating of thestuff could cure various eye diseases and even keepthem from falling victim to the evil eye. 4. Some debate that written language developed in Egyptthe same time as in Mesopotamia Pictograms were simple depictions of the words theyrepresented, but they had limitations. Over time, Egyptians added other elements to theirwriting system, including alphabet-like characters thatstood for certain sounds and other characters, allowingthem to write out names and abstract ideas. 5. The Egyptians had developed an admirable substitute forpaper thousands of years earlier from the papyrus plant This stiff, reedlike plant grew (and continues to grow) inthe marshy areas lining the Nile, among other places. Its tough, fibrous interior proved ideal for making durablesheets of writing material, along with sails, sandals, matsand other necessities of ancient Egyptian life. After the sheets were made, they were often combined intoscrolls, which were then filled with everything fromreligious texts to literature and even music. 6. Without a calendar, ancient Egyptians had no way of knowingwhen the annual flooding of the Nile would begin. Without that knowledge, their entire agricultural system wouldbe put at risk, so a few thousand years before the common era,they started using one. Their civil calendar was so closely tied into farming that theEgyptians divided it up into three main seasons: inundation,growing and harvest. Each season had four months, with each month divided into 30days. Adding it all up, you get 360 days a year -- a bit short of anactual year. To make up the difference, the Egyptians added five daysbetween the harvest and inundation seasons. These five epagomenal days, were designated as religiousholidays set aside to honor the children of the gods 7. While historians aren't entirely certain of where the ploworiginated, evidence suggests that the Egyptians and Sumerianswere among the first societies to employ its use around 4000 B.C. Likely built from modified hand tools, the plows were so lightand ineffective that they are now referred to as "scratch plows" fortheir inability to dig deep into the ground. What's more, the plows ran on nothing more than elbow grease. That all changed in 2000 B.C., when the Egyptians first hookedtheir plows to oxen. Early designs were connected to the horns of cattle but proved tointerfere with the animal's ability to breathe. Later versions incorporated a system of straps and were muchmore effective. The plow revolutionized farming in ancient Egypt and, combinedwith the steady rhythm of the Nile River, made farming easier forthe Egyptians than perhaps any other society of the time. 8. The next time you eat a mint, you should thank the ancientEgyptians for devising a way to conceal the unpleasant aromasour mouths sometimes exude. Just as in modern times, bad breath in ancient Egypt often was asymptom of poor dental health. The stones they used to grind flour for bread contributed a lot ofsand and grit to their diet, which wore down tooth enamel toexpose the pulp of the tooth, making it vulnerable to infection. The Egyptians had specialists for many medical problems, butunfortunately, they didn't have dentists or oral surgeons to fixtheir deteriorating teeth and gums. Instead, they simply suffered, and scientists who'veexamined mummies have found severely worn teeth. To cope with the unpleasant odors from their rotting mouths,Egyptians invented the first mints, which were a combination offrankincense, myrrh and cinnamon boiled with honey andshaped into pellets 9. In Narmoutheos, a settlement 56 miles (90 kilometers)south of Cairo that dates back to the Roman occupationperiod in the second and third centuriesA.D., archaeologists have discovered a room containing aset of lanes and a collection of balls of various sizes. Measuring about 13 feet (3.9 meters) long, the 7.9-inch-wide(20-centimeter), 3.8-inch-deep (9.6-centimeter) lanefeatured a 4.7-inch (11.9-centimeter) square opening at itscenter. Unlike modern bowling, in which bowlers strive to knockdown pins at the end of the alley, Egyptian bowlers aimedfor the hole in the middle. Competitors stood at opposite ends of the lane andattempted to roll balls of different sizes into the center holeand in the process also knock their opponent's ball offcourse 10. Egyptians considered hair unhygienic, and the sweltering heat oftheir homeland made long tresses and beards uncomfortable. Thus, they cut their hair short or shaved their heads and facesregularly. Priests, who apparently were especially averse to hirsuteness,shaved their entire bodies every three days . For much of their history, being clean-shaven was consideredfashionable, and being stubbly came to be considered a mark ofpoor social status. To that end, the Egyptians invented what may have been the firstshaving implements, a set of sharp stone blades set in woodenhandles, and later replaced those with copper-bladed razors. They also invented the barbering profession. The first barbersmade house calls to wealthy aristocrats' houses but tended toordinary customers outdoors, seating them on benchesunderneath shady sycamore trees. 11. Oddly, though, they also retained a fascination for facialhair, or at least the appearance of having some. The Egyptians took shorn hair and sheep's wool andfashioned them into wigs and fake beards -- which, evenmore oddly, were sometimes worn by Egyptian queens aswell as kings. The fake beards had various shapes, to indicate the dignityand social position of their wearer. Ordinary citizens wore small fake beards about 2 inches (5centimeters) long, while kings wore their phony whiskersto extravagant lengths and had them trimmed to be squareat the end. Egyptian gods had even more luxurious long beards, whichwere turned up at the tip 12. The earliest such device, created around 4000 B.C.,basically was a pin-tumbler lock, in which a hollowed-outbolt in the door was connected to pins that could bemanipulated by insertion of a key. When the key pushed upward on the pins, they slippedaway from the bolt shaft, allowing it to be withdrawn. One drawback of these ancient locks was their size. Thebiggest ones were up to 2 feet (0.6 meters) in length. Egyptian locks actually were more secure than thetechnology later developed by the Romans, who used asimpler design with a spring rather than a bolt to hold thedoor in place. The Roman locks were hidden inside the door, butcompared to the Egyptian locks, they were relatively easy topick 13. While they didn't have dentistry, they did make some effort to keeptheir teeth clean. Archaeologists have found toothpicks buried alongside mummies,apparently placed there so that they could clean food debris frombetween their teeth in the afterlife. Along with the Babylonians, they're also credited with inventing thefirst toothbrushes, which were frayed ends of wooden twigs. But the Egyptians also contributed a innovation to dental hygiene, inthe form of toothpaste. Early ingredients included the powder of ox hooves, ashes, burnteggshells and pumice, which probably made for a less-than-refreshingmorning tooth-care ritual. Archaeologists recently found what appears to be a more advancedtoothpaste recipe and how-to-brush guide written on papyrus thatdates back to the Roman occupation in the fourth century A.D. The unknown author explains how to mix precise amounts of rock salt,mint, dried iris flower and grains of pepper, to form a "powder for whiteand perfect teeth"

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