When you think about ancient Egypt, you probably think of mummies, pyramids and cursed tablets. But did you know that there are many ancient Egyptian inventions still used today? Ancient Egypt boasts one of the largest collections of antiquities and monuments in the world. It also had an immense cultural impact on surrounding ancient and modern civilizations, spanning topics including language, mathematics, and architecture. However, ancient Egypt was also known for its wide variety of inventions that are still used today. Read on for 10 of the most important Ancient Egyptian inventions.
Earlier civilizations, such as those that emerged in Mesopotamia, had largely treated physical and mental illnesses as the work of the gods and attempted to treat them using religious and magic remedies performed by priests or even exorcists. It was in ancient Egypt that medicine as we know it today developed.
Although the supernatural still played a large role in their understanding of health, the Egyptians had a far more scientific approach to curing sickness, creating medicines from natural resources, such as minerals, herbs, and animal products, and also performed early forms of surgery. As early as 2200 BC, there were institutions known as Houses of Life, where medicine would be practiced by doctors and priests. Dedicated to the improvement and protection of human life, these centers could even be considered a forerunner of the hospital.
Not only did the Egyptians introduce a huge number of new medical concepts, but they were also responsible for the world’s first public health system. Around 1500 BC, the village of Deir el-Medina was established for the craftsmen and laborers working on the royal tombs in the nearby Valley of the Kings. As well as their monthly wages, food supply and servants, these workers were also given a shared physician to see to their health concerns and help heal any complaints.
Even when they were sick, it is thought that the workers still received their rations: the first recorded evidence of sick-pay! As benevolent as this sounds, it is important to remember that this system was only put in place so that the pharaohs could ensure a stable supply of workers to complete their magnificent tombs.
Nonetheless, the progress made in hygiene, diagnosis, and cures shows that much of modern medicine is indebted to the innovations and understanding developed by the ancient Egyptians.
2. The Lock
There was another solution for those who didn’t have a private police force to guard their residences: at first, homes and buildings were protected by a simple bolt placed across the door, but during the second millennium BC, the Egyptian inventions of lock and key became the new security systems.
Although undoubtedly less complex than modern keys, the ancient Egyptian tumbler lock represents a significant shift in the history of engineering. Inside, several pins formed a series of mini bolts, and when the matching key was inserted, its prongs lifted these up to allow the bolt to be pulled back and the door opened. Early examples of these were large, sometimes 2 feet long, and were made out of wood. As with the furniture and cosmetics invented during the Egyptian age, however, locks were not common; they were most often used to protect the rooms and possessions of the wealthy, and have even been found inside the great pyramids that served as the tombs of Egypt’s rulers.
3. The Police
With the expansion of urban living and centralized power came the emergence of organized law enforcement, as the first-ever police force was founded in ancient Egypt. It was initially introduced around 2500 BC to patrol and regulate the ships and boats traveling on the Nile, to protect them from thieves and ensure that trade and the economy continued to prosper.
By roughly 1500 BC, the Egyptians had developed an elite paramilitary police force known as the Medjay. The term Medjay was originally used to refer to a nomadic people from Nubia, who were employed as the first policemen, but the name soon became synonymous with the force in general. The Medjay were charged with protecting the Pharaoh’s most valuable areas and possessions, including his capital city, the borderlands, and the palace.
Unlike the modern force, the Egyptian police were not responsible for any detective or investigative work (victims or prosecutors had to provide all their own evidence). Their job was purely to preserve the order and stability of the regime by punishing law-breakers and rebels, often cruelly. They went about this task in several ways, including using animals such as dogs, and even monkeys, to apprehend criminals.
4. Toothpaste And Breath Mints
If the loaves of bread miraculously preserved for thousands of years show us anything, it is that Egyptian granaries and bakeries would not have passed modern-day health inspections. The bread was so filled with pieces of grit and chips of stone that it wore down the enamel of the consumers’ teeth and caused widespread dental issues. Abscesses plagued the ancient Egyptians, and toothpaste became one of the most prominent Egyptian inventions to prevent them for those who could afford it.