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16 Strange Facts About What Everyday Life Was Like In Ancient Egypt

Updated September 23, 2021 1.2m views17 items
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In many ways, everyday life in ancient Egypt was surprisingly modern. Egyptians had a sophisticated education system - for those who could afford it - and a remarkable understanding of medicine. Men and women also enjoyed an equality that wasn't often seen in other ancient populations.

But that doesn't mean that daily life in the ancient world was easy. The majority of the population was made up of farmers, who were indentured to the land and had to cultivate crops in grueling heat. Times were especially tough for the lower classes; the average life expectancy was just 30 years for women and 34 for men. Even if you were lucky enough to be royalty, some experts suggest their typical high-carbohydrate diet would make you susceptible to obesity and diabetes. Lice could be a problem, not to mention other hygienic challenges.

Outside of work, how ancient Egyptians lived was directly tied to their faith. They were an extremely pious people, and believed that their food, their clothing, and even their makeup were all gifts from the gods. Of course, piety didn't exclude the simpler pleasures of life, including beer and board games.

Want to really walk in the shoes of ancient Egyptians? Check out more facts about their daily lives below.

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  • They Believed They Thought With Their Hearts

    While the ancient Egyptians understood many things about anatomy, they weren’t always correct about the organs’ biological functions. They believed that the heart - or the ib - was where thought originated from within the body. They also thought it was the center of love, sadness, and bravery, images that remained in the popular consciousness until modern times.

    So what did ancient Egyptians think of the brain? Not much, apparently - they discarded the brain during the mummification process.

  • Photo: Keith Schengili-Roberts / via Wikimedia Commons

    Statues Could Decide Major Court Cases

    There were two judicial courts that would decide on cases in ancient Egypt: the kenbet and the great kenbet. The lower kenbet court would deal with minor disputes, while the greater court would deal with crimes such as robbery and murder. The vizier, or the highest ranking official under the pharaoh, would rule in these cases. The pharaoh was the official head of the legal system and his word was the final judgment. However, in complicated cases ancient Egyptians would refer to oracles, or the statue representations of these deities.

    The prosecution and defense would compile their arguments on papyrus and place them on either side of the street. The side to which the statue leaned closer towards was decided the winner.

  • Photo: Alma E. Guinness / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Children Didn’t Wear Clothing Until They Were Six

    In ancient Egypt, children didn’t don clothing until they were about six years old. Although they were nude, they would wear jewelry such as necklaces and anklets. Once the children got older they would wear the same style of clothing as their parents, though the styles depended on their place in the social hierarchy.

  • Photo: Anonymous / via Wikimedia Commons

    They Used Garlic To Test Fertility

    Ancient Egyptians understood that sex lead to pregnancy, but they weren’t quite sure how everything was connected. They thought that a woman’s womb was attached to the alimentary canal - the path your food takes from your mouth to your anus. Thus, putting a clove of garlic in a woman’s vagina would test her fertility. If garlic could be smelled on the breath of the woman, then she was fertile. If her breath didn’t smell like garlic, that meant that she had a blockage in the canal, and therefore could not get pregnant.

    They also thought the origin of sperm was the bones, not the testicles.