November 8, 2013

ANCIENT EGYPTIAN HISTORY YOU WON'T FIND IN YOUR TEXTBOOKS. WHAT CONNECTION DOES ANCIENT EGYPT HAVE TO ONION RINGS, UNDERWEAR, NIKI MINAJ, LADY GAGA, CATS AND DEATH BY SNAKES, GYPSIES, BIRTH CONTROL, TYLER POSEY, CAT WOMAN, THE SONG "WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN" BY "THE BANGLES," STEVE MARTIN, PANCAKES, CHECKERS AND THE THREE STOOGES? PLUS SOME WEIRD AND WONDERFUL SURPRISES.





The history of ancient Egypt is part of the curriculum for every world history class. Being one of the first "civilizations" to develop as early mankind emerged from the Neolithic ("New Stone age") period between approximately 6000 and 2500 years BCE., they contributed much to the progress of art, architecture, agriculture, religion and science. But that is not what I am going to write about in this post. What I wish to tell you are the things concerning ancient Egypt that are rarely mentioned in your textbooks. Some things will be familiar, some very strange, and others surprising. By the way, the picture above is a movie still from the 1932 horror classic "The Mummy" starring Boris Karloff. More on this later. Let's get going.           
ONE:
Some historians claim that the concept of the wedding ring originated in ancient Egypt. Supposedly, the ring is an unbroken circle, suggesting infinity, and symbolizes a lasting marriage and eternal devotion to one's partner. 
Digression: the ancient Romans, during
later times, made their wedding rings out
of iron because it was the strongest known
metal and symbolized the strength of the
commitment being made. They placed the
ring on the same finger as the Egyptians.

Ancient Egyptians believed that if a wedding ring were broken it meant very bad luck, and if people took off their wedding ring love would fly from their heart and their relationship with their beloved would be ruined. They also believed that a vein ran from the third finger on the left hand directly to the heart. This is how that particular finger came to be known as the "ring finger." 

Wedding rings represent eternal
love. Ancient Egyptians believed
that people should never take off their
wedding ring, or break it, ...or else
love would fly away or bad luck ensue. 

TWO: FOOD


The Egyptians were the first civilization to cultivate and use the onion extensively. The onion has been cultivated for over 5000 years and was held in very high esteem by the Egyptians. They offered up onions in order to pay tribute to their gods. Also, they partially paid the slaves who built their pyramids in onions. They were a valued commodity and a tasty cooking ingredient. In short, they both popularized and spread the use of the onion. The onion came to the Americas with Christopher Columbus as part of the "Columbian Exchange" (see my post of November 23, 2011, on "Christopher Columbus and Dead Eskimos in Kayaks" which includes more information on this topic) and has become one of the world's most universal flavoring ingredients.

If not for the Egyptians, we might not be
able to enjoy delicious "onion rings"
such as these. And didn't I just mention
"rings" in item number one?
 

THREE: CROCODILES AND BIRTH CONTROL.
The ancient Egyptians were the first known civilization in history to invent a man-made (that is, woman-made) birth control device. Actually they were pioneers in this field and devised two that I have found descriptions of. The first, dating back to at least 1550 BCE., is as follows. A woman was advised to grind together dates, acacia (a tree bark), and a slight amount of honey into a moist paste. Then, taking a small amount of either seed wool or sheep's wool and dipping it into this sweet mixture, insert the concoction into the vulva. As unusual and doubtful as this practice appears it most often was highly effective. The ground acacia ferments along with the honey and combines to form lactic acid, a well-known spermicide. 

Acacia tree of northern Africa. The bark
of this tree was used to invent the earliest (?)
known birth control device in history

A second "woman-made" birth control device made its appearance in approximately 200 B.C.E.. It proved even more effective than the previously described method. It was called a "pessary" and could be made with a variety of substances such as mud, aromatic herbs and honey, and inserted into the vagina/vulva...so far it sounds much the same as the acacia mixture described above. But the "secret" ingredient that made this mixture so effective was crocodile dung (elephant dung could also be used but it was extremely hard to obtain). 

Crocodile dung was a necessary ingredient
in the making of a "pessary."

Crocodile dung is highly acidic and when added to the recipe for a "pessary" it proved to be uniquely effective in preventing pregnancy. Crocodile dung was readily available because so many of them lived along the banks of the Nile River.

The shore of the Nile River, where ancient
Egyptian women went in search of
crocodile dung.

FOUR: "THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX."
What is a "sphinx"? The sphinx was an imaginary, mythological creature that played a large role in the ancient cultures of Egypt, the Near East and ancient Greece. The Egyptian sphinx usually had the head of a man or animal and the body of a lion or cat. The sphinx was used by the ancient Egyptians to guard tombs, temples and even important avenues and streets. 

The purpose of the Great Sphinx at Giza was
to guard the Great Pyramid of Pharaoh Khufu,
or Cheops in Greek. Note the male face. It is 

thought to be the face of the Pharaoh who built 
it, the best guess being that of Pharaoh Khafra

The Sphinx was supposed to be the earthly representation of the Egyptian god Horus, one of the most important of their gods. Thus, the Egyptian sphinx figure was benevolent and helpful. That is why it stands guard over the Great Pyramid at Giza. 

Pictures of two ancient Greek sphinxes.
Note the female head, serpent's head tail,
body of a lioness and wings of an eagle.
She was portrayed as a monster in
Greek Mythology.

While the Egyptians portrayed the sphinx as a magnanimous male figure, the ancient Greeks portrayed their sphinx as a demonic, ferocious female figure (see above). In an ancient Greek myth/story known as "The Riddle of the Sphinx" this monstrous creature dwelled along the side of a road and as a traveler passed by she asked them a riddle. If the traveler could not answer it she would tear them apart and devour them. One day a man named  Oedipus traveled by the Sphinx and she stopped him and asked him the same riddle that no one else had ever been able to answer. 

An ancient Greek vase depicting the
story "The Riddle of the Sphinx."
Did Oedipus answer correctly?

The Sphinx asked, "What is it that walks on four feet in the morning, two feet at noon, and three feet in the evening?" Oedipus immediately replied, "The answer is 'man' who crawls as a baby on four feet, walks upright as an adult on two feet, and walks with a stick (i.e.,cane) as an old man." The Sphinx, so used to getting the better of this exchange, was outraged at being beaten at her own game by Oedipus. In a frenzy she ran to a nearby cliff, threw herself off of it and fell to her death. 

The ancient Egyptians were the first
civilization  to use stone on such a
massive scale in their architecture.


FIVE: A FEW BRIEF FUN FACTS.

All the pyramids in Egypt contain enough bricks, stone and mortar to construct a wall ten feet high and five feet wide which would run from New York City, N.Y., to Los Angeles, California (that's 2,459 miles!).

The base of The Great Pyramid in Egypt is large enough to cover ten football fields. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, it took 400,000 men twenty years to construct this burial chamber and monument to Pharaoh Khufu. Modern historians believe that Herodotus was just guessing because he was writing over 2000 years after the pyramid was built. 
Ten of these? That's why its called the
"Great Pyramid."

The Great Pyramid is approximately 47 stories in height.

The world's first "skyscraper"?

A "cubit" is an ancient Egyptian unit of measure that is equal to 20.62 inches according the system used in the United States. The cubit is mentioned in The Bible, especially in reference to the building of Noah's Ark in the book of Genesis. 


Some clothing historians give credit to the ancient Egyptians for inventing underwear somewhere around 1500 B.C.E. They say it probably looked something like what we would call a "loincloth" that was probably one of the earliest forms of clothing in ancient cultures. As a matter of fact King Tut's "mummy" was discovered wearing one when his (or, its) tomb was discovered in 1922.


Ancient Egyptian underwear/loincloth,
approx. 1500 B.C.E.

Priests in ancient Egyptian temples plucked every hair from their bodies, including their eyebrows and eyelashes.

Ancient Egyptian priest.
Hair has been all removed
but it looks as if he still
had his eyebrows.

Honey is the only food that does not spoil. Honey found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs has been tasted by archaeologists and found to be edible. Food, clothing, horses, weapons, servants, furniture, chariots, gold, jewels, games, scrolls, pets... were buried in tombs along with the deceased ("mummy") because Egyptians believed they would have need of these things in the "afterlife." (More on this later.)

SIX: INTERESTING AND STRANGE FACTS.


The ancient Egyptian empire was incredibly rich. The amount of gold possessed by its pharaohs and other nobility was staggering. With so much of it about, and with so many people working with gold to create art, furniture, buildings, jewelry, temples,...the Egyptians had to take precautions to make sure that as little pilfering as possible would take place. 


As a result, only dwarfs, giants ("gigantism" is a term developed in the 20th century and is a legitimate medical condition) or individuals who had highly visible and prominent deformities were allowed to be gold workers. Thus, if they stole some gold and ran away they could be more easily identified and captured. In addition to this, the Egyptians had to maintain a large army to protect their wealthy empire from foreign attack and plundering.

The most effective weapon in the Egyptian
army was the war chariot. It usually contained
two people, one driver and a soldier armed
with bow and arrows and a spear. 




NOTE: SLIGHT DIGRESSION

The Egyptians did not invent the war chariot but improved upon it when the Hyksos conquered and ruled them in approx. 1800 BCE. The Egyptians were not then familiar with the war chariot and could not resist its military effectiveness. The Hyksos ruled the Egyptians until 1550 BCE. (250 years) and are given credit for introducing the war chariot into Egypt. The Egyptians later used it to drive the Hyksos from Egypt.


BACK TO THE STORY
 The Egyptian empire needed capable individuals to lead their armies in the field. So it is surprising then to learn that the ancient Egyptians would only appoint generals who had been born under the astrological sign of Leo, the lion. The characteristics of those who were born under this sign were that they were strong, aggressive leaders. Just the thing for being in charge of an army, they believed.     

Astrologically, you had to be a "Leo"
in order to be a general in the Egyptian army.

SEVEN: FASHION, STYLE AND MAKE -UP
In 1500 BCE. in Egypt it was considered the ultimate in feminine beauty to have a shaved head. Egyptian women removed every hair from their head using special gold tweezers, and then polished their scalps to a high luster with buffing/polishing cloths.

This image from a museum exhibit
catalogue shows the bald head of
an ancient Egyptian woman

On other occasions ancient Egyptian women wore wigs over their bald heads. Here is a picture of a few women with the same black wig on their head. Other historians say that the wearing of wigs, by both men and women (It would seem men as well as women considered a bald scalp an important fashion statement), started in ancient Egypt as far back as 3,000 BCE.  Take your pick. 

Was this the first use of wigs in history?

Yul Brynner as Prince Ramses in the film
"The Ten Commandments." The braid of
hair, signifying his status as a prince, would
be cut off when he became Pharaoh. 

Ancient Egyptian women are given credit for creating the first deodorant. During the very hot Egyptian days they would place a small wax cone upon their shaved head that had been scented with oils, cedar being one of the most favored aromas. As the day progressed the wax cone would melt and run down their bare scalp, down their necks, onto their clothing and would effectively cover up the smell of their perspiration. The Egyptians are also given credit for developing the use of eye make-up (eye-shadow and eye-liner) as early as 4000 BCE. It was used by both men and women. Women seemed to prefer wearing green eye-shadow and some types were glittery because it was made of crushed beetles and their shiny shells. 

DIGRESSION:

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in the 1963
film "Cleopatra." Note the heavy use of 
eye- shadow and eye-liner, as well as the 
elaborate wig.

Elizabeth Taylor, in this film, was the first actress to be paid a million dollars for a movie role. An actor, William Holden, had already received a million dollars for his role in the 1957 film "Bridge On the River Kwai."

DVD cover art for the William
Holden film of 1957 that won
7 Academy Awards, including
"Best Picture." That's William
Holden on the left.
END OF DIGRESSION.


An Egyptian woman applying her eye-
liner and eye-shadow. She is wearing one
wig while another wig sits upon a wooden
stand on the table.

And of course what the ancient Egyptians started is still very much with us and I offer you these two relevant examples that students will recognize. They are very reminiscent of the make-up and fashion of Egyptian women 3-4 thousand years ago.

  Singer Niki Minaj with green
eye-shadow, black eye-liner
and a wig

Lady Gaga in a blonde and yellow wig,
in addition to the black eye-liner and heavy
application of eye-shadow.

EIGHT :FOODS AND CANDY

Some of the foods we are familiar with were invented by the ancient Egyptians. They invented what we call "pancakes" in approximately 2600 BCE. (No maple syrup, however. For a history of maple syrup and maple sugar and its place in U.S. history please read my post dated November 9, 2011, Interesting Facts About Maple Sugar. Maple Syrup, Maple Trees, Honey and Sugar Cane in U.S. History. With Connections to the Abolitionist Movement, Scott Joplin, "Ragtime" Music, "The Maple Leaf Rag," and the American Revolution.) 

The addition of maple syrup to pancakes
made them an iconic American food.
But the Ancient Egyptians invented them.

Also in approx. 2600 BCE. they invented raised bread, using yeast to make the bread rise so it could be baked into a "loaf" similar to what we consume today. They also developed the first clay ovens in which the bread could be baked. Bread could not be baked over an open flame so the ancient Egyptians invented a hollow, cone-shaped container made of clay that was heated by wood.   


Cone-shaped Egyptian oven. It was heated
by wood that was burned on the bottom
of the oven and allowed the upper chamber
to heat up to a uniform temperature. Note
the loaves on the right. They look very
similar to bread made today.

The same type of clay oven pictured
above is still used in Egypt today, as well
as many other places in Africa and the
Middle East.

A loaf of bread, a raised bread made by the
use of yeast, is a common, everyday part of
our lives. But it was first made by the
ancient Egyptians 4,600 years ago!


CANDY!!!!!
Ancient Egypt is the civilization given credit for creating the first "candy," although that word would not exist for thousands of years. (NOTE: The word "candy" comes from the north African word "gandi" which means "made with sugar.") In approximately 1000 BCE. they put together a tasty mixture of honey (sugar was unknown to them at that time), fruits, nuts and herbs. It was a treat that could be eaten with the fingers and was served at the end of meals. It is worth mentioning that many Egyptian mummies reveal an extensive amount of tooth decay and/or missing teeth indicating that they, like people today, ate too many sweets. 


The ancient Egyptians made an early form
of candy. Today, candy is everywhere. So
when you see it have a thought for the ancient
people who invented/created it. 

NINE: "MUMMIFICATION."




The ancient Egyptians believed that life after death was very much like life on Earth, so they went to great lengths to preserve the body of a deceased person so it could be of use to them in the next life. Historians believe the process of "mummification" was developed about 2600 BCE. (other historians say as early as 3000 BCE. Again, take your pick.) and was a process that took a traditional 70 days. First, embalmers removed the brain from the head by use of a metal hooked tool that was inserted up through the nostrils, through the nasal cavity and into the cranium. This tool pulled the brain out of the head through the deceased's nose after the tool stirred/broke the brain into smaller pieces! And then they threw it away, not having an appreciation for the value of this organ. 

,
Priest wearing the mask of the god Anubis,
the Egyptian god of embalming, removing
the brain of a body using a long metal hook
inserted up the sinus cavity and into the skull.
Then they threw it away.

X-ray view of the skull of a mummy.
The dark area in the skull indicates
the brain has been removed. How-
ever, notice the residual brain tissue
at the bottom of the skull. It was  pro-
bably not possible to extract it all.

They then opened up the body cavity and removed all other internal organs including the liver, lungs, stomach and intestines. All of these organs were separately placed in tightly sealed jars and placed in a large chest (called a "canopic chest," and the jars were called "canopic jars.") which would later be buried with the "mummy." 

Canopic jars which contained the internal
organs of an Egyptian mummy.

The lone exception to the removal of internal organs was the heart which, the Egyptians believed, was the source of intellect, emotion and feeling, and would be required by the gods for final judgment of the individual in the afterlife. Thus, it was left in the body. The Egyptians believed that the heart of the individual would be weighed on a scale against the "feather of truth"  by the god Anubis. Only if the person's heart was as light as this feather of truth would the great god Osiris welcome the person into the after-life. (NOTE: the ancient Chinese thought that the stomach was the center of intellect and emotion because it made so much noise!) 

The god Anubis weighing a human heart
to see if it was as light as the "feather of truth."
If it was not as light, the individual would
not be welcomed into the after-life by Osiris,

the greatest of the Egyptian gods.

Occasionally either round pieces of obsidian or brass were placed in the eye sockets of Egyptian mummies, the eyes having been removed and placed in a canopic jar. The next step in the embalming process was to clean the body cavity and fill it with sweet smelling spices, and sometimes sawdust. The body was then placed in a container and covered with a salt compound called "natron" and left to dry out for approximately 40 days. 

Priests/embalmers covering a body in natron
salt to extract all the moisture from it in
preparation for the next step in the "mummi-
fication" process. Note that one of the priests is
wearing the mask of Anubis during this process.
Anubis was the Egyptian god of embalming.

When all the moisture had been extracted from the body it was then, again, washed and treated with hot, preserving resins and perfumed oils. Next, the process of wrapping the corpse in linen bandages began. The bandaging process could take up to two weeks and could use up to 410 yards of linen strips (that's as much material as it would take to go from the top of the Empire State Building to the ground). Embalmers placed "magical" jewels, amulets and stones among the bandages. Embalmers sometimes left behind inside the wrapped linen such undesirable things as mice and lizards if they were not attentive enough to their job. 


Wrapping the mummy in linen strips.
Up to 410 yards of wrapping!
Note Anubis mask on the left.

Also, dead lice have been found in the hair of some Egyptian mummies. (NOTE: the word "lousy" used to mean infected with lice, but over the past centuries it has come to mean "worthless" or "inferior.") Finally, a burial mask was placed over the face of the mummy and the entire body and its wrapping were placed in a sarcophagus in preparation for a formal burial in a pyramid or tomb. 

Egyptian mummy sarcophagus
that contained the embalmed,
 wrapped body of the deceased.
A likeness of the person inside
was painted, sculpted or carved
on the outside of the sarcophagus. 

Usually a group of 3 or 4 priests and embalmers would perform and oversee the entire process, one of the priests at all times wearing a mask of the jackal-headed god Anubis who was the Egyptian god of embalming. (see above illustrations)         

Priests and embalmers at work. One of them
would have been wearing the mask of Anubis,
the Jackal-faced god of embalming, shown
in the background. Note the  burial mask
the man on the left is holding

NOTE:
When a man died in ancient Egypt, the females in his family would smear their heads and faces with mud and wander through a city or village beating themselves and tearing off their clothes. At the funeral ceremony when the mummy was put in its tomb women would howl and throw dust over their heads. Some of these women were relatives of the dead man, but others were hired, professional mourners. Men were expected to sit quietly and make little or no  show of their feelings and emotions.

Artistic rendering of women at an ancient
Egyptian funeral mourning, crying and
throwing dust over their heads.

Here is a short You Tube video which goes
through the steps of making a mummy.



DIGRESSION:
In about the tenth century A.D. a closely knit, nomadic group of people appeared in Europe who possessed their own language, religious beliefs, superstitions and legends. They kept their own culture intact and did not assimilate with other European groups. 
The mistaken belief arose that these people originated in Egypt. By the Middle Ages, in English, they were referred to as "Gyptians," a shortened form of "Egyptian." As time went on this was shortened even further to "Gypsy."  
Gypsy dancers, present day.

As centuries went on these nomadic, unique people were discriminated against and often thought of as (justified or not)  dishonest and prone to thievery. Thus the word "gypsy" was shortened even more and the word "gyp" entered our language which means to cheat or to swindle. Thus, if someone is cheated or swindled in some way it is sometimes said that this person was "gypped." 
The word "gypped" survives
into present-day usage, despite
its stereotyping of an entire
people and culture. The title of
this book says it all.

This whole story starts with a misconception because, actually, Gypsies  came originally from northern India and speak a language called "Romany" that is a variant of the ancient Sanskrit language. They have no connection to Egyptian history whatsoever.
END OF DIGRESSION



TEN: WHY DO PEOPLE SAY A CAT HAS 9 LIVES?


Cats have been living with humans as pets since ancient times. Historians say that the domestic cat, the most popular pet in the United States (If you judge by numbers because there are more cats in the U.S. than dogs), originated back about 2500 BCE. when the ancient Egyptians domesticated the "Kaffir," a type of African wildcat. 


The African "Kaffir." (African wildcat)
This is the cat from which our present-
day house cats are descended.


Other historians say that cats were tamed at an earlier period by African tribesman and were household companions to humans long before the ancient Egyptians. Take your pick. No matter the origin of the domesticated cat, the ancient Egyptians discovered that these animals were superbly gifted in hunting down mice, rats, snakes and other vermin that needed to be  controlled around grain warehouses. 

Present day, domesticated Kaffir house cat.

The Egyptian "Mau" is another ancient
breed from Africa, very similar to the
animals pictured above.

We know from early Egyptian paintings that the cat was, eventually, worshipped as a god. The goddess "Bast" (sometimes referred to as "Pasht") was a fierce mother-protector goddess who represented the life-giving heat of the sun. She was also the goddess of cats.  

The Egyptian goddess
Bast (or "Pasht") had the
body of a woman and the
head of a cat.

This goddess was believed to have nine lives, and gradually this belief was applied to all cats. Some superstitious people still believe this today which goes to show just how long a superstition can persist. 

DIGRESSION ON CATS:
There was a short-lived TV series on the
ABC Family channel which made reference
to the "nine lives" superstition.


And what about these famous "cats"?

Sylvester the cat.

Felix the Cat

Garfield.

And, "CATS," the musical hit on Broadway.
"Cat Woman," Ann Hathaway

"Cool Cat" Tyler Posey of the TV
series "Teen Wolf."

END OF DIGRESSION
BACK TO THE STORY.

Cats were kept as sacred pets by many Egyptians, and they were greatly valued during ancient times. The ancient Egyptians also mummified their dead cats and buried them in cat cemeteries along with mummified mice and rats, and saucers of milk, that were to be used as food in the afterlife. 

Mummified cat and its sarcophagus.
Ancient Egyptians took their cats very
seriously.

Ancient Egyptians took their cats so seriously as holy animals that if your cat died you shaved off your eyebrows as a public display of mourning. Also, a person in ancient Egypt who killed a cat, even accidentally, was executed by being thrown into a pit of asps (an extremely poisonous snake). 

An asp, one of the world's most poisonous 
snakes. Being thrown into a pit of these
was the punishment for killing a cat.


NOTE, DIGRESSION:
The asp is the snake that, according to legend and history,
 Cleopatra used to commit suicide before she could be captured and imprisoned by an invading Roman army. One version of the story says the asp was brought to her in a basket of figs and she inserted her hand into the basket until the snake bit her hand. Another version says she lifted the snake out of the basket and held it in front of her until it bit her on her chest above her breast. Following is a You Tube video of a song by Madonna titled "The Power of Good-bye" with clips from the 1999 film "Cleopatra." In it she commits suicide with the asp in order to reunite herself in the afterlife with the two loves of her life, Julius Caesar and Marc Antony.




Profile image of Cleopatra on an ancient
coin. Was she as beautiful as she had been
portrayed in the movies? Historians still
debate this question.

Cleopatra was skilled in politics, philosophy and languages and was, according to reputation, quite an engaging conversationalist. One detail that is never mentioned in textbooks is that she was expert in the use of poisons as a tool for getting rid of her political rivals.


She even created her own poisons and conducted experiments on the people that were enslaved in her service. Servants would be ordered to take a poison and Cleopatra would observe the process and a "scribe" (a secretary) would take notes on the amount of pain caused, the time it took to kill the victim, etc...with the poisoned individual expected to give verbal feedback as long as possible before expiring.  
END OF DIGRESSION.


ELEVEN: MORE BRIEF  FUN FACTS
AND SURPRISES.
Ancient Egyptian children, according to some historians, were the first to play with the toy ball, and with marbles, both introduced to the lives of kids about 3000 years BCE. That's over 5000 years ago!

Present day marbles are made of glass.
Ancient Egyptian marbles were made of
rolled, rounded and dried clay. Some his-
torians say that marbles originated in
ancient China. Take your pick.

Ancient Egyptians invented the game of "checkers" in approximately 2000 years BCE., more than 4000 years ago.

Board games were very popular in ancient
Egypt. They have even been discovered in
Egyptian tombs. They were for the enter-
tainment of a person in the afterlife.

We still enjoy "checkers" today, even though
they were invented in ancient Egypt.

Sticking with animals for a moment, ancient Egyptians are given credit for domesticating and developing an early breed of dog, the "greyhound," sometime between 2900-3000 BCE. They were bred for speed and were used to pursue and run down prey during a hunt.

The "greyhound" was bred by the ancient
Egyptians for hunting purposes.

In approximately 2400 BCE., the ancient Egyptians were the FIRST civilization to raise honeybees for the purposes of producing food and medicine. Honey was used to make early birth control devices (see "pessary" above) as well as medicine (honey was used to soothe an upset stomach). And let's not forget its role in the creation of "candy" (again, see above).



They also created what we could call the world's first zoos around 1400 BCE. They put together large collections of animals from throughout their far-flung empire for the pleasure of the royal families of Egypt. 



Ancient Egyptians were the first, in about 1100 BCE., to train pigeons to deliver messages over longer, and shorter, distances. So, technically, they were the originators of what we would refer to as "air mail."

The ancient Egyptians came up with
the concept of "air mail."

And last but not least, in about 2500 BCE. the ancient Egyptians were the first civilization to create an organized police force to protect the public safety and to prevent crime. Men patrolled the streets of large cities such as Thebes, Memphis, Luxor,... armed and accompanied by baboons on leashes to strike an imposing presence in the areas they patrolled.

Ancient Egyptian mural of a policeman
patrolling the streets with a baboon on a leash. 

Another ancient mural. Note the policeman
in the middle of the lower panel who has a
leashed baboon that is attacking a criminal
(on the right) by biting his leg.

Baboons have powerful jaws and are not
known for their friendly temperaments.
They were a very effective deterrent as they
walked the streets of ancient Egyptian cities.

Present day police dog in training. Few
know that the ancient Egyptians started this
same idea thousands of years ago.

WRAPPING IT UP: ANCIENT EGYPT, 
MOVIES, MUSIC, DANCING AND COMEDY. 

Here is a You Tube video trailer on
Boris Karloff's classic 1932 performance in "The Mummy."




A Musical Digression:
In the 1980s an all girl rock band called "The Bangles" had a huge hit with a song called "Walk Like An Egyptian." In this You Tube video you get to see them perform the song as well as view clips inserted throughout showing individuals and groups attempting to "walk like an Egyptian." It's a catchy song and the inserted clips are very entertaining. If you are an educator showing this to a class, after the video is the time for all of you to demonstrate how you can "walk like an Egyptian."




In the late 1970s comedian Steve Martin performed and recorded a song called "King Tut." It was a hilarious parody of ancient Egyptian history and became a monster hit. The song reflected the tour of the United States from 1976-1979 of "The Treasures of Tutankhamun," 53 pieces from the tomb of the boy Pharaoh who died at the age of eighteen (some historians say he was assassinated via the use of poison). 

One of the artifacts in the King Tut
exhibit, his solid-gold burial mask.

Below is a picture of Steve Martin performing the song "King Tut" on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Click on the link beneath the picture to go to You Tube and see a video of Steve Martin performing the song during a live concert. It is extremely funny! 


Steve Martin performing his song
"King Tut" on S.N.L.

Here's the link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgTPH5y1-ZI

Ancient Egypt has even had an influence on current hip hop music. "Tutting" is a stylized dance movement that has been incorporated into many hip-hop routines. Following is a short You Tube "Tutting" tutorial video that will give you the basic idea. While watching it notice how some of the moves are vaguely similar to the moves Steve Martin made in his "King Tut" video. 




While researching this aspect of ancient Egyptian influences on popular culture today I discovered there is something called "finger tutting" (I would describe it as dancing with your fingers). Check it out on You Tube for yourself because right now I am going to end this post by presenting to you The Three Stooges (the classic line-up of Curly, Larry and Moe) in their popular short subject (16 minutes) "We Want Our Mummy." (1938) The Stooges play three investigators hired to find the tomb of pharaoh/king "Rootin' Tootin' " and locate the missing Professor Tuttle. (Professor Tuttle, King Tut? What a coincidence!) It is a complete send-up of all the "mummy movies" made during the 1930s. Enjoy.



FINIS

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cool facts, very interesting!

Unknown said...

it'd be awesome if you actually linked to the people whose image you're using so I could get to their content.