Saturday, 30 Jul, 2011 Science

Top 10 Inventions of Ancient Egypt


The civilization of Ancient Egypt occupied the territory of eastern North Africa, along the lower reaches of the Nile River. Today this is the territory of modern Egypt. Ancient Egypt managed to succeed in numerous fields, bringing new invention some of which not only survived till nowadays, but can also be seen in use.

Mainly the great evolution of ancient Egyptian civilization is due to its ability to adjust to the somewhat harsh conditions of the Nile River Valley.

The socio-cultural development greatly evolved thanks to predictable flooding, the ability to control irrigation and development of some really important devices. Check out some of the most important inventions that appeared in ancient Egypt.


The first documentations of wigs were registered on different Egyptian artifacts as well as wall painting on ancient tombs. During hot summers a lot of Egyptians shaved their heads to keep them clean, which was much easier than cleaning them from pests.

At the same time looking bald in ancient Egypt was not considered to be aesthetically pleasing, which is why they invented wigs. Those who did not wear wigs, while remaining bald were mostly priests and laborers.

At that time wigs were not meant to replace hair. They usually consisted of various sizes of braids set with beeswax or the like, which made wigs rather stiff.

Sun clock

It is worth mentioning that in order to tell the time Egyptians invented two types of clocks - first it was the sun clock which was an obelisk that allowed Egyptians part the day into morning and afternoon.

This was made with the shadow of the obelisk that moved around the surface of the obelisk throughout the day. With its help Egyptians managed to identify the longest and shortest days of the year - they simply registered the time when the shadow of the obelisk was the longest and shortest at the noon.

Water clock

Water clock was the second type of clock invented by the Egyptians. The first physical evidence of the water clock dates back to 1417-1379 BC, when Egypt was reigned by Amenhotep III. The device was used in the Temple of Amen-Re at Karnak. But the oldest documentation was found in an inscription of a 16th century BC tomb of the Egyptian court official Amenemhet. The inscription identified him as the inventor of the water clock.

The first known Egyptian water clock represented a stone vessel that had slopping slides to allow the liquid to drip from a tiny hole found near the bottom of the device at an almost constant rate. Inside there were 12 columns with equal space between them. These columns were used to estimate the passage of hours while the level of water reached them.

Priests were the ones to use these water clocks. Their goal was to determine the right hour to perform nightly temple rites and sacrifices. It is possible that Egyptians used these water clocks during daytime too.

Surgical Instruments

The first medical document that survived till nowadays is the Edwin Smith Papyrus. It is possibly the earliest document that tries to study the brain and thus could be called the starting point of neuroscience. The Egyptians did not carry out actual surgeries, but some small surgical operations that helped them gain more surgical knowledge.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus says that Egyptians used some techniques to treat dislocated bones. It characterized 48 surgical cases of injures of the head, neck, shoulders, breast and chest. In addition, it showed the suturing of non-infected wounds using a needle and thread. The Edwin Smith Papyrus includes a list of instruments used during surgeries. The list featured lint, swabs, bandage, adhesive plaster (that took the form of letter "x"), support, surgical stitches and cauterization.

Today visitors of the Cairo museum have the possibility to observe a collection of surgical instruments used in ancient Egypt, including scalpels, scissors, copper needles, forceps, spoons, lancets, hooks, probes and pincers.

Besides, 37 surgical instruments are carved on a wall in the temple of Kom-Ombo (the house of life of the 2nd century BC).

The Pyramids

The oldest pyramid to date was erected back in 2750 BC for King Zoser, a representative of the 3rd dynasty of Egyptian kings. Prior to a pyramid tomb, the Egyptian kings were buried in rectangular mud-brick tombs dubbed Mastaba. But the architect of King Zoser, Imhotep, decided to place several mastabas of decreasing dimensions on top of each other and thus created the first pyramid on the planet.

The largest Egyptian pyramid, however, is the Great Pyramid of Giza, which for thousands of years remained the tallest architectural creation in the world until the erection of Lincoln Cathedral in 1311. The area of its base measures more than 52,600 square meters.

Papyrus Sheets

First of all it would be worthy of noting that papyrus sheet represents a paper-like material manufactured from the pith of the papyrus plant that was once one of the most popular plants growing in the Nile Delta of Egypt.

The first examples of papyrus were noticed in ancient Egypt. They were manufactured during the reign of the First dynasty. At the same time it is worth mentioning that the material was widely used across the Mediterranean region.

The Egyptians used the plant to make a writing material, as well as to create boats, mats, sandals and baskets.

The Ox-drawn Plow

This Egyptian invention was one of the most important devices that brought a revolution in the filed of Egyptian agriculture.

Its modified version can still be seen nowadays, being used by farmers of third world and developing countries who do not have the possibility to acquire machinery to plow their fields.

The invention makes use of the power of oxen to pull the plow. Thus it is much quicker and easier to loosen the soil than doing it using hands or human force to pull the plow.

Solar Calendar

A solar calendar is a type of calendar that is meant to show the position of the earth on its revolution around our sun.

Egyptians are also responsible for the appearance of the solar calendar. To make it, they took the yearly sunrise recurrence of Sirius (the Dog Star) in the eastern sky as a fixed point. Interestingly enough, this period coincided with the yearly flooding of the Nile River. Ancient Egyptians developed a calendar that featured 365 days and 12 months (30 days in each month and additional 5 days at the end of the year).

Due to the fact that Egyptians didn't manage to account the additional fraction of a day, their calendar steadily went into showing the wrong data. However, Ptolemy III Euergetes of Egypt, decided to add one day to the 365 days every 4 years.

Black Ink

In order to make the black ink, Egyptians made a mix consisting of vegetable gum, soot and bee wax. To be able to make ink of other colors they replaced soot with other organic materials such as ochre for example. The latter allowed them to make red ink.

The mixture of all the necessary ingredients proved to be quite effective. The evidence of this can be the manuscripts written in Egyptian that managed to survive till nowadays and can be fully or partially readable.

Written Language

Egyptians contributed to the evolution of paintings into the first written language. It is worth mentioning that the first writing appeared in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The writing system of the former started with pictograms which go back to 6000 BC. Pictograms represented simple illustrations of the words they represented. These images had limitations and as time went by Egyptians added more features to their writing system. For example, they added alphabet-like characters that represented specific sounds. The improved system made it possible for Egyptians to write out names and even some abstract ideas.

The famous Egyptian hieroglyphics represent a fusion of alphabetic and syllabic symbols, along with ideograms that enriched different places in Egypt, such as tombs. It would be interesting to note that ideograms are images that stand for whole words. They helped Egyptians to write about war, politics and culture.

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