Common Misconceptions About Ancient Egypt

3 Things You May Not Have Known About Ancient Egyptians

People often love learning about the strange but beautiful culture that is ancient Egypt. The art, mythologies, and way of life for them were fascinating, and keep us intrigued from a young age. However, a lot of stories about ancient Egypt that we hear or even learn about in school are wrong, leaving us with some misconceptions about how the Egyptians of old lived — and died.

King Tut Wasn’t a Murder Victim

It has long been believed that King Tutankhamun was murdered ever since his mummified body was discovered in 1923 by Howard Carter, a British archaeologist. While being studied, scientists realized the Pharoah was only 19 and began to wonder what had killed him at such a young age. It’s not uncommon for royalty — especially in ancient times — to kill rulers in order to gain the chance to claim the crown for themselves. Is this what happened?

We also know King Tut had several genetic physical deformities from generations of inbreeding. Perhaps this is what had killed him? While we still don’t know 100% exactly what happened to him, modern forensics and medical equipment have been able to confirm that he not only suffered from malaria at the time of his death, but he had broken his thigh bone and got an infection.

The question still remains, however…what was the final blow that killed him? There are several theories to this as well, ranging from a chariot race accident to a hippo attack. Part of what makes the final diagnosis so difficult is that historians and scientists haven’t been able to find a lot of information about his life. We know what life was generally like back then, and we have information about people in his life, but for some strange reason, there remain several holes in the history of his own life. One reason for this is that his father, Akhenaten, was an extremely unpopular Pharoah after he had decided that Egypt was to worship only the god Aten and moved their capital, bringing instability to the ancient Egyptians and weakening them throughout his reign. Despite the fact that King Tut had restored order (and the capital) during his short reign, the disgrace of his father overshadowed him. Most mentions of Akhenaten and many people he was involved with were removed after his death, a final jab to the man that had caused them so much trouble for 13 years.

Egyptian Women Had More Rights Than You Think

In much of ancient history (and in some cultures today) women had few rights and were often seen as property and inferior to men. In ancient Egypt, however, women were treated much differently. While it is true that women were still perceived to be inferior to men in most ways, legally speaking they were complete equals and enjoyed many freedoms. When a woman married, it was perfectly acceptable if she wanted to negotiate a prenuptial agreement beforehand to protect whatever wealth and assets that belonged to her, and could represent herself in court if necessary. If marriage wasn’t working out for her, an ancient Egyptian woman was allowed to divorce and even marry another afterward. As a woman grew older, she was also in control of her own will. In fact, a woman could enter into any legal contract she deemed necessary.

While men generally worked outside the home while the woman tended to the house and children, she was allowed to gain employment if she chose to do so, and she would earn the same pay that was given to her male counterparts. The ancient Egyptian woman could also serve on juries in court and buy and/or sell her own property. In fact, most of the land that families owned was passed down through the females of the family.

The Pyramids Were Not Built by Slaves

There are many stories that we’ve been told about how the pyramids were built. Slaves, Hebrews, and even aliens have been credited to the labor used to get them built. However, history tells us that in reality, they were built by paid laborers. While Egyptians did indeed have slaves, they were mostly sent to work the fields or were kept at home to help there. The laborers were paid, and often in grain. Scientists were able to uncover skeletons that had arthritis and other signs that the person worked in labor, and they also found graffiti on different buildings from the workers.

In fact, ancient Egyptian laborers are credited with going on the first recorded strike in history — clear back in the 12th century BCE. The workers had finished for the day, but the Pharoah of the time refused to pay them anything. The next day, the workers gathered in various, inconvenient locations, refusing to leave for any reason until they received their payment. Finally, the Pharoah paid them the grain they were due, and the laborers were back at work the next day.

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