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Ancient Advanced Technology Reveals Itself in Egyptian Papyrus Ink

Ancient Advanced Technology Reveals Itself in Egyptian Papyrus Ink


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A new study shows ink on 2,000-year-old Egyptian papyri fragments contains copper. The information will help researchers trying to match fragments of ancient texts and in the conservation of papyri writings.

Phys.org reports that until now scholars have believed all ink was carbon-based until at least the 4th or 5th centuries AD. This new study suggests ancient Egyptian scribes may have been using advanced inks hundreds of years before other cultures began this method.

The Seated Scribe, a statue from Saqqarah dated 2600–2350 BC. (Ivo Jansch/ CC BY SA 2.0 )

The information on the copper-based ink was uncovered by a cross-disciplinary team of researchers at the University of Copenhagen. They used advanced synchrotron radiation based X-ray microscopy equipment at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, Switzerland to make their find. This analysis was part of a larger study known as the CoNext project (Co(penhagen University Ne(utron and) X-(ray) T(echniques).

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They examined the writing on personal documents of an Egyptian soldier named Horus as well as documents from the Tebtunis temple library. These papyri fragments are stored in the Papyrus Carlsberg Collection at the University of Copenhagen.

Fragment from the Tebtunis temple library in the Papyrus Carlsberg Collection. ( University of Copenhagen )

Reflecting on the results, Egyptologist and first author of the study Thomas Christiansen from the University of Copenhagen said that there was a great deal of variation in the composition:

"None of the four inks studied here was completely identical, and there can even be variations within a single papyrus fragment, suggesting that the composition of ink produced at the same location could vary a great deal. This makes it impossible to produce maps of ink signatures that otherwise could have been used to date and place papyri fragments of uncertain provenance.”

A section of the Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’ written on papyrus. ( CC BY SA 1.0 )

Christiansen views this as a positive factor, stating:

"However, as many papyri have been handed down to us as fragments, the observation that ink used on individual manuscripts can differ from other manuscripts from the same source is good news insofar as it might facilitate the identification of fragments belonging to specific manuscripts or sections thereof."

Moreover, Christiansen explained that because the variations in the ink composition were spread across location and time it “suggests that the ancient Egyptians used the same technology for ink production throughout Egypt from roughly 200 BC to 100 AD.”

Robin Whitlock explained some of the origins of papyrus itself in a previous Ancient Origins article, saying:

“Papyrus, which later gave rise to our modern word ‘ paper’, had a different meaning in the beginning. The original, Egyptian meaning is “that which belongs to the house”, referring to documents used in Ancient Egyptian bureaucracy. Papyrus became increasingly important with the development of writing, since papyrus was much easier to carry around than stone. Papyrus continued to be in use up until the 11th century AD.”

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Egyptian peasants harvesting papyrus, mural painting in Deir el-Medina (early Ramesside Period).

Papyrus was created by using the pith of the plant and it served many purposes in ancient Egypt, such as in the manufacture of boats, mats, rope, sandals and baskets. The plant’s root was also a source of food and used in making medicine and perfume.

The researchers believe that knowledge of the composition of ink used on papyri will be helpful in conservation and aid museums in their decisions regarding the storage of ancient Egyptian papyri. Christiansen suggested that “It might facilitate the identification of fragments belonging to specific manuscripts or sections” as well.

The study was published in Scientific Reports .


    NASA Technology Reveals Existence of Missing Dead Sea Scroll

    The Dead Sea Scrolls, which date from the 3rd century B.C.E. to the 1st century C.E and were discovered in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea in the 1940s, include some whole scrolls and tens of thousands of fragments from as many as 1,000 scrolls and manuscripts. For the sake of posterity, digitalization and research, all are being photographed in high-resolution under different types of light, which among other things brings previously unseen writing invisible to the naked eye, as well as some ink stains, to light.

    The mysterious fragment written in paleo-Hebrew wasn't the first early-Hebrew writing found at Qumran, including in the famous Cave 11 itself, Oren Ableman of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Hebrew University of Jerusalem tells Haaretz. But its handwriting differed from previously found scroll fragments in this early form of Hebrew, Ableman explains. Its uniqueness leads him to speculate that there may be a whole scroll that has disappeared, or at any rate, not been found yet.


    Main keywords of the article below: floods, nile, experiencing, low, end, egypt, writings, old, technology, kingdom, ancient, know.

    KEY TOPICS
    We know from ancient writings that Egypt was experiencing many low Nile floods toward the end of the Old Kingdom. [1] Like most ancient societies, the Egyptians during the Old Kingdom phase relied on local warriors and privately employed guards (who were paid by rich landowners and nobles) to guard their strongholds, religious buildings, and more importantly storehouses. [2] The Old Kingdom includes the first important dynasties that made Egypt an advanced civilization. [1] The bureaucracy of the Old Kingdom of Egypt set the paradigm for the rest of the country's history in accounting for every aspect of a building project and making sure each step was proceeding according to plan. [3] No major foreign powers threatened Egypt, so the Old Kingdom had no permanent army. [1]

    Later in the Old Kingdom, Weni, known as the Governor of the South, would leave an inscription detailing how he traveled to Elephantine for granite for a false door for a pyramid and dug five canals for towboats to bring supplies for further construction (Lewis, 33). [3] The Old Kingdom began with the Third Dynasty of kings in 2686 B.C. and ended with the Eighth Dynasty, more than 500 years later. [1] Old Kingdom kings also sent expeditions south of Aswan into Nubia to trade for luxury items like ivory, incense, spices, gold, and animal skins. [1] The Step Pyramid of Djoser was successfully built according to the precepts of the vizier Imhotep (c. 2667-2600 BCE), and when his plans were deviated from by Sneferu during of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613- c. 2181 BCE), the result was the so-called 'collapsed pyramid' at Meidum. [3] During the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, the sun god Ra took a dominant place in the state religion. [1]

    Technology of Middle and New Kingdom Ancient Egyptians used technology to improve their life with many inventions. [4]

    The Old Kingdom is the name commonly given to that period in the 3rd millennium B.C.E. when Egypt attained its first continuous peak of civilization, complexity, and achievementthis was the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods, which mark the high points of civilization in the Nile Valley (the others being Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom ). [5] As early as the Old Kingdom (c.2686-2160 BC) Egypt used specific military units, with military hierarchy appearing in the Middle Kingdom (c.2055-1650 BC). [6] Middle East on the Matrix: Egypt, The Old Kingdom -- Photographs of many of the historic sites dating from the Old Kingdom. d December 11, 2007. [5] The royal capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom was located at Memphis, where Djoser established his court. [5]

    While the concept of Maat was well established during the Old Kingdom, it appears to have been strengthened by the collapse of the SIxth dynasty, since reflecting on what had happened, Egyptians concluded that the catastrophe had been caused by neglecting Maat, which is essential for stability. [5] During the Old and Middle Kingdom Egyptian armies were very basic. [6]

    This article covers the history of Egypt technology, from Ancient Egyptian technology, to the Persian and Hellenistic periods, to medieval Islamic technology, to modern Egyptian technology. [7]


    The Old Kingdom of Egypt existed around the years of 2680 to 2180 BCE, and included the end of the 3rd Dynasty through the 6th. [8] It turns out that they, as well as many other achievements, were made during the Old Kingdom of Egypt. [8] This lesson goes over the developments in engineering, architecture, and art achieved during the Old Kingdom of Egypt. [8] Militarily Egypt would never be as secure again as it was in the Old Kingdom, now forced to contend with other rising powers in the near East. [9]

    The Egyptian lands of the Archaic Period, Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom were not devoid of armies or enemies, however. [9] Egyptian achievement during the Old Kingdom period was not confined to construction projects. [8] The Old Kingdom (2686 BC - 2134 BC) was a prosperous time for the Egyptians. [9]

    New Kingdom Egypt reached the zenith of its power under the Pharaohs Seti I and Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great), increasing Egyptian territory all the way to Syria in the Levant. [9]

    The Old Kingdom was the first of the three great Pharaonic eras of Ancient Egypt. [10] The Old Kingdom has been described as "the golden age of achievement and wisdom" Baines & Malek - Atlas of Ancient Egypt. [10]


    Of mercenary troops, Nubians were used beginning in the late Old Kingdom, Asiatic maryannu troops were used in the Middle and New Kingdoms, and the Sherden, Libyans, and the "Na'arn" were used in the Ramesside Period (New Kingdom, Dynasties XIX and XX, c.1292-1075 BC). [6] The Old Kingdom was followed by a period of disunity and relative cultural decline referred to by Egyptologists as the First Intermediate Period, until strong central authority was restored by the Pharaohs of the Twelfth Dynasty, and the Middle Kingdom began. [5] The first notable pharaoh of the Old Kingdom was Djoser (2630-2611 B.C.E. ) of the Third Dynasty, who ordered the construction of a pyramid (the Step Pyramid) in Memphis' necropolis, Saqqara. [5]

    Those who were in lower ranks may have been able to read as well because coffin texts were found in graves of private individuals and not just in the ones for the royal family, as pyramid texts were during the Old Kingdom. [11] In the pre-dynastic period bows frequently had a double curvature, but during the Old Kingdom a single-arched bow, known as a self (or simple) bow, was adopted. [6] During the Old and Middle Kingdom of Egypt's Dynastic period, it typically consisted of a pointed blade made of copper or flint that was attached to a long wooden shaft by a tang. [6]

    There was a development in tools during the roughly 2,300 years from the Old Kingdom (2675-2170 b.c.e.) to the Ptolemaic Period (332-30 b.c.e.) as is evident in the different marks the chisels or axes left in different time periods. [12] The period following the Old Kingdom is called First Intermediate Period, an era of cultural, political and possible economical decline. [13] The Old Kingdom emerges with the first great monuments of human history, represented with the step- pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara. [13] The characteristics of the Old Kingdom were the death cult of the kings, building of pyramids, extremely efficient central governance and increased foreign trade. [13] In this respect, the Old Kingdom reached its heigh with the 4th Dynasty, which consisted of the greatest pyramid builders, Snefru, Khufu and Khafre. [13] The Old Kingdom emerged as a culmination of the technological, cultural and political achievements of the 1st Dynasty, while the 2nd Dynasty appears to represent an intermediary period of decline. [13] Between the end of the 1st Dynasty and the beginning of the Old Kingdom there were about 200 years, still there is a strong cultural link between the two eras. [13] The Old Kingdom is commonly defined to span 4 dynasties, the 3rd through the 6th, 2686-2181 BCE, 505 years. [13] Pyramids actually started being constructed before the Old Kingdom as Pharaoh Djoser began the practice of constructing step pyramids, which were a sort of rough, proto-pyramid structure. [8]

    This led to his first book Sons of God - Daughters of Men: Genesis, a Clash of Cultures, which inspired interest in the megalithic monuments of Egypt’s Old Kingdom, and the philosophical influence Egyptian culture exerted on the ancient world. [14] In the Old Kingdom (circa 2675 - 2170 BC), the Egyptians attached wheels to cumbersome objects like ladders to help move them. [15]

    The Old Kingdom of Egypt is from the very first soon after the Flood. [16] Old Kingdom copper smelting artifacts from Buhen in Upper Egypt. [17] Another example of misinterpreted or ignored evidence is the eyes on statues from the Old Kingdom in Egypt. [16]

    It may sound strange to the modern mind to consider that the ancient Egyptians from the Old Kingdom may have had the technical capability for optical surveying. [16] Learn about Old Kingdom pharaohs and elites, tombs, temples, the Sphinx, and how new technology is unlocking their secrets. [18] Old Kingdom Society Social classes existed long before there were pharaohs, kings, and viziers. [19] Recent investigation of slags from Bir Nasib in Sinai show the production of unfluxed copper in Predynastic times and the use of iron ore fluxes by some unspecified time during the Old Kingdom (el-Gayar and Rothenberg 1998 Craddock 1995: 130--I). [17] Lost-wax casting was used for copper objects by the Old Kingdom. [17] The copper produced at the Old Kingdom smelting site at Buhen has an average iron content around 0.5 per cent (el-Gayar and Jones 1989b) and the over-life-size Sixth-Dynasty statue of Pepi I is, according to what is probably the most reliable analysis to date (Desch 1928), almost pure copper with 0.7 per cent iron, enough to indicate a true fluxing process, and LI per cent nickel. [17] What causes the problem for the modern mindset is the mental framework that considers people from the Old Kingdom to have been " primitive." [16]

    Papyrus was produced in Egypt as early as 3000BC, and was sold to ancient Greece and Rome. [20]

    Although quarter rudders were the norm in Nile navigation, the Egyptians were the first to use also stern-mounted rudders (not of the modern type but center mounted steering oars). [20] The Egyptians also created the first colored glass rods which they used to create colorful beads and decorations. [20] The Egyptians invented and used many simple machines, such as the ramp and the lever, to aid construction processes. [20] Some of the older tools used in the construction of Egyptian housing included reeds and clay. [20] The most famous pyramids are the Egyptian pyramids --huge structures built of brick or stone, some of which are among the largest constructions by humans. [20]

    Evidence indicates that Egyptians made use of potter's wheels in the manufacturing of pottery from as early as the 4th Dynasty. [20] The Egyptians were a practical people and this is reflected in their astronomy in contrast to Babylonia where the first astronomical texts were written in astrological terms. [20] Later Egyptian sails dating to 2400 BCE were built with the recognition that ships could sail against the wind using the lift of the sails. [20] Stern-mounted steering oar of an Egyptian riverboat depicted in the Tomb of Menna (c. 1422-1411B.C.) [20]

    The Ancient Egyptians capped the peaks of their pyramids with gold and covered their faces with polished white limestone, although many of the stones used for the finishing purpose have fallen or been removed for use on other structures over the millennia. [20] There is evidence of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Amenemhet III in the twelfth dynasty (about 1800 BCE ) using the natural lake of the Fayûm as a reservoir to store surpluses of water for use during the dry seasons, as the lake swelled annually with the flooding of the Nile. [20] Twenty-nine ancient Egyptian obelisks are known to have survived, plus the unfinished obelisk being built by Hatshepsut to celebrate her sixteenth year as pharaoh. [20]

    Recovered Ancient Egyptian furniture includes a third millennium BC bed discovered in the Tarkhan Tomb, a c.2550BC. gilded set from the tomb of Queen Hetepheres I, and a c. 1550BC. stool from Thebes. [20]

    Although the Nile provided sufficient watering survival domesticated animals, crops, and the people of Egypt, there were times where the Nile would flood the area wreaking havoc amongst the land. [20] According to John Peter Oleson, both the compartmented wheel and the hydraulic Noria may have been invented in Egypt by the 4th century BC, with the Sakia being invented there a century later. [20]

    Those exploring fringe theories of ancient technology have suggested that there were electric lights used in Ancient Egypt. [20] Leslie C. Kaplan, " Technology of Ancient Egypt. 2004, 24 pages. [20]

    Ancient Roman technology is a set of artifacts and customs which supported Roman civilization and made the expansion of Roman commerce and Roman military possible over nearly a thousand years. [20]

    Irrigation as the artificial application of water to the soil was used to some extent in Ancient Egypt, a hydraulic civilization (which entails hydraulic engineering ). [20] There in the lands of ancient Egypt is the first evidence for stools, beds, and tables (such as from the tombs similar to Tutenkhamen's). [20] According to Michael D. Parkins, sewage pharmacology first began in ancient Egypt and was continued through the Middle Ages, and while the use of animal dung can have curative properties, it is not without its risk. [20]

    Claims have been made that precession of the equinoxes was known in Ancient Egypt prior to the time of Hipparchus. [20]

    The ancient Egyptians had some of the first monumental stone buildings (such as in Sakkara ). [20] With these tools, ancient Egyptians were able to create more than just housing, but also sculptures of their gods, goddesses, pyramids, etc. [20]

    For instance, from the Middle Kingdom onwards they used a table with entries for each month to tell the time of night from the passing of constellations. [20] Even before Upper and Lower Egypt were unified in 3000 BCE, observations of the night sky had influenced the development of a religion in which many of its principal deities were heavenly bodies. [20]


    Ramesses the Great was one of the most prolific builders in Egyptian history so much so that there is no ancient site in Egypt which does not make some mention of his reign and accomplishments. [3] While not exactly pertaining to one of the Egyptian inventions, analysis of bones of ancient Nubian people made in 2010 revealed the presence of tetracycline, an antibiotic that is also used in our modern times for treating bacterial infections. [2] It should also be noted that streptomyces can produce a golden-colored bacterial colony on the top of the beer, and this particular hue might have enticed the Nubians (who shared cultural entanglement with the Egyptians during parts of history) to consume more of this special "antibiotic’ beer, since gold was venerated by many ancient cultures. [2] The Egyptian word for gold is nub, which survives in the name Nubia, a country that provided a great deal of the precious metal in ancient days. [21] The Egyptians kept the process to make the sheets a secret so they could sell the parchment to other civilizations such as Ancient Greece. [22]

    While that may be so, Carson's claim for water power in construction makes more sense than many others (such as a hoist being used to transport the stones when, clearly, there is no evidence whatsoever for Egyptian use or knowledge of a crane) and it is known that the Egyptians were acquainted with the concept of the pump. [3] The first known dental procedure dates to 14,000 years ago in Italy, according to evidence published in 2015 CE, but the first dentist in the world known by name was the Egyptian Hesyre (c. 2660 BCE) who held the position of Chief of Dentists and Physician to the King during the reign of Djoser (c. 2670 BCE) showing that dentistry was considered an important practice as early as Djoser's reign and probably earlier. [3] Evidence suggests that the plow was probably first used by the Egyptians around 4000 BC. The early plow was not a very effective method of farming. [23] By circa 1500 BC, Egyptian artisans created the very first multi-colored glass ingots and vessels that sometimes replicated carvings made of semi-precious stones. [2] Eye makeup was first invented by the Egyptians around 4000 BC, and it is still in style. [23]

    Although quarter rudders were the norm in Nile navigation, the Egyptians were the first to use also stern-mounted rudders. [21] Only much later in Egyptian history did farmers use a pole and bucket lever (shaduf) to lift water from the Nile during the dry season to grow a second or even third crop. [1] The yearly inundation of the Nile overflowing its banks and depositing rich soil throughout the valley was essential to Egyptian life but irrigation canals were necessary to carry water to outlying farms and villages as well as to maintain even saturation of crops near the river. [3]

    Irrigation was not an Egyptian invention, however, but was introduced during the Second Intermediate Period by the people known as the Hyksos, who settled in Avaris in Lower Egypt the Egyptians simply improved upon the techniques. [3] While ancient Egypt is usually associated with pharaohs, mummies and pyramids, a great number of ancient Egyptian inventions are still used in our everyday lives. [24]

    The earliest known glass beads from Egypt were made during the New Kingdom around 1500 BC and were produced in a variety of colors. [21] As the civilization advanced, so did their knowledge and skill until, by the time of the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE), the last to rule Egypt before it was annexed by Rome, they had created one of the most impressive cultures of the ancient world. [3] Papyrus was mass produced in Egypt and sold to other ancient civilizations, such as Ancient Greece, for their record keeping. [24] Papyrus was produced as early as 3000 BC in Egypt, and sold to ancient Greece and Rome. [21] Over one hundred ancient gold workings have been discovered in Egypt and the Sudan, though within the limits of Egypt proper there appear to have been gold mines only in the desert valleys to the east of the Nile near Ikoptos, Ombos and Apollinopolis Magna. [21] The Great Pyramid of Giza is a defining symbol of Egypt and the last of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. [3]

    Proponents argue that the technology is depicted in the Hathor temple at the Dendera Temple complex located in Egypt on three stone reliefs (one single and a double representation), which resemble some modern electical lighting systems. [21] With the Nile River playing a major role in the lives of the Egyptians, building ships was a big part of their technology. [22] The early Egyptians did not have the technology to lift or pump water from one level to another except by physically carrying buckets. [1] The wheel, however, did not arrive until foreign invaders introduced the chariot in the 16th century BC. The Egyptians also played an important role in developing Mediterranean maritime technology including ships and lighthouses. [21]

    Beyond such uncommon usage patterns, many of the later Egyptian tables were used as offering platforms inside tombs. [2] Prior to the Egyptian civilization, weapons used for protection, hunting or in combat were very basic. [24] The Egyptians invented and used many basic machines, such as the ramp and the lever, to aid construction processes. [21] All across the Egyptian landscape rise immense structures, thousands of years old, which have given rise to many different theories as to their construction. [3] The most famous pyramids are the Egyptian pyramids - huge structures built of brick or stone, some of which are among the largest constructions by humans. [21] The Egyptians were the first to invent and employ organized labor on a massive scale in order to construct these magnificent stone structures. [24]

    However by the end of this epoch, especially by the time of the 5th Dynasty, Egyptian royalty and nobles began to employ more dedicated people for the important guarding posts. [2] His dynasty launched a new era in Egyptian civilization called the Middle Kingdom. [1] Formal wigs worn by an Egyptian couple of 5th dynasty, circa 24th century BC. [2]

    James H. Breasted, the then-director of University of Chicago Oriental Institute, ascertained in 1930 that the original source was an Egyptian composite manuscript that was written between the period of 3000 - 2500 BC, probably by the renowned high priest, architect, and medicine practitioner Imhotep. [2] Even as early as 3400 B.C., at the beginning of the historical period, the Egyptians had an intimate knowledge of copper ores and of processes of extracting the metal. [21] Obviously, the invention of papyrus and ink greatly facilitated writing and advances in copper tools replacing flint in carving improved quality of art but the world the Egyptians created through their understanding of scientific measurements and technological advancements became both the subject and the canvas artists worked on. [3] Different colors of ink and different weights of paper were also developed by the Egyptians through their invention of paint cakes and processing of the papyrus plant. [3] The word that the Egyptians used for papyrus was actually a Grecian word for the papyrus plant, rather than an Egyptian one. [24]

    The image presented in the modern day by art and movies of Egyptians with exceptionally white teeth is misleading dental problems were common in ancient Egypt, and few, if any, had an all-white smile. [3] Image credit: Dorieo, cc3.0 The water clock enabled the Egyptians to read the time at night. [23] Whatever one makes of Volgin's water theory concerning the pyramids, Egyptian society did depend on a reliable supply of clean water for their crops and livestock. [3]

    By 666 B.C. the process of casehardening was in use for the edges of iron tools, but the story that the Egyptians had some secret means of hardening copper and bronze that has since been lost is probably without foundation. [21] Egyptians did not consider the king to be a god, but only the king could speak to the gods on their behalf. [1] Tomb artists portrayed most traditional Egyptian gods as having the body of a man or woman with the head of an animal or bird. [1]

    Later Egyptian sails dating to 2400 BCE were built with the recognition that ships could sail against the wind using the side wind. [21] Imhotep (Greek name, Imouthes, c. 2667-2600 BCE) was an Egyptian polymath (a person expert in many areas of learning. [3]

    Most Egyptians were employed in agricultural labors, either on their own lands or on the estates of the temples or nobles. [3] The most widely cited evidence that the ancient Egyptians used electricity is a relief beneath the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, Egypt that depicts figures standing around a large light-bulb-like object. [21] Ancient Egyptian Science & Technology (Article) - Ancient History Encyclopedia Ancient Egyptian Science & Technology Joshua J. Mark The great temples and monuments of ancient Egypt continue to fascinate and amaze people in the modern day. [3] Ancient Egyptian History for Kids: Inventions and Technology Parents and Teachers : Support Ducksters by following us on or. [22] Much can be attributed to the ancient Egyptians, even some of the earliest forms of technology and inventions that we still use today. [24] In any case, by late Bronze Age, the standardized (and far more improved) glass making technology can be perceived as one of the ancient Egyptian inventions. [2] Ancient Egyptian technology had a great impact on the many civilizations that followed. [23] While a number of very significant questions remain unanswered, the simplest explanation for many can be found in ancient Egyptian inscriptions, texts, wall paintings, tomb inscriptions, art, and artifacts: the ancient Egyptians had an extraordinary command of science and technology. [3] As sundial technology continued to be improved, the ancient Egyptians were even able to tell which were the longest and shortest days of the year. [23]

    There is evidence of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Amenemhet III in the twelfth dynasty (about 1800 BCE) using the natural lake of the Fayum as a reservoir to store surpluses of water for use during the dry seasons, as the lake swelled annually as caused by the annual flooding of the Nile. [21] In addition to copper, which was mined in the eastern desert between the Nile and the Red Sea, iron was known in Egypt from a very early period and came into general use about 800 B.C. According to Lucas, iron appears to have been an Asiatic discovery. [21] The first known use of ink specifically for the purpose of writing (as opposed to art) comes from a much "later’ date of circa 2500 BC. Historically, this ink-writing trend emerged from both ancient Egypt and China, possibly in an overlapping time period. [2] The Edwin Smith Papyrus is a comprehensive medical text on surgery from ancient Egypt that was written around 1600 BC. It is perceived as a treatise that mainly deals with trauma, and predates the famous Hippocratic Oath by almost a thousand years! Simply put, it is the world’s oldest known surgical treatise and is dated from the Second Intermediate Period of the history of ancient Egpyt. [2]

    Although they did not have command of the wheel until the arrival of the Hyksos during the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt (c. 1782 - c. 1570 BCE), their technological skills are evident as early as the Predynastic Period (c. 6000-c. 3150 BCE) in the construction of mastaba tombs, artworks, and tools. [3] Upper Egypt begins in the southern end of the country at the first Nile cataract (waterfalls), near present-day Aswan. [1] The Nile Valley of Upper Egypt supplied staple crops such as barley, wheat, and vegetables along with fish and wild game. [1] While there certainly is a great amount of sweeping desert land in Egypt, the nation is also the home of extremely fertile black soil along the banks of the Nile River. [24] The king claimed ownership of all land in Egypt, but he handed out estates to royal family members, to high government officials, and for temples to the gods or former kings. [1] Egypt was thought to be a perfect reflection of the land of the gods and the afterlife a mirror image of one's life on earth. [3] Small area rugs one finds in homes all over the world also were either invented or advanced in Egypt (made of the same papyrus plant) as were knick-knacks in the form of cats, dogs, people, and the gods. [3] Since no monetary system yet existed in Egypt, the king paid his most important government officials by granting them estates, including the people who worked on them. [1] Nearly 300 years after Khufu's death, a 6-year-old became king of Egypt in 2278 B.C. Pepy II remained on the throne for an astounding 94 years. [1]

    Ornamentation on furniture, although first appearing in Mesopotamia, became more elaborate in Egypt and more refined as time went on. [3] While not thought of in quite the same aspects as the tools we know today, the first ox-draws plows appeared in Egypt as early as 2500 B.C. This advancement in agriculture required skilled metal working in order to form a workable plow, as well as animal husbandry. [24] Now in historical terms, the first batch of beer was possibly contaminated by streptomyces, a soil bacteria that produces tetracycline and also thrives in arid conditions such as Nubia (the land encompassing present-day northern Sudan and southern Egypt). [2]

    The Leiden papyrus was discovered at Thebes in Egypt, together with the Stockholm Papyrus, which was probably written by the same scribe, and many Greek magical papyri, in the early 19th century by an adventurer calling himself Jean d'Anastasi, holding the office of Swedish vice-consul in Alexandria. [21] The grand halls of the temples of Egypt, the inner sanctums, the temples themselves would all have been likewise impossible if not for this advance in engineering and construction. [3]

    Did Ancient Egyptians Have Airplanes? Mechanical Engineer Thinks So Epoch Times - December 16, 2014 The pyramids and other advanced artifacts from ancient Egypt continue to awe archaeologists and archaeology enthusiasts, but is it possible the ancient Egyptians had aviation? A wooden carving dating from the 3rd century B.C. was found in a tomb in Sakkara (also spelled Saqqara), Egypt, in 1898. [21] The first truly triangular shaped pyramids are counted among the many ancient Egyptian inventions, although it took them several tries in order to achieve an ideal model. [24] Now in terms of composition of these ancient Egyptian inventions, malachite, a copper carbonate pigment was used for the greenish eye paint (especially in the pre-dynastic period). [2] The ramp and the lever were a couple of the most famous construction inventions that the ancient Egyptians developed, and the principles that guide them are still widely used in construction today. [24] The ancient Egyptians primarily used papyrus for recording religious texts and other important documents. [24] Now pertaining to the former, the emergence of ink-based writing complemented the use of papyrus, the precursor to parchment and paper - and so we have included black ink as one of the essential ancient Egyptian inventions. [2] Ancient Egyptians were also one of the first groups of people to divide days into equal parts through the use of timekeeping devices. [24] The ancient Egyptians were among the first groups of people to write and keep records of events that happened in their lives. [24] The Ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to form in the ancient world. [22] The ancient Egyptians had some of the first monumental stone building. [21] Papyrus was the first form of durable sheets of paper to write on, and the ancient Egyptians were the ones to develop it. [24] Ancient Egyptian depiction of women engaged in mechanical rope making, the first graphic evidence of the craft, shown in the two lower rows of the illustration. [21]

    Pyramids The Shaduf The Shaduf was a tool that the ancient Egyptians used to lift water from a water way to land. [4] The ancient Egyptians employed knowledge of the science of aerodynamics in their ship construction processes to create ships that would catch the wind and push vessels through the water. [24] The ancient Egyptians are known for their massive constructions and outstanding architecture. [24] Pertaining to the latter, Senet, one of the oldest known board games was mentioned in an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph dating from 3100 BC. [2] Recovered Ancient Egyptian furniture includes a third millennium BC. bed discovered in the Tarkhan Tomb, a c.2550 BC. gilded set from the tomb of Queen Hetepheres, and a c. 1550 BC. stool from Thebes. [21] Some ancient Egyptian artifacts include beds, tables and stools that were recovered in ancient Egyptian tombs and after which much of today’s modern furniture is modeled. [24] Incredibly enough, the core design element of the pin tumbler lock is still in use today, though ancient Egyptian keys were significantly larger than our modern counterparts. [2] Ancient monuments and grand temples aside, the ancient Egyptians invented a number of items which one simply takes for granted in the modern day. [3]

    Nile is a Greek name for what the ancient Egyptians simply called "the river," which flows northward through Upper and Lower Egypt. [1] Now while dental hygiene was probably not very high on the priority list, many ancient Egyptians, like most contemporaries of their time, had to deal with deteriorating teeth, partly because of their diet pattern (that did include honey and later even sugar). [2] Although the implementation of electricity into the world didn’t come until much, much later, some historians believe that there is evidence that the ancient Egyptians had some form of understanding of electricity. [24]

    The ancient Egyptians did not share their secret of how to make papyrus, though, so that they could sell it to other peoples. [23] Because the ancient Egyptians were highly spiritual people as well, it should come as no surprise that they also accompanied many of their cures with spells that were supposed to ward off the evil spirits that were making patients sick. [24] Many people don’t realize that toothpaste is actually another invention that can be attributed to the ancient Egyptians. [24]

    Papyrus The ancient Egyptians used papyrus to write on and to make boats. [4]

    The bones specimens were nearly 2,000 years old, and thus the study hinted at how antibiotics were (possibly) familiar to ancient populations before the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928. [2] King Senusret (c. 1971-1926 BCE) of the Middle Kingdom drained the lake at the center of the Fayyum district during his reign through the use of canals and pumps were used to divert resources from the Nile in other periods. [3] They supposedly crafted glass beads of different colors as early as 1500 BC during the time period of the New Kingdom. [24] Conclusion The technology of the Middle and New Kingdom project was very interesting. [4] The king has ordered his vizier to assemble the best minds of the kingdom to advise him what to do about the Nile failures before catastrophe hits. [1] Later, the king chose those without royal blood, largely by merit, to administer the kingdom. [1]

    By the time of the Middle Kingdom (circa 2050 - 1800 BC), the overlapping system of employing soldiers (or ex-soldiers) as guards were relegated in favor of raising a full-time professional police force. [2]

    Early evidence indicates that irrigation systems were used in ancient Egypt as early as the twelfth dynasty, using the lake Fayum, as the reservoir to store water surpluses. [24] Irrigation as the artificial application of water to the soil was used to some extent in Ancient Egypt, a hydraulic civilization (which entail hydraulic engineering). [21]

    The "Dendera light" is a technology of electrical lighting supposedly in existence in ancient Egypt, proposed by some fringe authors. [21] The world’s first known police force came into being in ancient Egypt in the field of personal security. [2] To that end, the world’s oldest known recipe for a toothpaste comes from ancient Egypt, though the papyrus itself is only dated from 4th century AD and clearly presents a Greek script. [2]

    The great temples and monuments of ancient Egypt continue to fascinate and amaze people in the modern day. [3] Ancient Egypt Illuminated by Electricity? Epoch Times - October 3, 2014 The light-bulb-like object engraved in a crypt under the Temple of Hathor in Egypt. [21]

    There are indications that the use of such practices was one of the leading causes of people developing tetanus in ancient Egypt. [24]

    It was located on the banks of the Nile where Upper and Lower Egypt joined (near modern Cairo). [1] Following the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under King Narmer around 3000 B.C., surviving Nilometer records show the beginning of a trend toward lower than normal floods. [1] Finally in 2055 B.C., King Mentuhotep II of Thebes reunited Upper and Lower Egypt under his rule. [1] Upper and Lower Egypt were organized into about 40 districts, called nomes, each with a governor who owed his post and loyalty to the king. [1] The king, wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, held absolute authority. [1]

    Architecture surrounding these canals was sometimes quite ornate as in the case of the pharaoh Ramesses the Great (1279-1213 BCE) and his city of Per-Ramesses in Lower Egypt. [3] Historians have traditionally organized Egypt's history by groups of dynasties (families of kings or pharaohs). [1] World's oldest Sundial, from Egypt's Valley of the Kings (c. 1500 BC) by University of Basel, PD image. [23]

    Their technology included the ability to build large construction projects such as pyramids and palaces, simple machines such as ramps and levers, and a complex system of government and religion. [22] Their inventions and technology had an impact on many civilizations to come. [22]


    His general, Ptolemy, on becoming independent ruler of the country in 305 BCE, was also crowned pharaoh, and his line lasted down to the famous queen, Cleopatra, who died in 31 BCE. Some may regard the civilization of Egypt under the Ptolemies as being more Greek than Egyptian, but the older civilization was still vital enough for the kings to feel the need to present themselves to their subjects in the traditional style of the pharaohs. [25] It was during this period the horse and chariot were introduced into Egypt, which the Egyptians had no answer to until they introduced their own version of the war chariot at the beginning of the 18th Dynasty. [6] Between the 15th and 18th centuries, Egypt had a minor but significant position in general views of antiquity, and its monuments gradually became better known through the work of scholars in Europe and travelers in the country itself the finest publications of the latter were by Richard Pococke, Frederik Ludwig Norden, and Carsten Niebuhr, all of whose works in the 18th century helped to stimulate an Egyptian revival in European art and architecture. [26] Egypt may have influenced Hebrew writing, while Egyptian understanding of the role of the King as mediator between heaven and earth may have informed the Hebrew's understanding of society as subject to divine law. [27] In Egypt, these concepts (usually numbered 42) were eventually codified in to a legal system, at least in part, as in the "Negative Confessions" in the Papyrus of Ani, commonly called the Egyptian Book of the Dead. [5] The history of ancient Egypt proper starts with Egypt as a unified state, which occurred sometime around 3000 B.C.E., though archaeological evidence indicates a developed Egyptian society may have existed for a much longer period. [27] European interest in ancient Egypt was strong in Roman times and revived in the Renaissance, when the wealth of Egyptian remains in the city of Rome was supplemented by information provided by visitors to Egypt itself. [26]

    The civil year had 365 days and started in principle when Sirius, or the Dog Star--also known in Greek as Sothis (Ancient Egyptian: Sopdet)--became visible above the horizon after a period of absence, which at that time occurred some weeks before the Nile began to rise for the inundation. [26] Parallel to the Nile on both banks of the river runs the Black Land - the narrow strip of fertile soil that allowed the Egyptians to practice the most efficient agriculture in the ancient world. [28] The fertility of the land and general predictability of the inundation ensured very high productivity from a single annual crop. This productivity made it possible to store large surpluses against crop failures and also formed the chief basis of Egyptian wealth, which was, until the creation of the large empires of the 1st millennium bce, the greatest of any state in the ancient Middle East. [26] Literary works were written in all the main later phases of the Egyptian language--Middle Egyptian the "classical" form of the Middle and New kingdoms, continuing in copies and inscriptions into Roman times Late Egyptian, from the 19th dynasty to about 700 bce and the demotic script from the 4th century bce to the 3rd century ce --but many of the finest and most complex are among the earliest. [26] During this time, the Middle Nile was under control by the Kerma Kingdom and in order to obtain goods from Punt, the Egyptians had to make a new sea route to reach their destination. [11] Before the New Kingdom, the Egyptian military was mainly aquatic, and the high ranks were composed of the elite middle class. [6] One of the best-known examples of Egyptian literature is a collection of spells dating to the New Kingdom period and labelled the "Book of the Dead": its object is to enable people to pass successfully from this life into the next. [25]

    The Antiquities Service and a museum of Egyptian antiquities were established in Egypt by the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, a great excavator who attempted to preserve sites from destruction, and the Prussian Heinrich Brugsch, who made great progress in the interpretation of texts of many periods and published the first major Egyptian dictionary. [26] It was the first paper and was used for important documents both by the Egyptians and other ancient civilisations. [28] Hero of Alexandria, a 1st-century Hellenized Egyptian inventor from Alexandria, Egypt, created schematics for automatic doors to be used in a temple with the aid of steam power. [7] The later Egyptian temples look very similar to early Greek temples and it has been suggested that the Ancient Greeks got the very idea of monumental building in stone from the Egyptians. [25] The medieval Arabs wrote about Egyptian civilization, and the modern European fascination with Egypt was fuelled by Napoleon’s conquest of the country in 1798. [25] Arguably, however, the successor to Egyptian civilization was humanity itself, since Egypt bequeathed many ideas and concepts to the world in addition to mathematical and astronomological knowledge. [27] The term Demotic in the context of Egypt, that is, "indigenous" from a Hellenistic point of view, came to refer to both the script and the language that followed the Late Ancient Egyptian stage from the Nubian 25th dynasty until its marginalization by the Greek Koine in the early centuries C.E. [27] The Old Kingdomalso referred to as the Age of the Pyramids, is most commonly regarded as spanning the period of time when Egypt was ruled by the Third Dynasty through to the Sixth Dynasty (2686 B.C.E. -2134 B.C.E. ). [5] One example is the impact of Egypt upon the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, which continues to affect the lives of many people today. [27]

    By 3000 BCE, the unified kingdom of Egypt occupied the entire Nile Valley north of a series of rapids called the 1st Cataract (the other cataracts lay in a chain stretching south along the River Nile into present-day Sudan). [25] When the rulers of Thebes became kings of all Egypt, and founded the New Kingdom, its local god Amun became the chief god, and was united with Ra to become Amun-Ra. [25] Circa 1550 B.C.E. the rulers of Thebes once again re-unified Egypt, establishing the New Kingdom. [27] The unified kingdom of Egypt, on the other hand, covered an entire country thousands of square miles in size and with millions of inhabitants. [25] The Shaduf was originally developed in Ancient Egypt, and appears on a Sargonid seal of c. 2000 BC. It became widespread in Egypt since at least New Kingdom times in the 14th century BC. It was an early example of a pulley and crane, and is still used in many areas of Africa and Asia to draw water. [7] Chariotry was introduced into ancient Egypt from Western Asia at the end of the Second Intermediate Period (c.1650-1550 BC) / the beginning of the New Kingdom (c.1550-1069 BC).Charioteers were drawn from the upper classes in Egypt. [6] Ancient Egypt was divided into two kingdoms, known as Upper and Lower Egypt. [27] Around about 3100 B.C.E., the two kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt were united and the first dynasty was established. [27]

    Before the New Kingdom the Egyptian armies were composed of conscripted peasants and artisans, who would then mass under the banner of the pharaoh. [6] In the New Kingdom, the Egyptians played on bells, cymbals, tambourines, and drums as well as imported lutes and lyres from Asia. [27] The encounter with other powerful Near Eastern kingdoms like Mitanni, the Hittites, and later the Assyrians and Babylonians, made it necessary for the Egyptians to conduct campaigns far from home. [6] The absence of systematic inquiry contrasts with Egyptian practical expertise in such fields as surveying, which was used both for orienting and planning buildings to remarkably fine tolerances and for the regular division of fields after the annual inundation of the Nile the Egyptians also had surveyed and established the dimensions of their entire country by the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. [26]

    Hieratic is a cursive form of Egyptian hieroglyphs first used during the First Dynasty (c. 2925 B.C.E. - c. 2775 B.C.E. ). [27] From the time of the first dynasty or before, the Egyptians mined turquoise in the Sinai Peninsula. [27] The greatest late 19th-century Egyptologist was Adolf Erman of Berlin, who put the understanding of the Egyptian language on a sound basis and wrote general works that for the first time organized what was known about the earlier periods. [26] Egyptian views on the nature of time during this period held that the universe worked in cycles, and the Pharaoh on earth worked to ensure the stability of those cycles. [5] It provided the characteristic Egyptian writing material, which, with cereals, was the country’s chief export in Late period Egyptian and then Greco-Roman times. [26]

    Odometer, a device used in late Hellenistic times and the Roman era for indicating distance traveled by a vehicle was invented sometime in the 3rd century BC. Some historians attribute it to Hellenistic Egyptian citizen Hero of Alexandria. [7]

    RANKED SELECTED SOURCES(33 source documents arranged by frequency of occurrence in the above report)


    Ancient Advanced Technology Reveals Itself in Egyptian Papyrus Ink - History

    Archaeologists have uncovered a mysterious enclosure hidden deep inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

    The massive cavity stretches for at least 30 metres and lies above the grand gallery, an impressive ascending corridor that connects the Queen’s chamber to the King’s in the heart of the historic monument. It is the first major structure found in the pyramid since the 19th century.

    It is unclear whether the void is a chamber or a corridor, or whether it played any more than a structural role in the pyramid’s construction – such as relieving weight on the grand gallery below. But measurements show that it has similar dimensions to the grand gallery, which is nearly 50 metres long, eight metres high and more than a metre wide.

    Inside the great pyramid

    Scientists discovered the void using sensors that detect particles known as muons, which rain down on Earth when cosmic rays slam into atoms in the upper atmosphere. The muons travel at close to the speed of light and behave much like x-rays when they meet objects. Armed with suitable equipment, researchers can used them to reveal the rough internal structure of pyramids and other ancient monuments.

    “We know that this big void has the same characteristics as the grand gallery,” said Mehdi Tayoubi at the HIP Institute in Paris, a non-profit organisation that draws on new technology to study and preserve cultural heritage. “It’s really impressive.”

    NG STAFF. SOURCE: MORISHIMA, K. ET AL. DISCOVERY OF A BIG VOID IN KHUFU’S PYRAMID BY OBSERVATION OF COSMIC-RAY MUONS. NATURE – Image Source: National Geographic http://news.nationalgeographic.com

    Also known as Khufu’s Pyramid, or the Pyramid of Cheops, the Great Pyramid was built in the 4th dynasty by the pharaoh Khufu, who reigned from 2509 to 2483 BC. The monument rises 140 metres above the Giza Plateau and has three chambers known from previous explorations: a subterranean one at the base of the pyramid, the Queen’s chamber at the centre, and the King’s chamber above. While a granite sarcophagus sits in the King’s chamber, King Khufu’s mummy is missing, and his queens were buried elsewhere. Whatever riches were once in the chambers were looted long ago.

    Egyptologists have scores of theories about how the pyramid was built, but there are no reliable accounts of its construction. Herodotus wrote of stones being drawn from quarries near and far, with some being shipped down the Nile on boats. The mammoth construction project occupied the lives of a hundred thousand men, fuelled in part by radishes, onions and leeks, he noted.

    To pinpoint the cavity, scientists from Nagoya University in Japan, and KEK, the country’s high energy physics lab, installed muon-detecting photographic plates and electronic muon detectors around the Queen’s chamber. At the same time, researchers from CEA, France’s energy research organisation, trained “muon telescopes” on the pyramid from the outside. All three techniques can tell from which direction incoming muons arrive.

    When the teams compared their results, all had found a muon hotspot in the same place, indicating the presence of a large cavity in the pyramid. While most of the monument is made of stone that absorbs muons, chambers and cavities let the particles pass through.

    Muon analysis allows scientists to look deep inside ancient monuments without drilling holes or causing other damage to the precious structures. But the technique produces low resolution images, making it impossible for the researchers to tell if the newly-found void runs horizontally or parallel to the grand gallery. Nor can they be sure it is a single enclosure rather than a series of smaller cavities close together, they report in Nature.

    “What we are sure about is that this big void is there, that it is impressive, and was not expected by any kind of theory,” said Tayoubi. To shed more light on the purpose of the cavity, Tayoubi called on specialists in ancient Egyptian architecture to come forward with ideas of what it may be so they can be modelled and checked against the team’s data. The cavity may have relieved weight on the roof of the underlying grand gallery, or be a hitherto unknown corridor in the pyramid. The team has no plans to drill into the cavity to explore inside, but they are developing a tiny flying robot that might one day be sent in, if the Egyptian authorities approve.

    “It’s a tribute to humankind,” said Tayoubi of the pyramid. “It asks a question about what is our future. If they have been able to do this with the means they had 4,000 or 5,000 years ago and they left this heritage today, what will our own society leave for future generations?”

    Peter Der Manuelian, professor of Egyptology and director of the Harvard Semitic Museum, said the discovery was “potentially a major contribution to our knowledge about the Great Pyramid.”

    “I’m sure there are imperfections and perhaps small voids or cavities in several locations in the pyramid. What makes this one so interesting is the size, seeming to rival the grand gallery itself in scale,” he said.

    “The muons can’t tell us about chambers, form, size, or any possible objects, so it’s far too early to speculate. I know most people want to know about hidden chambers, grave goods, and the missing mummy of King Khufu. None of that is on the table at this point. But the fact that this void is so large warrants further non-invasive exploration,” he added.

    In 2011, Rob Richardson, a researcher at the University of Leeds, sent a small snake-like robot into one of the tunnels of the Great Pyramid and took pictures of hieroglyphs that had not been seen for 4,500 years. “I think people assume that all these mysteries of what’s in our world are known but there are still places like the pyramids where we simply don’t know,” he said. “The pyramids have been there for thousands of years and we still don’t know exactly why they are there, what they were used for, or how they were built.”


    Color in Ancient Egypt

    The ancient Egyptians had a great appreciation for life which is clearly depicted through their art. Images of people enjoying themselves – whether in this life or the next – are as plentiful as those most often seen of the gods or funerary rituals. The early Egyptologists who first encountered the culture focused their attention on the many examples of funerary art found in tombs and concluded that Egyptian culture was death-obsessed when, in reality, the ancient Egyptians were wholly absorbed in living life to its fullest.

    A detail from the throne of Tutankhamun which shows the phara

    Amenhotep III (1386-1353 BCE) at Malkata was brightly painted, the outer walls of white and the interiors of blue, yellow, and green, with murals and other ornamentation throughout. These colors were not chosen randomly but each had a very specific symbolism for the Egyptians and were used to convey that significance. Egyptologist Rosalie David comments on this:

    Colour was regarded as an integral element of all art representations, including wall-scenes, statuary, tomb goods, and jewelry, and the magical qualities of a specific color were believed to become an integral part of any object to which it was added.

    Color in ancient Egypt was used not only in realistic representations of scenes from every life but to illustrate the heavenly realms of the gods, the afterlife, and the stories and histories of the deities of the Egyptian pantheon. Each color had its own particular symbolism and was created from elements found in nature. Egyptologist Margaret Bunson writes how “artisans began to observe the natural occurrence of colors in their surroundings and pulverized various oxides and other materials to develop the hues they desired” (54). This process of Egyptian artists creating colors for their art dates to the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150-c. 2613 BCE) but becomes more pronounced during the time of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE). From the Old Kingdom until the country was annexed by Rome after 30 BCE, color was an important component of every work of art fashioned by the Egyptians.

    A detail from the throne of Tutankhamun which shows the phara

    Realism In Color

    Each color was created by mixing various naturally occurring elements and each became standardized in time in order to ensure a uniformity in art work. An Egyptian male, for example, was always depicted with a reddish-brown skin which was achieved by mixing a certain amount of the standard red paint recipe with standard brown. Variations in the mix would occur in different eras but, overall, remained more or less the same. This color for the male’s skin was chosen for realism in the piece, in order to symbolize the outdoor life of most males, while Egyptian women were painted with lighter skin (using yellow and white mixes) since they spent more time indoors.

    These paintings from the tomb of Nebamun (c. 1350 BCE) show the New Kingdom period accountant Nebamun hunting birds in the marshes of Egypt. He is accompanied by his wife and daughter. Scenes like these of the deceased enjoying himself were common in New Kingdom tomb chambers.
    To the Egyptians, fertile marshes were a symbol of eroticism and rebirth, which gives additional meaning to this image.
    On display at the British Museum, London, UK.

    The gods were typically represented with gold skin, reflecting the belief that gods did, in fact, have gold skin. An exception to this is the god Osiris who is almost always shown with green or black skin symbolizing fertility, regeneration, and the underworld. Osiris was murdered, returned to life by Isis, and then descended to rule over the land of the dead the colors used in his depictions all symbolize aspects of his story. Whether a scene shows a man and his wife at dinner or the gods in the solar barge, each color used had to accurately represent the various themes of these events.

    Color Creation & Symbolism

    The different colors below are listed with their Egyptian name following, the materials used in creating them, and what they symbolized. The definitions follow the work of Richard H. Wilkinson in his Symbolism & Magic in Egyptian Art and Margaret Bunson’s Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, supplemented by other works.

    A scene from the Hall of Osiris at Abydos which shows the raising of djed pillars, symbols of stability.

    Red (desher) – made from oxidized iron and red ocher, used to create flesh tones and symbolizing life but also evil and destruction. Red was associated with both fire and blood and so symbolized vitality and energy but could also be used to accentuate a certain danger or define a destructive deity. The god Set, for example, who murdered Osiris and brought chaos to Egypt at the beginning of time, was always represented with a red face or red hair or completely in red. One also sees this pattern in written work where the color red is sometimes used to signify a dangerous character or aspect in a story. In wall paintings and tomb scenes red must be carefully interpreted within the context of the scene. Although it was frequently used for emphasis of danger or even evil, it is also as commonly seen symbolizing life or a higher being (as in depictions of the Eye of Ra) or elevated status as in the Red Crown of Lower Egypt.

    An Egyptian protective amulet in the form of the Eye of Horus (wedjat). Earthenware, 6th-4th century BCE. (Louvre Museum, Paris)

    Blue (irtiu and khesbedj) – one of the most popular colors, commonly referred to as “Egyptian Blue”, made from copper and iron oxides with silica and calcium, symbolizing fertility, birth, rebirth and life and usually used to depict water and the heavens. Wilkinson writes, “by the same token, blue could signify the river Nile and its associated crops, offerings, and fertility, and many of the so-called `fecundity’ figures which represent the river’s bounty are of this hue” (107). Statues and depictions of the god Thoth are routinely blue, blue-green, or have some aspect of blue in them linking the god of wisdom with the life-giving heavens. Blue also symbolized protection. Fertility amulets of the protector-god Bes were often blue as were the tattoos women would wear of Bes or diamond-shaped patterns on their lower abdomen, back, and thighs. It is thought these tattoos were worn as amulets to protect women during pregnancy and childbirth.

    Yellow (khenet and kenit) – made from ocher and oxides originally but, from the New Kingdom (c. 1570-1069 BCE) was mixed from arsenic trisulphide and symbolizing the sun and eternity. Yellow was darkened for the golden flesh-color of the gods or lightened with white to suggest purity or some sacred aspect of a character or object. Isis, for example, is always depicted with gold skin in a white dress but, sometimes, her dress is a light yellow to emphasize her eternal aspect in a scene or story. It is thought that priests and priestesses of the gods of Egypt would sometimes dress as their deities and Wilkinson suggests that priests of the god Anubis would color their skins yellow on certain occassions to “become” the god for the event. Although Anubis was traditionally represented as black-skinned, there are a number of texts depicting him with the golden hue of the other gods.

    Green (wadj) – mixed from malachite, a copper mineral, and symbolizing goodness, growth, life, the afterlife, and resurrection. The Egyptian afterlife was known as The Field of Reeds and, in some eras, as The Field of Malachite and was always associated with the color green. Wilkinson writes how green was “naturally a symbol of growing things and of life itself” and goes on to point out how, in ancient Egypt, “to do `green things’ was a euphemism for positive, life-producing, behavior in contrast to `red things’ which symbolized evil” (108). Green is the color of the dying and reviving god Osiris and also of the Eye of Horus, one of the most sacred objects in Egyptian mythology. In early tomb paintings the spirit of the deceased is shown as white but, later, as green to associate the dead with the eternal Osiris. In keeping with the symbolism of ressurection, green is also often used to depict the goddess Hathor, Lady of the Sycamore. Hathor was closely associated with the Sycamore tree, with renewal, transformation, and rebirth. Mummies of tattooed women suggest the ink could have been green, blue, or black and tattoos have been linked with the worship of Hathor.

    A detail from the Book of the Dead of Aaneru from Thebes, Third Intermediate Period, XXI Dynasty, 1070-946 BCE. (Egyptian Museum, Turin)

    White (hedj and shesep) – made from chalk mixed with gypsum, often employed as a lightener for other hues, and symbolizing purity, sacredness, cleanliness, and clarity. White was the color of Egyptian clothing and so associated with daily life but was frequently employed in artistic pieces to symbolize the transcendent nature of life as well. Priests always wore white and so did temple attendants and temple personnel taking part in a festival or ritual. The objects used in rituals (such as bowls, plates, altars, tables) were made of white alabaster. White, like the other colors, was used realistically in depicting clothing and objects of that color in real life but frequently is employed to highlight the importance of some aspect of a painting in some cases, it did both these things. The White Crown of Upper Egypt, for example, is routinely referred to as white – and so is realistically depicted – but also symbolized the close connection to the gods enjoyed by the king – and so symbolically represents purity and the sacred.

    A scene from a wooden Egyptian sarcophagus depicting Anubis, the god of mummification and the afterlife. c. 400 BCE

    Black (kem) – made from carbon, ground charcoal, mixed with water and sometimes burnt animal bones, symbolized death, darkness, the underworld, as well as life, birth, and resurrection. Wilkinson writes, “the symbolic association of the color with life and fertility may well have originated in the fertile black silt deposited by the Nile in its annual flooding and Osiris – god of the Nile and of the underworld – was thus frequently depicted with black skin”. Black and green are often used interchangably in Egyptian art, in fact, as symbols of life. Statues of the gods were frequently carved from black stone but, just as often, from green. Although black was associated with death it had no connotation of evil – which was represented by red – and, frequently appears along with green, or instead of green, in depictions of the afterlife. Anubis, the god who guides the dead to the hall of judgment and is present at the weighing of the soul’s heart, is almost always depicted as a black figure as is Bastet, goddess of women, one of the most popular deities in all of Egypt. Tattoos of Bes were done in black ink and images of the afterlife frequently make use of a black background to not only accentuate the gold and white of the foreground but also symbolize the concept of rebirth.

    These basic colors were often mixed, diluted, or otherwise combined to create colors such as purple, pink, teal, gold, silver, and other hues. Artists were not bound by the minerals they mixed their paints from but only by their imaginations and talent in creating the colors they needed to tell their stories.

    BLACK SYMBOLIZED DEATH, DARKNESS, THE UNDERWORLD, AS WELL AS LIFE, BIRTH, & RESURRECTION.

    Color in Context

    Aesthetic considerations were of great importance to the Egyptians. Art and architecture is charactized by symmetry and even their writing system, the hieroglyphics, were set down in accordance with visual beauty as an integral aspect of their function. In reading hieroglyphics, one understands the meaning by noting which direction the figures are facing if they face left, then one reads to the left and, if up or down or right, in whichever of those directions. The direction of the figures provides the context of the message and so provides a means of understanding what it being said.

    A pharaoh was known primarily by his throne name. This was traditionally a statement about his divine father, the sun-god Ra, so all cartouches with throne names display a sun-god at the top. A king’s birth name was the only name he had already as a prince and is preceded by the epithet “son of Ra”. Rulers deemed unimportant or illegitimate, including ruling queens, have been omitted from this list.

    In the same way, color in Egyptian art must be interpreted in context. In a certain painting, red might symbolize evil or destruction but the color should not always instantly be interpreted along those lines. Black is a color often misinterpreted in Egyptian art because of the modern-day association of black with evil. Images of Tutankhamun, found in his tomb, sometimes depict him with black skin and these were originally associated with death and grief by the early archaeologists interpreting the finds although the association with death would be correct, and grief did accompany the loss of anyone in ancient Egypt as today, a proper interpretation would be the association of Tutankhamun in death with Osiris and the concept of rebirth and resurrection.

    White retains the same meaning in the present day that it had for the ancient Egyptians but, as noted, must also be interpreted in context. The white dress of Isis would signify purity and the sacred yet the white skirt of Set would simply be a representation of how a male Egyptian dressed. Recognizing the symbolism of Egyptian colors, however, and why they were most commonly used, allows one a greater appreciation of Egyptian art and a clearer understanding of the message the ancient artist was trying to convey.


    Ancient Technology Reveals Itself in Egyptian Papyrus

    A new study shows ink on 2,000-year-old Egyptian papyri fragments contains copper. This means the assumption that carbon was the only basis for ink to write on ancient papyri is now a thing of the past. The information will help researchers trying to match fragments of ancient texts and in the conservation of papyri writings.

    Phys.org reports that until now scholars have believed all ink was carbon-based until at least the 4th or 5th centuries AD. This new study suggests ancient Egyptian scribes may have been using advanced inks hundreds of years before other cultures began this method.

    The Seated Scribe, a statue from Saqqarah dated 2600–2350 BC. (Ivo Jansch/CC BY SA 2.0)

    The information on the copper-based ink was uncovered by a cross-disciplinary team of researchers at the University of Copenhagen. They used advanced synchrotron radiation based X-ray microscopy equipment at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, Switzerland to make their find. This analysis was part of a larger study known as the CoNext project (Co(penhagen University Ne(utron and) X-(ray) T(echniques).

    They examined the writing on personal documents of an Egyptian soldier named Horus as well as documents from the Tebtunis temple library. These papyri fragments are stored in the Papyrus Carlsberg Collection at the University of Copenhagen.

    Fragment from the Tebtunis temple library in the Papyrus Carlsberg Collection. (University of Copenhagen)

    Reflecting on the results, Egyptologist and first author of the study Thomas Christiansen from the University of Copenhagen said that there was a great deal of variation in the composition:

    “None of the four inks studied here was completely identical, and there can even be variations within a single papyrus fragment, suggesting that the composition of ink produced at the same location could vary a great deal. This makes it impossible to produce maps of ink signatures that otherwise could have been used to date and place papyri fragments of uncertain provenance.”

    A section of the Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’ written on papyrus. (CC BY SA 1.0)

    Christiansen views this as a positive factor, stating:

    “However, as many papyri have been handed down to us as fragments, the observation that ink used on individual manuscripts can differ from other manuscripts from the same source is good news insofar as it might facilitate the identification of fragments belonging to specific manuscripts or sections thereof.”

    Moreover, Christiansen explained that because the variations in the ink composition were spread across location and time it “suggests that the ancient Egyptians used the same technology for ink production throughout Egypt from roughly 200 BC to 100 AD.”

    Robin Whitlock explained some of the origins of papyrus itself in a previous Ancient Origins article, saying:

    “Papyrus, which later gave rise to our modern word ‘ paper’, had a different meaning in the beginning. The original, Egyptian meaning is “that which belongs to the house”, referring to documents used in Ancient Egyptian bureaucracy. Papyrus became increasingly important with the development of writing, since papyrus was much easier to carry around than stone. Papyrus continued to be in use up until the 11th century AD.”

    Egyptian peasants harvesting papyrus, mural painting in Deir el-Medina (early Ramesside Period). (Public Domain)

    Papyrus was created by using the pith of the plant and it served many purposes in ancient Egypt, such as in the manufacture of boats, mats, rope, sandals and baskets. The plant’s root was also a source of food and used in making medicine and perfume.

    The researchers believe that knowledge of the composition of ink used on papyri will be helpful in conservation and aid museums in their decisions regarding the storage of ancient Egyptian papyri. Christiansen suggested that “It might facilitate the identification of fragments belonging to specific manuscripts or sections” as well.

    The study was published in Scientific Reports.

    Top Image: Papyrus (P. BM EA 10591 recto column IX, beginning of lines 13-17). Source: Public Domain


    The Mysterious Ancient Civilisation of Egypt | Absolute History

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    Modes of technological transmission

    Another aspect of the cumulative character of technology that will require further investigation is the manner of transmission of technological innovations. This is an elusive problem, and it is necessary to accept the phenomenon of simultaneous or parallel invention in cases in which there is insufficient evidence to show the transmission of ideas in one direction or another. The mechanics of their transmission have been enormously improved in recent centuries by the printing press and other means of communication and also by the increased facility with which travelers visit the sources of innovation and carry ideas back to their own homes. Traditionally, however, the major mode of transmission has been the movement of artifacts and craftsmen. Trade in artifacts has ensured their widespread distribution and encouraged imitation. Even more important, the migration of craftsmen—whether the itinerant metalworkers of early civilizations or the German rocket engineers whose expert knowledge was acquired by both the Soviet Union and the United States after World War II—has promoted the spread of new technologies.

    The evidence for such processes of technological transmission is a reminder that the material for the study of the history of technology comes from a variety of sources. Much of it relies, like any historical examination, on documentary matter, although this is sparse for the early civilizations because of the general lack of interest in technology on the part of scribes and chroniclers. For these societies, therefore, and for the many millennia of earlier unrecorded history in which slow but substantial technological advances were made, it is necessary to rely heavily upon archaeological evidence. Even in connection with the recent past, the historical understanding of the processes of rapid industrialization can be made deeper and more vivid by the study of “industrial archaeology.” Much valuable material of this nature has been accumulated in museums, and even more remains in the place of its use for the observation of the field worker. The historian of technology must be prepared to use all these sources, and to call upon the skills of the archaeologist, the engineer, the architect, and other specialists as appropriate.


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