Strange And Bizarre Cultural Practices In Ancient Egypt • illuminaija
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Strange And Bizarre Cultural Practices In Ancient Egypt

   
   

Strange And Bizarre Cultural Practices In Ancient Egypt

The Ancient Egyptians are known for creating one of the greatest early civilizations in world history. They left behind a rich cultural legacy that includes the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. 

But if you look beyond their architectural marvels, what was life really like for the Ancient Egyptians? As it turns out, mummification was just the tip of the iceberg. Here are ten of the bizarre practices of ancient Egypt.

Laxatives

The Ancient Egyptians were early proponents of hygiene and knew the importance of keeping their bodies clean, even if they didn’t yet understand bacteria. They did, however, make the link between maintaining personal hygiene and not getting sick.

While this seems amazing for a culture that was formed over 5000 years ago, their chosen solution left a little to be desired. The Ancient Egyptians were big fans of laxatives, with most people using them several times a month “to keep diseases away”. The prevailing medical theory of the time was that the body contained numerous “channels”. These channels could become blocked by evil spirits, leading the person to become sick. They believed that laxatives unblocked these channels. In fact, it was seen as the remedy to most, if not all, ailments. Ironically, this even included complaints of diarrhea. The types of laxatives used included figs, bran, and dates.

Strange And Bizarre Cultural Practices In Ancient Egypt

   
   

Childbirth

Childbirth can be one of the most painful experiences in a mother’s life. So imagine going through labour without the support of modern medical care and practitioners. When giving birth in Ancient Egypt, mothers would go into a squatting position over two large bricks.

Those bricks are now known as Abydos birth bricks. The bricks would be decorated with colorful images of the gods and happy children, to invoke protection for the mother and new baby.

They believed that the infant needed to be protected from evil spirits who would attempt to harm the child from birth. After all, the infant mortality rate at the time was so high. The mother-to-be was attended by her handmaidens who would help her remain in the squatting position, as the midwife delivered the baby.

The birth bricks were a crucial part of the ceremony of childbirth. The richer you were, the better- and more highly decorated – birth bricks you owned.

Strange And Bizarre Cultural Practices In Ancient Egypt

Wigs

Ancient Egyptians loved cleanliness. But another way in which they maintained their personal hygiene was to shave their heads.

Not only is a shaved head more comfortable in the hot Egyptian climate, but it’s also easier to avoid the dangers of lice infestations. So although they’re commonly depicted in art as having long black hair – these were actually wigs.

One of the main reasons they wore wigs, especially for the working class, was to protect their shaven scalps from getting burnt in the sun. They were also used for decoration and as a way to cover thinning hair. Interestingly, lice were so prevalent that wig makers had to clean the hair with combs to remove lice eggs. We know this since combs have been found with traces of the eggs still in their teeth!

The Royal Family were especially fond of using wigs. They would be used in daily life as well as for special ceremonies, with some wigs dyed blue, green, or red and featuring precious stones. It has also been discovered that the Ancient Egyptians, especially Royals and nobles, used an early type of hair gel on their wigs. This was made from the fatty acids of both plants and animals and actually created the perfect environment for the wig to be naturally mummified alongside the human body. Although young children also shaved their heads, those of nobility often had a long lock of hair on the left side of their head, called a ‘sidelock of youth’.

It was a symbol indicating the wearer was a legitimate heir or osiris.

Bed-Wetting

Wearing a bag full of mouse bones around your neck may not sound like a good idea to us today. But this was the very remedy prescribed to those having trouble with bed-wetting in Ancient Egypt.

And it didn’t stop there: rodent-related cures seem to have been very popular with the Ancient Egyptians. Treatments involving mice were used in ointments to help everything from scalp issues to rheumatic pain. The bag of mouse bones remedy was also suggested to help a teething child, with the mother and child having first eaten the cooked mouse.

These treatments likely had more negative effects on these ailments, as examinations of the digestive tracts of several children buried in cemeteries from the Predynastic period found evidence of rodent bones. Alongside actual written accounts of the remedy, it’s proof that this bizarre practice of ancient Egypt was widely and frequently used.

Servants Coated in Honey

   
   

There’s a saying that you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Pharaoh Pepy II would have totally agreed with the sentiment. Pepy absolutely hated flies, but with the Nile in close proximity to the Royal Quarters, the pests were commonplace. In response, Pepy ordered that several naked slaves or servants be kept around him at all times. But here’s the kicker: they had to be completely covered in honey. That way, the flies would swarm to the honey-smeared servants and not bother him.

While this barmy idea did actually succeed in luring the flies away from Pepy, it must have been more than a little uncomfortable for the servants involved. Plus, Pepy II lived to the age of 100 – he had one of the longest reigns of any Egyptian Pharaoh. That means a long list of honey-drenched servants with much shorter lifespans!

   
   

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