Egypt still holds many secrets to uncover: the pyramids, countless temples, mummies and other artefacts left from the ancient times of pharaohs. Modern scientific technologies allow researchers to make discovery after discovery at an unprecedented rate.
National Geographic has compiled the most interesting discoveries made in Egypt in recent years:
Iron – the special «metal from the sky»
While researching ancient evidence, archaeologists had come across jewellery and royal pendants made from iron before the age of pharaohs – 2000 years before Egyptians learned to work with this metal. In 1980, while analysing the chemical composition of those alloys it turned out that the composition of nickel is similar to that of meteorites that were found in that region. Research carried out in recent years helped reach a full confirmation of this: ancient Egypt had used iron harvested from meteorites. Meteorite iron was used to forge the dagger found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, for example. The hieroglyph that means iron means ‘metal from the sky’. This rare metal was also closely associated with power and wealth in ancient Egypt.
Tattoos – helpers in religious rituals
Archaeologists have found a mummy of a woman who lived in 1300-1070 B.C. in ancient Deir el-Medina, a craftsmen village situated not far from the Rulers Valley. Infrared analysis revealed at least 30 identifiable tattoos. One of those tattoos has a deep religious meaning the neck and shoulders of the women were adorned with an image of a cobra’s eyes – a ward against evil. Researchers also found tattoos associated with the goddess Hathor. It is possible that the tattoos on the woman’s arms were meant to give her magical powers during rituals. Archaeologists have found three such mummies.
Demons – evil holiness guards
Ancient Egyptian mythology is full of beings that possessed superhuman abilities – for good, for bad, for protection and for attack. While artefacts allow researchers to understand the religion of Ancient Egypt, it has been a mystery for a long time how Ancient Egyptians saw demons. Researchers have recently discovered drawings of demons on a sarcophagus that dates back approximately 4500 years. One of the depicted demons looks not unlike a baboon and another is drawn with a head of a human and a body of an unknown animal. Both are depicted protecting a complex of buildings. Researchers believe those two may have been demons that punished those who desecrate holy places. The conclusion that belief in evil spirits is older than previously assumed is confirmed by an image of a demon depicted on an ancient papyrus – a large bird with a black cat head.
Heart diseases and tumours are as ancient as mankind
It is believed that lack of physical activity, fat food and other problems associated with modern lifestyle are the main cause of different cardiovascular diseases. With that, it is traditionally believed that such health problems were less common in ancient times. It turned out that 20 of 52 mummies featured at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo had calcified blood vessels. This means those people may have suffered from atherosclerosis. For example, analysis of the mummy of princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon shows that the 40-year-old woman would have needed a heart operation. In 2015, Spanish researchers found the mummy of a woman that lived in Elephantine 4200 years ago, during the sixth dynasty. This woman, according to researchers, had signs of breast cancer. A mummy found in 2011 had signs of prostate cancer.
Small mummies – respect towards stillborn babies
Approximately 100 years ago, a coffin was found in Giza. What is peculiar about it is that it was only 45 cm large. Research carried out by Cambridge University revealed that this coffin contained a 16-18 week old embryo. It is possible that it was the result of a spontaneous abortion that took place in 665 – 525 B.C. Remains of two 25-37 week old stillborn babies were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. This shows the importance of life and death in Ancient Egypt.
Cause behind low-quality images: talents that fled from Egypt to Persia
In 525 B.C. Persian King Cambyses conquered Egypt’s capital city of Memphis. This began the 100-yearl-log rule of Persia in the region. During this period, the majority of artists and intellectuals were moved to Persia to serve the empires interests. Inexperienced craftsmen, on the other hand, remained in Egypt. This was concluded during research of a burial site that was established during Persian rule. The quality and design of a sarcophagus found there was so average that researchers had assumed it was a fake at first glance. Nevertheless, continued research confirmed the authenticity of the artefact. The reason behind its quality was that it was produced by inexperienced craftsmen.
Words that helped charm a beloved person
In 2016, archaeologists deciphered ancient papyrus documents written in Greek language in III century, revealing a very curious look at how superstitious Ancient Egyptians actually were. The deciphered documents provided an insight into certain words used by Egyptian women to charm their beloved men. One would invoke the gods to ‘ruin the love’ of a man toward another woman and instead charm the man into loving the woman that cast the spell.