Ancient Egypt is one of the most mysterious civilizations. It is surrounded by millions of myths and legends. Despite the fact that we know a lot about the era of the pharaohs, there are still a lot of hidden secrets even today. For example, we still don’t know the exact location of Queen Nefertiti’s tomb. We hope that one day scientists will manage to lift this veil of secrecy.
We highlight some significant facts about Ancient Egypt that scientists have managed to discover in the past 10 years.
The Great Pyramid was not built by slaves
The classical historian Herodotus believed that the Great Pyramid had been built by 100,000 slaves. His image of men, women and children desperately toiling in the harshest of conditions has proved remarkably popular with modern film producers. It is, however, wrong.
Archaeological evidence indicates that the Great Pyramid was in fact built by a workforce of 5,000 permanent, salaried employees and up to 20,000 temporary workers. These workers were free men, summoned under the corvée system of national service to put in a three- or four-month shift on the building site before returning home. They were housed in a temporary camp near the pyramid, where they received payment in the form of food, drink, medical attention and, for those who died on duty, burial in the nearby cemetery.
Few Egyptian men married their sisters
Some of Egypt’s kings married their sisters or half-sisters. These incestuous marriages ensured that the queen was trained in her duties from birth, and that she remained entirely loyal to her husband and their children. They provided appropriate husbands for princesses who might otherwise remain unwed, while restricting the number of potential claimants for the throne. They even provided a link with the gods, several of whom (like Isis and Osiris) enjoyed incestuous unions. However, brother-sister marriages were never compulsory, and some of Egypt’s most prominent queens – including Nefertiti – were of non-royal birth.
Incestuous marriages were not common outside the royal family until the very end of the dynastic age. The restricted Egyptian kingship terminology (‘father’, ‘mother’, ‘brother’, ‘sister’, ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ being the only terms used), and the tendency to apply these words loosely so that ‘sister’ could with equal validity describe an actual sister, a wife or a lover, has led to a lot of confusion over this issue.