From its famous pyramids to its mesmerizing hieroglyphs, ancient Egypt possesses some of the most recognizable historical features of any ancient civilization. It was one of the first independent civilizations in the world, lasting nearly 30 centuries before it was defeated by Octavian (later, Agustus) and the Roman Empire. Despite lasting from about 3,100 to 30 BC, us 21st century citizens still have a lot in common with the ancient land. Read on to discover some of the many things we have in common with the ancient Egyptians.
1. Worshiping Cats
Known as “Mau” in ancient Egyptian, cats were a symbol of poise and were loved for killing pests such as rats and snakes. Of their many gods and goddesses, ancient Egyptians worshiped Bastet, the goddess of cats, and Mafdet, a feline-looking goddess who protected against snakes and other poisonous desert creatures. Of course, we must also mention the Great Sphinx of Giza, though it’s important to note that ancient Egyptian culture is filled with these half-lion half-man images.
Since cats were considered sacred, some were mummified after death; they were so respected that killing one, even by accident, resulted in the death penalty.
Nowadays, the internet is filled with cats, from adorable kitten photos to awesome videos of their ninja-like skills (and not-so-ninja-like fails). Spend even five minutes on the internet and, chances are, you’ll come across a cat.
Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs included alphabetic elements as well as logographs (characters that represent a word or phrase). The word “hieroglyph” comes from the Greek hieroglyphkos, a compound of “sacred” and the verb “engrave.” One of the most famous artifacts from ancient Egypt is the Rosetta Stone, a slab of stone carved with a decree written in three languages: Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script, and Ancient Greek. It’s famous because it provided key information to our modern understanding of hieroglyphs.
We’re all in the habit of using emojis while texting, which is similar to the ancient Egyptian use of logographs. Emojis allow us to convey tone and other key elements of text-communication—just think of sarcasm, or the difference between using the crying-laughing emoji and the sobbing emoji.
3. The Nudity
Ancient Egyptian fashion was based on comfort. Since it was hot in the desert, clothing was designed to be light: men wore simple tunics and were often bare-chested, while women wore thin dresses that converted to be worn either above or just below the breasts. Female performers often wore nothing. In order to stay cool, minimal clothing was common in ancient Egypt; most clothing was made of linen, a textile woven out of flax fibers. Another staple of ancient Egyptian style was jewelry made of bright colors
Let’s face it, from pornographic websites to Instagram feeds, the internet is tends to present minimal clothing. As the years go by, there is less and less stigma around showing skin—for instance, take the “Free The Nipple” campaign.
4. Girl Power
Cleopatra VII wasn’t the first woman to rule Egypt—in fact, evidence suggests that there were seven female pharaohs over the course of ancient Egypt’s reign. In myth, both gods and goddesses were conveyed in equality and balance. In society, women held many roles. They were housewives, temple workers, administrators, doctors, guards, treasurers, judges, prime ministers, viceroys, and monarchs.
Photo: Einsamer Schütze
Like Queen B says, “Who run the world? Girls.” Just as in ancient Egypt, women play a significant role in many modern professions. Here are some of the many female-dominated professions today: medical professionals, social workers, financial specialists, human resources managers, psychologists, teachers, public relations managers, veterinarians, and more.
5. Beer and Bread
The staple diet of the ancient Egyptians was bread and beer, while special occasions merited meats and wine. Consumed daily, beer was so significant to the ancient Egyptian lifestyle that it was even used as currency. Supplementing this diet were vegetables like onions and garlic, plus fruits like dates and figs.
Photo: E. Michael Smith Chiefio
Even today, who doesn’t love beer and bread? According to the Brewers Association, the U.S. now has over 4,000 microbreweries. And even though the gluten-free trend lives on, the bread market remains in the billions.
6. Animal Rights
The ancient Egyptians had a strong belief that animals and humans needed to maintain a balanced relationship in order to maintain cosmic order. Animals were used for food, agriculture, transportation, and more—they even played a role in religion. Common family pets included cats, dogs, and monkeys.
From the ASPCA to PETA, animal rights are a significant part of our 21st century society. Many people have changed their diets and spending habits due to the inhumane treatment of animals for food and cosmetics, while new animal rescue organizations are opening all over the US and beyond. And just like the ancient Egyptians, most pet-owners consider their animals as part of the family, treating them with love and respect.
7. I’m Sexy and I Know It
Hygiene and appearance were very important to the ancient Egyptians, driving the use of soap, perfumes, and ointments. Shaving the entire body was common, while women and men commonly wore cosmetics, including kohl eyeliner. Beauty was considered a form of holiness, which drove the ancient Egyptian motivation for cleanliness and the importance of outward appearance.
With a gigantic cosmetic industry and a strong focus on bettering one’s appearance, the 21st century holds many similarities to ancient Egypt, from shaving to perfume, right down to the popular eyeliner “cat eye” look.
Can you think of other ways that ancient Egypt resembles today? Share with us in the comments!