Archive for the ‘Ancient Egypt’ Category
Poor Princess Ahmose Meryet Amon. She lived around 3500 years ago, and died in her 40s. Like most royals, she was mummified and in this case, entombed at Deir Al-Bahri on Luxor’s west bank (though visitors to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo can now see her there).
Scans of the princess’s body revealed some interesting details about royal life and premature death in ancient Egypt. Indeed, she was revealed to be the earliest known sufferer of a condition caused coronary atherosclerosis: a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and death.
Princess Ahmose evidently lived the good life in the royal household, because five of her major arteries contained blockages—including the ones that supply blood to the heart and brain. According to Gregory Thomas, professor of cardiology and co-leader on this major study about Egyptian mummies’ arterial health, said “if the princess was in a time machine and I was to see her now, I would tell her to lay off the fat, take plenty of exercise, then schedule her for heart surgery. She would require a double bypass.”
Normally, a mummy’s internal organs and heart are removed as part of the mummification process, but CT scans of the princess and other mummies from the Egyptian museum revealed calcification at organ sites that indicate artery damage.
In combination with the CT scan results, a medical text that dates back to around 1550/1580 B.C. (when the princess lived) describes the symptoms of chest and arm pain that precede severe or fatal heart attacks.
And while the ancient Egyptians didn’t have many of the modern risk factors available to them that we tend to associate with heart disease and atherosclerosis (ie. smoking, obesity, trans-fatty foods, diabetes), royal persons like the Princess Ahmose were members of the elite… and therefore more prone to developing heart disease than the average ancient Egyptian.
Adel Allam, professor of cardiology at Al Azhar University in Egypt, commented that “even the very poor people would eat a lot of pork, and the bread became mixed with honey. If ordinary people at this time did get a lot of carbohydrates and fat in their diets, then of course the elite would have got even more unhealthy food.”
In fact, some previous studies have revealed evidence for diabetes in ancient Egypt, despite being often thought of as a modern disease. Medical papyri written by ancient physicians refer occasionally to diabetes symptoms in their patients.
Additional research is being done on the princess and the other mummies, however, because there may also be a genetic element involved in who developed atherosclerosis—as well as the possibility that it can be brought on by chronic inflammation through an ongoing immune system response (ie. autoimmune condition).
Princess Ahmose, sadly, was known to have suffered arthritis and joint inflammation, as well as from dental disease—all which may have been a result of poor diet, thereby contributing the the development of atherosclerosis and bringing about her early demise
Oh, those Egyptians. They have so many beautiful tomb paintings, papyrus scrolls full of art, and sculptures, and look at all those lovely people holding beautiful white and blue flowers… they must really love their flowers. Who wouldn’t, right?
But, wait… why are they all holding the flowers to their noses and mouths? Surely everyone wasn’t sniffing their flowers all the time, were they?
Actually, maybe they were, but probably not for the reason you think. Rather, they were likely, uh… getting high.
However, first it’s worthwhile to mention that the blue lotus isn’t actually a lotus. It’s a water lily, but we’ll be using the word “lotus” for the sake of convenience and familiarity. This particular flower was closely linked with the rising & setting sun for the ancient Egyptians, and was the flower belonging to the god of the sun and perfume, Nefertem.
Apparently, Nefertem brought a blue lotus to the sun god Ra in order to help “ease the suffering of his aging body.” The perfume of the flower was thought to have a healing quality, so the Egyptians liked to sniff it at parties, when they felt they needed healing, or as part of rituals… however, the exact details on this are still under debate.
Some studies were done on the blue lotus to see if it had any psychotropic or narcotic effects, and conclusions were a little shaky—one thought was that the flower was infused with wine to change its chemical content, and after a period of fermentation, the wine would be drunk. However, the lack of a control group meant the results were unreliable, so it remains unknown if this theory holds any weight.
That said, it seems fairly well accepted that the blue lotus has a somewhat hypnotic effect at low doses, along with being a mild stimulant for the libido.
Whether used for perfume, for healing, just to get high, or to get one’s mojo back, the ancient Egyptians definitely had a use for the flower… there’s a reason it shows up in their artwork so often!
Recent excavations at Luxor’s west bank in Egypt have uncovered a previously undiscovered collection of black granite statues that depict the ancient Egyptian goddess Sekhmet in her lioness form. The excavation is part of an ongoing project at King Amenhotep III’s funerary temple at Kom Al-Hittan.
These aren’t the first statues from the funerary temple, either—the Egyptian-European project (led by German Egyptologist Horig Sourouzian) has uncovered 64 other statues of Sekhmet in a variety of shapes and sizes.
And typical to depictions of Sekhmet, the goddess is depicted in the new collection of statues with a human body and the head of a lioness, and sitting on a throne.
Finding so many statues of Sekhmet at this one location says a lot about the temple and the time period. The goddess played an important role during the 18th Dynasty, particularly during the reign of Tutankhamun’s grandfather, King Amenhotep III.
According to Egypt’s minister of state for antiquities, “some Egyptologists believe that King Amenhotep constructed a large number of goddess Sekhmets in an attempt to cure him of a specific disease that he suffered during his reign.” Although the goddess is best known for her aspect as goddess of war and destruction, she was also considered to have the ability to cure serious diseases.
Of the new statues found, they’re considered “very well preserved”, and one of the figure is over two meters tall!
And apparently this wasn’t the only place the lioness goddess held sway—on Luxor’s east bank, the temple of the goddess Mut also held numerous Sekhmet statues. The west bank temple, according to Luxor’s supervisor of antiquities, was a “symbol of stability and prosperity” during King Amenhotep III’s reign.
…or maybe he just really liked lions.
Ramses II, more popularly known as Ramses the Great, was not one to rest on the laurels of such a gaudy title. As the man known to be the greatest pharaoh in Egyptian history, he earned not only a pretty nifty nickname, but also enjoyed the- ahem- “spoils” of such a position, having eight royal wives over his long life but as many as 200 concubines.
Somehow, even with all of those ladies in his life, Ramses the Great actually found time to rule over his kingdom. He did so for longer than any other Egyptian pharaoh, as he ascended to the throne in his early 20s and lived to be either 90 or 91 years old, depending on which scholar you ask. Ramses’ reign was so long that it was not his first son that would eventually take over for him, but his thirteenth, Mereneptah.
In fact, his long list of royal wives was not so much due to the fact that Ramses was a ladies’ man and more of a simple reality for a person who lived several decades longer than many people would back in ancient Egypt. Ramses the Great actually fathered over 110 children, not counting the “unofficial” children (to put it nicely) that he undoubtedly fathered with all of those concubines.
Aside from having enough children with different women to make an NBA All-Star blush, Ramses also was a part of many other historical events, possibly the most important of which was the second battle of Kadesh.
During a battle which Ramses was highly praised for (he embellished a bit on the outcome to his subjects), Ramses actually had to settle for a draw, which led to the historic agreement. Over 5,000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers fought in the huge battle in what is now Jordan, and though Ramses would prefer that we remember it as a dominant victory for his charges, Ramses still managed to set up the first recorded peace treaty in history, which is quite a groundbreaking accomplishment in its own right.
As much as Ramses wanted to be known as a great leader on the battlefield, his real passion seemed to be in architecture, as some of his works (most famously The Great Temples at Abu Simbel) astonish visitors to this day with their majesty and scope. Ramses’ signature was the large scale of his monuments and temples, as he was always concerned with ensuring that his legacy would be secure for thousands of years to come.
Unfortunately, when Ramses passed away after about 90 years of life, the riches and stature that he had helped Egypt gain could not last long without him. None of the pharaohs that followed him approached his greatness, and the Egyptian empire fell not even 150 years after the passing of Ramses the Great. Today, his mummy can be found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.