10 Fascinating Facts About Hygiene In Ancient Egypt

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10 Fascinating Facts About Hygiene In Ancient Egypt



Research of ancient civilization evidently demonstrates that the Egyptians were well ahead of their time. The following cases not only demonstrate the ingenious innovations of a primordial society but their remarkably immaculate and admirable hygiene.

10The Breath Mint


Hesi-Re is credited as being the world’s first dentist, serving under pharaoh Djoser around 1600 BC during the Third Dynasty of Egypt. However, the first evidence of dentistry dates back to 3000 BC with the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, a manual with detailed instructions on how to cure wounds in the mouth.

It was during this time that the dawn of minor dental surgery was performed, slowly paving a way to more complex procedures such as pulling teeth and drilling out cavities. For those whose breath smelled as bad as the armpits of the lower class, honey was combined with boiled herbs and spices, such as cinnamon and myrrh, to form pellets which were then used as breath mints.




The Egyptians had their share of struggles when it came to warding off vermin and parasites. In an effort to rid themselves of head lice, men, women and children would shave their heads, while priests would shave their entire body every other day so that “no lice or any other foul thing may come to be upon them when they minister to the gods.”

While shaving would be temporarily effective, other remedies pertaining to repellents were questionable. For instance, a warm potion of date meal and water was believed to drive away fleas and lice. To keep mice from clothing, cats’ fat would be smeared “on everything possible.” One formula that perhaps was of value was sprinkling a solution of natron water, containing salt, in one’s home to eliminate and repel fleas.



Photo credit: GoShow /Wikimedia

While anthropologists disagree on the origins of circumcision, it is certain that the ritual was practiced in Egypt as far back as 4000 BC. Mass circumcision ceremonies would take place primarily in the upper classes, being recognized as both a puberty rite as well as for the sake of cleanliness.

Although this comes as no surprise given that circumcision has been practiced by various religions spanning thousands of years, what is surprising is that some anthropologists argue that the procedure arose as amark of defilement or slavery. In fact, captured warriors in ancient Egypt suffered amputation of digits as well as castration, however, such mutilation would often result in death. Therefore, slaves would be forced to undergo circumcision given that the procedure was viewed as a sufficiently humiliating compromise.




Photo credit: Thiry/Wikimedia

It’s not hard to imagine that anyone living prior to the 20th century was a tad malodorous, and to date, the struggle continues for many. The Egyptians, who are often credited for developing the first deodorant, tried to find a respite from their pungent odors with the help of a variety of spices such as citrus and cinnamon.

By mixing and grounding numerous fragrances, including the flowering evergreen shrubs of a carob tree, they were able to mold natural deodorant pellets that they stored in their armpits. In addition, they shaved their underarm hair upon realizing that it decreased their harsh scent. The ancient Greeks are said to have copied the Egyptians underarm application of perfume, but it would not be until the late 18th century when sweat glands were discovered that the link between body odor and perspiration was understood.

6Ancient Recipes


Photo credit: Diliff /Wikimedia

Two thousand years before Hesi-Re was credited as being the world’s first dentist, the Egyptians as well as the Babylonians were making their own version of a toothbrush by fraying the ends of twigs. These “toothsticks” were discovered in tombs beside the mummified remains of their owners dating back to 3500 BC. What’s even more astonishing is that 1,500 years prior to this, Egyptians were using a paste to clean their teeth.

In the National Library in Vienna, Austria lies a collection of papyrus documents containing the world’s oldest-known recipe for toothpaste. The formula, which consists of dried iris flower, salt, pepper, and mint, are described as being ahead of its time given that iris is an effective agent against gum disease. Surprisingly, researchers have only recently discovered iris’s beneficial properties validating the innovative brilliance of the ancient Egyptians.

5The Tombs


The attention the Egyptians devoted to their appearance is evident from the contents of their tombs. Dating as far back as the Old Kingdom to the Late Period, hair implements as well as entire cosmetic sets were buried with their rightful owner as if to serve a purpose in the afterlife.

Such accessories, for example, included ornate hairpins and wide-tooth combs made of ivory and silver. Bronze tweezers to shape the eyebrows and gold razors were also found in abundance. Highly polished copper mirrors with intricate elegant handles were placed under the heads of the deceased or in front of their face waiting to be discovered centuries later.


4Preventative Medicine


Preventative medicine was just as important to the Egyptians as every other measure they took to maintain their health and avert the spread of disease. They primarily focused on their diet as a means to improve their wellbeing.

For example, the Egyptians fed their laborers a diet rich in onion, garlic, and radish to secure the production of their magnificent monuments. The benefit is that these vegetables are extremely rich in allistatin, allicin, and raphanin which are powerful antibiotics that aided in the prevention of disease in crowded working conditions. To cure night blindness, doctors fed their patients powdered liver, which is rich in Vitamin A, a vital nutrient for vision.

3Eye Makeup


Alluring eye makeup that has become an epitome of ancient Egyptian glamour served more of a purpose than sheer vanity. Upon analyzing 52 samples from makeup containers preserved in the Louvre museum, scientists found that much of the lead-based substances used in Egyptian cosmetics boosted nitric oxide “by up to 240% in cultured human skin cells.” The importance is that nitric oxide is a key signaling agent in the body, enhancing the immune system to help fight disease. This is of particular importance in tropical marshy areas such as the Nile where eye infections ran rampant.

Researchers noted that two of the compounds recently discovered do not occur naturally. The Egyptians deliberately synthesized and used particular eye cosmetics to help prevent or treat diseases of the eye.

2Prescriptions And Medical Knowledge


According to the Ebers Medical Papyrus, which dates back to 1500 BC, the Egyptians formed a soap-like material using alkaline salts in addition to vegetable and animals fats. This substance was not only used for washing but aided in treating skin diseases as well.

In fact, the Ebers Papyrus includes 877 prescriptions as well as the earliest documented awareness of tumors. This comes as no surprise—the medicine of the ancient Egyptians has been regarded as some of the oldest documented medical records to date. As Homer who remarked in The Odyssey circa 800 BC, “The Egyptians were skilled on medicine more than any other art.”

1Female Physicians


In a time where women were highly objectified and limited in terms of freedom of choice, the Egyptians differed from other societies in that the educated were entitled to study any field of their choosing. Female physicians primarily pursued obstetrics, and this field, in particular, used a variety of concoctions that are not only fascinating but quite puzzling as to how they came about.

For instance, the earliest-known pregnancy test was derived by the Egyptians using barley and emmer (wheat). What they would do is moisten the grains with a sample of urine each day, and if neither the barley nor emmer grew, than that indicated that the woman was not pregnant. The test was quite effective given that urine of non-pregnant women inhibited the growth, a test validated by modern science.

Adam is just a hubcap trying to hold on in the fast lane.

10 Inspiring Stories Of Lifesaving Civilian Heroes

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10 Inspiring Stories Of Lifesaving Civilian Heroes



The average person probably thinks they would be useless in a crisis situation and assumes heroism needs to be left to the trained professionals. Perhaps that’s as it should be to avoid lots of would-be heroes getting in over their heads. But in the following cases, humanity is richer for the fact that people stepped up and took matters into their own hands.

10Bernard Kinvi

War And Poverty Fuel Conflict In Central African Republic

Since 2013, the Central African Republic has been ravaged by a civil war between the Muslim Seleka movement and the Christian anti-balaka (“anti-machete”) militias. Both sides have committed massacres and other atrocities, killing thousands and driving hundreds of thousands from their homes.

So Father Bernard Kinvi was putting himself at great risk when he began sheltering wounded Christians and Muslims alike at his small mission hospital in Bossemptele. The danger became even greater when the Seleka were ousted in January 2014 and the anti-balaka began converging in force on his community as part of their mission to wipe out the country’s Muslims once and for all.

Over the course of several months, Kinvi gave sanctuary to thousands of Muslim refugees at his mission, despite constant threats from the anti-balaka. At one point there were 1,500 Muslims under his protection. Kinvi also made regular trips to look for hidden refugees or bury bodies, despite the fact that he didn’t even have access to a car of his own (the Seleka had stolen it on their way out). There were occasional truck convoys that took Muslims to safety, but otherwise he received little official aid and often had to feed the refugees from his own stores.

The majority of the refugees in his care were evacuated by April 2014, and violence in the area has significantly abated. But, as Kinvi has stated in interviews, continued tensions mean that conflict could break out again at any time.


9Yukio Shige


Photo credit: 663highland

“Chotto Matte Man” (“Hold On, Wait Man”) might sound like an unusual hero, but Yukio Shige has done immense good with those simple words. In 2003, the soon-to-be retired police officer from Tojinbo, Japan was finishing one of his last shifts when he came upon a couple planning to kill themselves by leaping off the Tojinbo cliffs because they were in a terrible financial position. Shige was able to dissuade them from jumping to their deaths and attempted to get them aid through the public welfare office. Tragically, the couple could not get any financial assistance and ultimately hanged themselves. After that, Shige became determined to prevent further suicides, dedicating his retirement to helping those in need.

At the head of a group of volunteers, Shige now patrols the Tojinbo cliffs in search of potential jumpers. Rather than physically restrain them, the group’s methods mostly involve attempting to engage the suicidal in conversation and encourage them to work through their problems instead of ending their lives. Since suicide attempts are often impulsive acts, this thoughtful approach had been successful in preventing 500 suicides by 2009. Unfortunately, Shige says that some of the people his group dissuaded from plummeting to their deaths went on to end their lives elsewhere. Combating suicide can be dispiriting work, but Shige isn’t giving up any time soon.

8Paxton Galvanek

On November 23, 2007, Paxton Galvanek and his wife were driving down I-40 in North Carolina when they saw an SUV overturn and catch fire. Leaving his wife to call 911, Galvanek raced to remove the trapped passengers from their burning vehicle. After getting everyone to safety, Galvanek noticed that the SUV’s driver was bleeding profusely due to two severed fingers.

With no formal medical training to draw on, Galvanek remembered medical simulators from the video game America’s Army, which had explained the procedure for dealing with severe bleeding. Since the game was designed as a recruiting tool by the US Army, the medical simulator was based on actual combat medic training and his experience playing the game allowed Galvanek to prevent the driver from bleeding out.

Although many media outlets focused on the video game aspect, let’s not lose sight of how brave it was to run to a burning vehicle to rescue horribly injured passengers in the first place.


7Didar Hossain


Photo credit: Flickr/Rijans007

In May 2013, Didar Hossain was a line worker making around $70 a month when the nine-story Rana Plaza factory building collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The collapse killed hundreds of people and trapped dozens more. Hossain, who worked in a factory directly opposite Rana Plaza, raced to help the survivors. Against the warnings of everyone else present, he found a tunnel in the rubble and used it to enter the collapsed building and look for stranded workers. He carried 17 people to safety before encountering Aana Akhter, a young woman whose right hand had been crushed beneath the rubble.

The only way to get Akhter to safety was to amputate the hand, but a doctor refused to go into the collapsed building, meaning Hossain had to carry out the procedure himself. He obtained an anesthetic injection, which partially numbed Akhter’s hand, but the blade he had to use was rather dull and Akhter naturally began screaming and crying. Soon, Hossain was crying as well.

Ultimately, Hossain saved Akhter’s life by removing her hand. He then continued to search through the collapsed building until he had carried a total of 36 people to safety. Afterward, all the untrained rescuer had to say about his heroism was that he was “an ordinary person” and that he was glad to be able to help. When he met with Akhter in the hospital, he apologized to her for the pain he had caused her. She rebuffed it, saying that if anything she was sorry for the hardship he had endured in saving her.

6The Muslim Heroes Of The Holocaust


Photo credit: Yad Vashem

During World War II, many Muslims found themselves under the control of Germany and its allies, and quite a few worked to protect their Jewish neighbors from persecution. In Yugoslavia, Ahmed Sadik, his daughter Zejneba (pictured above right), and his son-in-law Mustafa hid Jewish families in their homes until they could be smuggled to safety. Zejneba also brought food to Jewish work gangs while Ahmed successfully pulled Jewish friends of his off a train to a concentration camp and provided them with false papers that saved their lives. Sadly, Ahmed was caught and sent to Jasenovac concentration camp, where he died. He went to the camp on the same train he had saved his friends from.

Albanian Muslims Lima and Destan Balla sheltered 18 Jews in their home for a time, even secretly delivering a baby for one of the fugitives. The Grand Mosque of Paris is estimated to have saved around 100 Jews by providingfalse documents claiming they were Muslims. In 2013, an Egyptian doctor named Mohamed Helmy became the first Arab to be honored in Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, for his actions in hiding four Jews at his cabin near Berlin until the end of the war.

5Lou Xiaoying

While most of the stories on this list involve a single dramatic situation, the heroism of Lou Xiaoying took a very different form. China has an ongoing problem with infant abandonment and the impoverished Xiaoying has stepped up to care for every abandoned child she could.

It all started in 1972, when Xiaoying and her husband found an abandoned child in a local train station in Jinhua, Zhejiang Province. Even though the couple were in such desperate straits that they were scavenging through garbage on the station floor at the time, they took the child to raise as their own. Since then, the couple have rescued more than 30 abandoned babies, although 12 tragically died in infancy.

It’s truly awful that the Xiayongs had to save so many children from such dire circumstances. In January 2013, official figures estimated that there were around 615,000 orphans or abandoned children in China, yet only around 109,000 received government care.


4Minnie Vautrin


Photo credit: discipleshistory.org

In December 1937, Japanese troops captured the Chinese city of Nanking. The events that followed would become known as the Rape of Nanking, as hundreds of thousands of Chinese people were executed or sexually assaulted. Things could have been even worse if several foreigners in Nanking hadn’t worked to protect the locals. Among them was Minnie Vautrin.

Vautrin was an American immigrant from Illinois who had been president of Nanking’s Ginling College since 1919. When the massacres started, she declared the college a civilian safety zone and more than 10,000 women eventually sought shelter there. On many occasions, Vautrin was the only thing that stood between the soldiers and their intended victims, often having guns waved in her face. Unfortunately, even though she saved the lives of countless people, Vautrin’s experience of the massacres had a profound impact on her and she later committed suicide.

Minnie Vautrin’s heroism has often been overshadowed, since one of her collaborators in Nanking was the heroic Nazi party member John Rabe, and the image of a Nazi saving the lives of thousands has attracted more attention than the actions of an American woman. Even the 2009 film about the Rape of Nanking decided to change her name and make her character French while focusing on Rabe’s actions.

3Mohammad Salman Hamdani

The son of Pakistani immigrants, Hamdani was a former police cadet and trained emergency medical technician. In 2001, he was a lab analyst at Rockefeller University’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute. On September 11, he was one of the first responders to the attack on the World Trade Center, although he was not acting in an official capacity. Sadly, this heroism ended up costing him his life, and it would take months before his remains were found beneath the rubble. Unfortunately, due to his name, suspicion was immediately cast on him following his disappearance. Immediately after the attack, law enforcement circulated his photograph with the words “hold and detain” written underneath it.

It wasn’t until some time after his confirmed death that Hamdani was cleared of suspicion. Eventually, the government acknowledged their mistake enough that his name was listed in the legislation for the Patriot Act as someone who had acted heroically during the attacks and a street name was changed in his honor. Still, his family reports that it has proven difficult to have his name listed on 9/11 memorials.

2Shail Devi

In January 2015, a young Hindu man was found dead in the eastern Indian village of Azizpur. It was suspected that he had been murdered because of an affair with a Muslim woman. In response, local Hindus launched an anti-Muslim riot. At least four Muslims were killed, three of them burned to death.

Shail Devi, a Hindu widow in her fifties, was begged for shelter by a group of her Muslim neighbors. She allowed them entry into her thatched house, hid them in a corner room, and then locked the front door from the outside. This left her exposed to a heavily armed mob searching for the hiding Muslims. Somehow, Devi found the courage to bluff her way through the situation, persuading the mob to leave her alone because she was a Hindu. For saving 10 Muslims, Devi was awarded 51,000 rupees (roughly $800) by the Indian government, while her daughters each received 20,000.

1Lassana Bathily

On January 12, 2015, wannabe Isis member Amedy Coulibaly entered a Parisian kosher market and killed four people. He likely would have killed many more were it not for a Malian Muslim immigrant named Lassana Bathily, who acted quickly to hide more than a dozen customers in the basement freezer. They stayed there for several hours while Coulibaly engaged in a standoff with the police, having closed the door and window shutters.

Eventually, Bathily snuck out of the building to get word to the police, escaping alone through a fire escape since more people leaving would likely be detected. Similar to Mohammad Hamdani, he was initially suspected of being another perpetrator and was placed under arrest for 90 minutes, even as he delivered the police a shutter key that would allow them to quickly enter the building and kill Coulibaly before he could discover any of the hidden customers.

Dustin Koski is no civilian hero, but here’s his YouTube channel anyway.

10 Bizarre Tales Of Dead Soldiers Turning Up Alive

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10 Bizarre Tales Of Dead Soldiers Turning Up Alive



War is often a confusing mess where soldiers are killed or taken prisoner. In many cases, they’re left unaccounted for and disappear from history. While most soldiers who are declared dead will never be seen again, some have been found alive years after their “deaths.”

10Mateo Sabog

In 1970, Master Sergeant Mateo Sabog was preparing to return to the United States from Vietnam. He was supposed to head from Saigon to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but he never showed. The Army only learned of his disappearance when his brother, Kenneth, wrote a letter asking about his whereabouts in 1973. Sabog was believed to be a deserter, but a second letter from Kenneth caused the Army to declare him dead in 1979.

Then, in 1996, Sabog reappeared seemingly out of nowhere. It seems that he simply walked away from the military and began living with a woman in California. After her death, he applied for social security, revealing his identity. Still considered active military, Sabog briefly became the oldest serving soldier until returning to his family. His only remark was, “I’m sorry.” He died in Hawaii in 2007.


9Bakhretdin Khakimov


Photo credit: Alexander Lawrentjew via The Guardian

The complicated conflict between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan in the 1980s ended in both bloodshed and confusion. One victim of the war was Bakhretdin Khakimov, a native Uzbek who was believed to have died in 1980 after being seriously wounded.

After his official “death,” Khakimov was apparently treated with herbs by a medicine man. Khakimov eventually became a medicine healer himself, going by the name of Sheikh Abdullah. He later married an Afghan woman and lived through the US invasion in 2001.

Khakimov was found by the Committee for International Soldiers in 2013—33 years after his “death.” While he remembered his family, he couldn’t speak Russian very well and still had nervous tics relating to his time in the Red Army. Otherwise, Khakimov was fine despite his long disappearance.

8John T. Downey


Photo credit: United Press International via The New York Times

In 1952, John T. Downey was serving with the CIA, gathering information during the Korean War. When he and another agent flew a mission over Manchuria to rescue an intelligence contact, they were shot down after the contact double-crossed them. Downey, though he wasn’t in the military, would become the United States’ longest-held POW.

Downey, presumed dead, was held prisoner by the Chinese for 20 years. The Chinese first announced that he was held captive in 1954, when he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was held in solitary confinement for long stretches of time, as long as six years.

In 1973, Richard Nixon personally intervened and had Downey returned to the US. Downey was given the CIA’s highest awards afterward but didn’t want be known as a prisoner. He would go on to graduate from Harvard Law and work as a public servant until his death in 2014.


7Teruo Nakamura

Teruo Nakamura was conscript from Taiwan who was stationed on the island of Morotai when the Allied forces attacked in 1945. Nakamura and a few other Japanese soldiers hid in Morotai’s jungles . . . and never learned of Japan’s surrender.

After an argument, Nakamura left his group in 1956 and lived almost entirely alone. He built a hut and lived off whatever crops he grew along with supplies he stole from a nearby village. Villagers tried to tell him about Japan’s surrender, but he wouldn’t budge.

In February 1974, another holdout named Hiroo Onada was found and returned to civilization. In December, Nakamura, too, would return after a platoon of Indonesian soldiers dressed in Japanese uniforms pretended to rescue him. He returned to Taiwan as the last official Japanese holdout and died in 1979.

6Surjeet Singh


Photo credit: Reuters via the International Business Times

In 1981, Surjeet Singh left India, not to return for 30 years. His family never knew what happened to him and presumed him dead. Surjeet was alive but being held prisoner in Pakistan. He was a spy who was sent to Pakistan, but after he was caught, India denied the mission.

In 1985, Surjeet was sentenced to death, but after pleading for mercy, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was allowed no communication and was kept in isolation. In 2004, Surjeet was allowed to mail a letter to his family to inform them that he was alive.

Finally, in 2012, he was allowed to return to India, where he freely admitted to being a spy and criticized the Indian government. For restitution, the government provided him with funds to improve his family farm. Surjeet has become an advocate for other Indians still held in Pakistan.

5Lee Soon-Sang


Photo credit: CNN

Lee Soon-sang fought in the Korean War and was captured in 1953, just two days before the armistice was signed. For the next three and a half years, he would be held as a POW before being forced to work in North Korea’s brutal Aoji coal mines. Lee gave up hope of ever seeing his wife and family again; he was even led to believe that his wife was dead. He remarried, but he never forgot about his old family.

In 2004, a “broker”—someone who smuggles people back and forth from North Korea—told Lee that his wife was in China and that he should get money from her and return with it to North Korea. Lee had amassed a small fortune of $150 from selling cigarettes and gave it to his North Korean family before returning to his first wife. She was shocked that Lee was alive, but they nevertheless resumed their relationship. Lee wouldn’t return to North Korea again and has refused to speak about his old life.


4Ishinosuke Uwano


Photo credit: Efrem Luaktsky via NBC News

In 1958, Ishinosuke Uwano was stationed at Russia’s distant Sakhalin Island and went missing for decades. His family had him declared dead in 2000. Little did they know that Uwano was actually alive far away in an unlikely part of the world. In 2006, Uwano was discovered alive, living in Ukraine.

Most of his circumstances from 1958 to 2006 remain murky, but it seems that in 1965, he went to Kiev and wasn’t permitted by the Soviet Union to contact his family in Japan. He married and started a family after assuming Ukrainian citizenship and giving up any hope of returning to his home country.

Officials searching for missing soldiers in the former Soviet Union were shocked to find Uwano alive. He was allowed to return to his family, whom he visited after being separated all those years. Although he was happy to be home, he chose to return to Ukraine, where he had built his own life.

3The Soldier In The Forest


Photo credit: NTV via BBC News

In 2015, an unnamed Russian solder, who had long been presumed dead, was found alive over a decade after he had disappeared in 2004 and in a most unusual place. The soldier had been stationed in the remote Kamchatka Peninsula after being conscripted due to “family problems.” After his family mistakenly identified another dead body as his own, he was declared dead, and the family even buried the body.

The soldier actually built a crude shelter for himself in Kamchatka’s vast forests and worked odd jobs to survive. He was only found after residents told authorities about a “suspicious inhabitant” living in the woods. He was met with confusion more than anything else after being gone for 11 years. He was treated with leniency due to the amount of time that had passed and because his issue was believed to be “psychological.”

2Andras Toma


Photo credit: Talan Csaba via Media for Change

In 2001, Andras Toma returned to his home in Hungary after having been missing for 55 years. His ordeal began during the waning years of World War II, when he was captured by the Soviet Army in 1944 after being conscripted into the joint Hungarian/German army. He was taken to a prison camp near Leningrad in 1945.

In 1947, the camp closed down. Toma, who spoke little Russian, was taken to a psychiatric hospital, where he would be forgotten for over half a century. When he was finally discovered, Toma was elderly and toothless, with only vague memories of his old life.

There were no records to guide investigators, so they could do nothing but listen to Toma’s memories. Over 80 families claimed him as a missing relative. Enough information was gathered to lead him back to his village in Hungary, where he was immediately recognized by his family.

1Ho Van Thanh


Photo credit: Alvaro Cerezo via the International Business Times

Ho Van Thanh’s story has almost no parallel. During the time he was thought to be dead, he was accompanied by his son, Lang. Thanh served with the Vietnamese army, but when his village was bombed in 1972, he took his year-old son and fled deep into the jungle. Thanh thought the rest of his family was dead and remained vigilant, believing the war never ended. He raised Lang with no contact with the outside world.

One of Thanh’s other children actually survived—a son named Tri. After hearing about a pair of jungle men, Tri went looking for them. A decade before they left the woods, Tri made contact. Lang (pictured above) took to him quickly, while a declining Thanh didn’t believe Tri was his son. At 82, Thanh’s health forced him to return to civilization in 2013, bearing an incredible story of survival unlike any other.

Gordon Gora is a struggling author who is desperately trying to make it. He is working on several projects but until he finishes one, he will write for Listverse for his bread and butter. You can write him at gordongora21@gmail.com.