10 Amazing Ancient Businesses Discovered By Archaeologists

Post 8313

10 Amazing Ancient Businesses Discovered By Archaeologists



Too many times, the idea floats that commerce in the past wasn’t as interesting as it is today. Archaeologists beg to differ. There’s nothing like stumbling upon an ancient business and seeing the tools a surgeon held, how wine was made, or even ancient customers who took shelter. Even better, newly discovered workshops reveal mysterious products, enigmatic peoples, and technology more advanced than anything seen before.


10The Pompeii Shop

Pompeii Shop Bones

A group of customers went shopping in AD 79 and never made it out of the shop alive. The infamous volcanic eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius hit the shop near the outskirts of Pompeii and overwhelmed them. In 2016, a mixed team of French and Italian archaeologists rediscovered the unlucky patrons, among them a teenage girl, while excavating the Herculaneum port. The other people who died there were also young. In addition to their remains, the diggers found gold coins and a gold necklace pendant that somehow got overlooked by looters.

While investigating the shop, researchers found telltale signs that somebody ransacked the business during the disaster, looking for things to steal. What product or service was sold at the shop is not entirely clear. However, it appeared to have been some sort of workshop with an oven, possibly to forge objects made of bronze. The same dig uncovered a second shop with a well and a spiral staircase, but researchers are presently at a loss about what type of business was conducted at the site.

9The Flint Factory

Bulgarian Flint Artifacts

In 2016, archaeologists were shoveling beneath an abandoned kindergarten in Bulgaria. When they found flint, it didn’t take them long to realize that the different-sized pieces meant a lot of tool-shaping once occurred there in antiquity. The more they looked, the more the scope of the factory became apparent. This wasn’t just a hearth around which a few people had gathered and chipped some tools for themselves. It was literally a production line manned by individuals specialized in different aspects of product creation.

Ancient employees toiled 6,500 years ago and mass-produced items such as flint knives. Moreover, experts believe that this was a prehistoric exporting business. No completed tools were found. The only signs of stone were flint cores, chips, and weapons in different stages of production—but none that were finished. This supports the idea that as soon as a knife or ax was done (or a whole batch of them), they were moved elsewhere to be sold. Another interesting discovery at the factory was a grave dating back to the same time it was still in use. Inside was a man clasping a stone ax scepter.


8Nonstick Frying Pans

Nonstick Roman Cookware

A first-century Roman cookbook called De Re Coquinaria mentionedcookware that nobody could find. Called Cumanae testae or Cumanae patellae, these nonstick wonders were described by the author as best suited for cooking chicken stew. In 1975, archaeologist Giuseppe Pucci suggested that a brand of ceramics called Pompeian Red Ware was theCumanae described in the ancient cookbook.

Backup for his theory arrived in 2016, when a trash site near Naples produced 2,000-year-old pottery fragments. Nearly 50,000 pieces of pots, lids, and frying pans were recovered. Just like Pompeian Red Ware, most were coated with a red-slip layer on the inside to prevent food from burning to the bottom. The fragments at the dump site were likely freshly made wares that didn’t make the cut or broke during production. What supports Pucci’s claim is the fact that the city of Cumae, which gave the mysterious kitchen utensils their name, was located just 19 kilometers (12 mi) from Naples. The city once mass-produced and exported pottery to places as far-flung as Africa as well as across Europe and the Mediterranean.

7The Naxos Mine

Naxos Stone Tools

Photo credit: Kate Leonard

A prehistoric workshop was discovered in 2013 on the Greek island of Naxos. The extraordinary thing was that it appeared to have been in use for thousands of years. Also, it wasn’t owned by modern humans. Earlier hominids had passed something on to each successive generation, something critical for survival: the location of a seemingly endless supply of chert. The valuable stone was necessary for the creation of tools and weapons. On Naxos was essentially a 118-meter-high (387 ft) hill consisting almost entirely of the sought-after raw material. Called Stelida, the site was first discovered in 1981 by a survey on the northwestern coast of the island.

The 2013 excavations found the rubble left behind by toolmakers who mined the hill from the Paleolithic era right through to the Mesolithic. There was also ample evidence that tools and weapons were created at the site, although none have been found so far. The discovery could also change how researchers piece together human migration. This area of Greece is now being studied as previously unknown route that early humans took to spread from Asia to Europe.

6The Galilee Kiln

Shlomi Kiln

The ancient world needed places to manufacture ceramic, and Galilee was no different. However, one pot workshop found in the modern-day town of Shlomi is unique. Found in 2016, what made it so special was its industrial oven. Unlike other kilns made of stone or even mud, this one was cut straight into the bedrock. Archaeologists found that the geology of the area likely accounted for this unusual firing pit. The region had a chalky type of bedrock that was soft enough to be shaped into the desired form while resistant enough to endure the heat of the pottery-making process.

The shop was active around 1,600 years ago, during Roman times. By studying the ceramic remains in the double-chambered kiln, it was determined that the owners focused mainly on storage jars and containers designed to hold oil and wine. One box was used to feed a fire with branches and tinder, while the other chamber was used to harden the clay.


5Foundry Complex

Lake Baikal Foundry

Photo credit: Artur Kharinsky

A happy accident occurred in 2016 when a group of people headed toward a sightseeing area on Lake Baikal in Siberia. Many tourists had trampled this route before, but these weren’t just any visitors. Noticing the slag and clay on the path, the trained eyes of the archaeology party quickly realized that something was up—or more like down. Soon, a medieval foundry was unearthed. Used to make weapons, the complex was highly advanced and professional. A pair of rare, ancient stone furnaces were once part of a skilled metallurgic operation that churned out weapons, metal parts for horse tack, clothing, and even sickles.

The Baikal region has a rich history of working with metal and exporting the excess. However, the new foundry, which dates to around AD 1000, shows a level of technology that’s a step above anything the experts have ever seen before. The location was well-chosen, high on a hill, in order to harness the wind to help with the combustion process. The ancient blacksmiths may have been the Kurykan people, who were known for their expert metallurgic abilities.

4The Glass Community

Polish Glassmaking Fragments

Photo credit: T. Gralak

In prehistoric Poland, an isolated community left behind a fascinating part of their identity. Apart from a few houses, artifacts found on Mount Grojec in 2017 showed that they were glassmakers. There were no completed items that might have placed them instead as glass buyers, but there were artistic blunders, slag (melted waste glass), and half-glass, ready to be heated and shaped. The only finished product found were small beads.

The discovery of the 2,000-year-old factory is an important one for Polish history. Not only is this probably the oldest glass workshop found in the country, but it’s also the only proof that glass processing occurred in Poland much earlier than the Middle Ages, which is when conventional thought believes the craft blossomed. There are numerous furnaces at the small village, and some were for forging metal as well. The pieces of raw glass were of particular interest. The half-processed material was acquired from somewhere, but researchers aren’t sure who the suppliers were. It’s not even certain who the villagers were.

3Christian Winery

Israel Winery

In 2013, a Byzantine-era wine factory was discovered in Israel. Located near the archaeological site of Hamei Yo’av, the ruins covered enough area to indicate that the residents of the settlement produced wine on a large scale. Spanning over 100 square meters (1,100 ft2), the complex consisted of sections where grapes were dumped after being delivered to the factory. The fruit was probably also left to ferment in these compartments. In the middle was a vast floor constructed at a sloping angle to allow the juice from pressed grapes to flow into holding vats.

Archaeologists believe that besides producing the best wine they could, the workers turned grape waste into secondary products, such as vinegar and a less refined “pauper’s wine.” The owner might also have been Christian. One of the artifacts found at the wine press was a small ceramic lamp fashioned in the shape of a church. The hollow artifact was carved with crosses that would glow once a flame was lit on the inside.

2The Surgeon’s Room

Cyrpus Surgical Tools

Photo credit: E. Papuci-Wladyka

When archaeologists cleared away ancient earthquake rubble in Cyprus in 2017, they found what they believe to be a doctor’s office. Found near the city square of Nea Paphos, it had several rooms. In one of them, the team found a glass unguentarium in mint condition. Such bottles were used to store liquids like oils, perfumes, and medicines. But the best discovery was a surgeon’s 2,000-year-old tools.

The surgical instruments were all made from metal. One was iron, and the other five were bronze. They included a long, narrow spoon, pliers, and devices most likely used to set a patient’s broken bones. Like the bottle, the set was well-preserved. Coins found in a second room roughly date to the time when a big earthquake hit Nea Paphos in AD 126, collapsing the building that housed the doctor’s office as well as other businesses. The debris was never cleared away or replaced with anything else, which helped to seal the artifacts away safely.

1Revenue Office

Roman Tax Office

Nicopolis ad Istrum was a city founded by Roman emperor Trajan in what is modern-day Bulgaria. Raised around AD 102, it was sacked by several different barbarian hordes throughout its long history and was eventually settled by the Bulgarian Empire between the tenth and 14th centuries. Like any well-run Roman city, commerce was tightly governed by the powers that be. After its ruins were found in 2016 near Veliko Tarnovo, the city proved to be huge.

One fascinating building was a public place that appeared to have been the office of that eternal unfavorite: the tax man. Inside, archaeologists found stone weights and measuring devices in large numbers. Called egzagia, they were compulsory for anyone selling goods anywhere in the city so that buyers would not be deceived. The team that investigated the site believe that the building was a tax agency and government center where trade in Nicopolis ad Istrum was strictly controlled.

10 Ancient Egyptian Medical Practices We Still Use Today

Post 8312

10 Ancient Egyptian Medical Practices We Still Use Today



Ancient Egypt is mostly recognized for its pyramids, hieroglyphs, and mummies. A rich culture that lasted for over 3,000 years before Christ, it left behind tons of relics, which provide insight into the civilization. Thanks to translations of documents and inscriptions as well as beautiful images, we know a lot about ancient Egyptian life.

Thanks to the ancient Egyptians’ practice of mummification, they learned much about the human body and seem to have developed advanced medical knowledge. Centuries ahead of their time, a lot of the practices that doctors used in ancient Egypt would not be unfamiliar to us today. Doctors may no longer use spells and amulets as the ancient Egyptians did, but in many other ways, a visit to the doctor’s office may not have been so different thousands of years ago.


10Taking A Pulse

When we walk into a doctor’s office today, there are a few things that get checked every time, namely blood pressure, temperature, and pulse. The pulse can grant insight into the health of the circulatory system. Yet to understand it, there first needs to be an understanding that arteries and veins run throughout the body. This is common knowledge today, but for early medicine, it was a huge breakthrough.

Likely as a result of their mummification practices, ancient Egyptians had knowledge of the circulatory system. They understood its connections throughout the body and that it carried this “pulse.” They did miss one factor in that they didn’t seem to know that the heart itself is a pump. They saw it as a reservoir for the blood. Nevertheless, they knew the importance of the vascular system and were able to use it to help treat and diagnose illnesses.

The idea of measuring a pulse was far ahead of its time, and it would be centuries before it was picked up elsewhere in the world. In their knowledge of the vascular system, the Egyptians also counted the number of vessels reaching each part of the body. Their numbers were not accurate, however, as they didn’t realize how tiny arteries and veins become. But their counting may have allowed them to locate larger blood vessels, which would have been useful in case of injury or during surgery to stop bleeding.

9Turn Your Head And Cough

Yes, men have been enduring this awkward exam for centuries, it seems. The Ebers Papyrus, a medical manual from ancient Egypt, mentions the diagnosis of a hernia, stating it is a “swelling appearing on coughing.” There are even images from ancient Egypt of figures with both umbilical hernias, which protrude from the stomach, and the all-too-graphic images of hernias in the scrotum.

Hernias happen when part of the bowel protrudes through the stomach’s muscular wall. They’re often caused by straining or lifting heavy things. Considering that the Egyptians gave us massive stone monuments like the pyramids, they were accustomed to lifting heavy things and may have beenvery familiar with hernias.

Their treatment for hernias, however, seems less known. The Ebers Papyrus does mention using heat on the area, but it’s not entirely clear if the heat is meant to be just a soothing treatment or if it refers to cauterizing the area to seal the muscles after minor surgery. With so many images of people living with hernias, one could wonder if they were even treated at all.



Many would assume that tampons are a modern advancement that gives a woman on her period freedom. It is true that tampons were not used until recently in many Western cultures. There were even advertising campaigns as late as the 1980s touting the benefits of tampons and trying to convince American women that they were safe. These campaigns even referred to the ancient Egyptians’ use of them as proof that they are ancient and natural.

Often referred to as a tyet or an Isis knot, cloth tampons were made by using scrap fabric, often cotton, rolling it up, and tying a string around the center. The name “Isis knot” refers to the goddess Isis, who according to legend, used a tampon while pregnant with Horus to protect him while in the womb from attacks by the god Seth. Ancient Egyptians also used other cloths similar to today’s pads, which was common throughout many early cultures. Yet the benefits of the supposedly modern tampon may be something that Egyptian women knew all about.


Mummy Cavities

Cavities were actually rare in ancient Egypt. Since sugar wasn’t a part of the Egyptian diet, they did not have the tartar development and other issues that we do now. They did, however, wear their teeth down. Flour and grains were ground with stone, and despite their best efforts, small pieces of stone were always in the food. Living in a sandy desert likely added some grit as well. This wore down the teeth and could lead to cavities or infection. These infections could actually lead to death if the bacteria entered the bloodstream. Nefertiti’s sister, Horembheb, supposedly suffered from bad teeth and had lost all of them by the time of her death, likely due to infection.

Different fillings and ointment recipes are found in the Ebers Papyrus. One describes how to treat “an itching tooth until the opening of the flesh: cumin, 1 part; resin of incense, 1 part; dart fruit, 1 part; crush and apply to the tooth.” The idea was that this would drain the infection. Other filling recipes included honey, which has antibacterial properties, and ocher, a paint pigment heavy in iron, and ground wheat. Other times, the filling was simply cloth.

In 2012, a mummy was CT scanned, uncovering a cavity that had been filled with linen. The man was still suffering from the infection at the time of his death, however. Ancient Egyptian doctors did their best to treat cavities and to stop them from getting infected, but going to the dentist was never any fun.


Ancient Egyptian Prosthesis

Photo credit: Jon Bodsworth

Mummies in Egypt have been found with the world’s oldest known prosthetic limbs, toes, fingers, and so on. Prostheses to replace missing parts was essential to Egyptians for a couple of reasons. One was the Egyptian belief that after death, the body needs to be whole and preserved for them to be able to return to it in the afterlife. This is why mummification was so important and likely why prostheses existed. By replacing the lost limb, the body would be made whole again.

Of course, having a prosthesis would help a person maintain some functionality in life, and there is evidence that prostheses were also made for living patients. This shows how Egyptians used amputation to treat infections and injuries, and it appears that people sometimes survived the surgeries. The most famous of these patients was a lady found with a wooden big toe. The area under the prosthesis had healed, showing that she actually used the prosthetic toe in life. It likely helped her walk and balance once the old toe was lost. It is considered the oldest known prosthesis ever discovered.


5Government-Controlled Medicine

Ancient Egypt Doctor

Photo credit: Crystalinks

Access to medical care was very well-controlled by the ancient Egyptian government. Doctors were educated through a specific curriculum and were members of a “house of life,” which was usually was associated with a temple. These were medical institutes that trained doctors and also functioned as medical practices where anyone could go to receive treatment.

Also, as mentioned before, there were medical manuals like the Ebers Papyrus and the Edwin Smith Papyrus, in which ailments and their treatments are outlined as well as recipes for medicines. This shows us that doctors shared cures and treatments as a part of standardized care. Doctors in ancient Egypt could be male or female and appear to have chosen specialties, much like our doctors do today. With access to well-trained doctors, Egyptian citizens had better health care than almost anyone else at the time.

Even workers’ compensation seemed to exist. There are descriptions of medical camps set up near construction projects and quarries so that injured workers could receive treatment. It appears that if the injury occurred on the job, the employer would cover the cost of care. Workers could even receive supplemental pay if they were unable to work. Thousands of years ago, this was a very complex way to approach health care and is amazingly similar to how we look at it today.


Having to take your medicine is apparently as old as civilization itself. Thankfully, now we have a spoonful of sugar to help it go down. The ancient Egyptians weren’t so lucky. Often, medicines were trial and error. Some things ended up working really well. Others may have done more harm than good.

The Egyptians knew that honey worked well on wounds. (It’s still used today for skin ailments.) They also knew that mint could calm a stomach. Yet other items like lead and feces may not have been such great ideas. Whether they worked or not, there are dozens of recipes for medicines preserved in the medical papyri, along with instructions for their dosage and use. Patients in ancient Egypt would have been sent home with these concoctions and instructed on how to use them just as we are now.

There were medications for all sorts of issues, made from a wide variety of materials. Minerals like copper, clay, lead, and salt were used. Herbal remedies included fennel, onion, linseed, and mint. Other (lets call them “organic”) items included hair, skin, blood, feces, and more from various animals and even humans. These elements were usually combined in recipes for the fullest effect. There seem to have been many recipes for constipation. Some advise simply eating more figs (not so bad), while others prescribe castor oil, which we still use today, mixed with cold beer. A remedy for tapeworm contains equal parts lead, petroleum, ta bread, and sweet beer. It may have worked to kill the tapeworm—and hopefully not the patient.

Poultices were also a very popular treatment, with external concoctions applied for everything from baldness to stomachache. Milk was common in these, as were multiple kinds of dung, from cow to sheep to goose. Clays and lead are often included as well. Human secretions were sometimes included, from urine to milk to blood. In the case of anxiety, one cure states to rub the afflicted person down with the “milk of a woman who has born a son.” It’s not clear it if it worked.


Ancient Egypt Circumcision

Photo via Historium

The practice of removing a male infant’s foreskin has come in and out of vogue over the centuries, sometimes viewed as a religious practice and other times as medical. For centuries, the Jewish culture was identified with this practice, as Christians did not use it. Today, is is widely practiced by doctors in most Western countries regardless of religion.

The ancient Egyptians seem to have practiced circumcision widely. Images show doctors performing the procedure on patients. Egyptians were very interested in personal hygiene and often shaved off their body hair to stay clean and avoid parasites and conditions associated with uncleanliness. This may be what led them to start practicing circumcision throughout the culture.

Circumcision was so common that uncircumcised penises were actually a novelty. Writings describe soldiers’ fascination with the uncircumcised penises of the conquered Libyans, often collecting them from the slain to bring home and show off. Thankfully, that practice has been lost.


Ancient Egypt Medical Tools

Photo credit: Jeff Dahl

The ancient Egyptians gained a wealth of knowledge of human anatomy and the workings of the body through their mummification practices. By operating on the dead, they were able to see issues in bodies and make associations with illnesses in life. These skills allowed them to practice surgery. Later cultures in the Middle Ages would lose this knowledge completely, as autopsies were illegal for religious reasons. Their willingness to cut into a body put the Egyptians centuries ahead medically.

Many mummies show surgeries that actually healed, from trephination to the removal of tumors. Scalpels used for surgery were either copper, ivory, or obsidian. Obsidian was particularly special, as it is a volcanic glass that keeps an edge better than most modern metal and is still used today. Patients were given alcohol and sedatives before a procedure, and since anesthesia didn’t exist, one could only hope to pass out. Mandrake root could be used as a sedative, and poppy juice, an opioid, was used for pain management.

The main issue with survival rates was that without the knowledge of blood transfusions, patients would often bleed out if the surgery was too complicated or too long. Cauterizing vessels with hot blades helped slow the bleeding. After surgery, antibiotic ointments such as honey and copper helped stave off infections. The patients who survived their ordeals may have been the first in history to have undergone medical surgery.


Poppies, still grown today to produce powerful drugs, have long been known for their pain-relieving abilities. Opioids today are still the leading pain medication, especially in cases of severe pain management. Though thepoppy juice used by the ancient Egyptians wasn’t quite the morphine or OxyContin of today, it was still a very useful drug at the time. In the ancient world, pain relievers were not easy to come by, and being able to treat pain was huge medical advancement.

Poppy juice, as mentioned, could be used for surgery, often mixed with beer or wine. It would provide relief to patients with nervous issues and sedate them, reliving depression and anxiety. It appears it was also used across the board as a fever reducer and painkiller. The juice, a milky substance drawn from the poppy seed pod, is not as strong as modern opioids but was still effective. The fact that it was less potent might be why ancient Egyptians don’t seem to have developed the addictive problems seen today. Poppy juice was rarely used outside medicine, but it was an effective painkiller and a very useful tool to treat and maintain the health of the ancient Egyptian people.

Nicole Gentempo is a freelance writer and certified sommelier who loves to explore natural beauty, cultures, and wines around the world. With a broad European history background, she enjoys writing well-researched, in-depth articles that delve into a locale or a wine. She has written on subjects from viticulture, regions, and history to market trends and food pairing. As a traveler, she is often found in a canoe or sailboat, her love of the outdoors and water giving her the opportunity to present places from a unique perspective, often sharing them with a glass of wine.

www.mywinepro.com and Instagram @my_wine_pro