10 Bizarre Facts About The Pharaohs Of Ancient Egypt

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10 Bizarre Facts About The Pharaohs Of Ancient Egypt



he pharaohs of Egypt were treated like gods. They were rulers of one of the first great civilizations, living in absolute luxury, with dominion over an empire the likes of which the world had never seen. They dined on milk and honey. Teams of people died building statues in their honor. And, when their own lives came to an end, they were buried in world wonders that have stood for more than 4000 years.

Nobody had ever had that type of power before. The pharaohs were pioneers in a new frontier of decadence, exploring the new world of absolute power and luxury in ways that nobody ever had before. They were enjoying life like never before—and sometimes, they got a bit carried away.


10Pepi II’s Obsession with Pygmies


Pepi II was about six years old when he became the king of Egypt. He was a tiny child ruling a massive kingdom, and his priorities were more or less where you would expect a six-year-old boy’s to be.

The young king, as you might imagine, was a little spoiled. Shortly after he became king, an explorer named Harkhuf wrote him a letter reporting that he had met a dancing pygmy. It was the greatest thing Pepi II had ever heard. He had to see it for himself.

“Drop everything!” Pepi II ordered Harkhuf. “Come north to the palace at once!” He wanted that dancing pygmy—and he would not risk it for anything. Harkhuf was under strict orders not to let anything happen to the pygmy. “When he goes down with you to the boat, get trusty men to stand around him on the gangplank—don’t let him fall in the water! When he goes to bed at night, get trusty men to lie all round him in his hammock. Inspect ten times a night!”

Pepi II got his dancing pygmy, and pretty much everything else he ever asked for. He was spoiled, to say the least, and he learned to accept that he was more important than other people. By the time he had grown up, he was so corrupt that he made his slaves strip naked, cover themselves in honey and follow him around just to keep the flies away.

9Sesostris’s Giant Genital Monuments


Sesostris was one of the greatest military commanders in Egyptian history. He sent warships and troops to every corner of the known world and stretched his kingdom further than anyone had ever seen. And, after each battle, he commemorated his success—by setting up a big pillar with a picture of someone’s genitals.

Sesostris left pillars on the sites of every battleground. For the most part, these were engraved with the usual boasting—who he was, how he had subdued his enemies, and how certain he was that the gods were in favor of his “invade everyone” policy.

But Sesostris left a little extra mark that sort of worked like a review of the opposing army. If they were strong and had fought valiantly, he would engrave a picture of a penis on it. But if they did not put up much of a fight, he would carve a picture of a vagina.

These pillars were left all across the continent, and they stood the test of time. Herodotus saw some of Sesostris’s monuments first-hand. 1500 years after they were erected, they still stood in Syria, engraved with the genitals of failure.


8Pheros’s Urine Baths


Sesostris’s son, Pheros, was blind. It was most likely a disease he had inherited from his father, but the official Egyptian story was that he had been cursed. The Nile was flooding, as the story goes, and Pheros got fed up with it for refusing to cooperate. So he threw a spear at the river, figuring that was probably how you make water go down, and, for his insolence, was struck blind by the gods.

Ten years later, an oracle told Pheros that he could get his sight back. All he had to do, she told him, was wash his eyes with the urine of a woman who had never slept with anyone other than her husband.

Pheros tried using his wife’s, but it did not work. He was still blind, and his wife now had some explaining to do. First, though, Pheros gathered up every woman in town, made them pee into a pot and poured it into his eyes.

It worked. After going through dozens of women, Pheros found one who was not cheating on her husband and got his sight back. He married her on the spot—and burned his old wife to death.

Or, at least, that is how the legend goes. Of course, it is unlikely that Pheros really got his sight back through magic urine. Maybe he just needed a good story to explain a weird habit.

7Hatshepsut’s Fake Beard


Hatshepsut was one of the few women to rule over Egypt. She had big plans in mind. She would build some of Egypt’s greatest wonders—but it would not be easy. Egypt may have been a bit more progressive than the other countries around it, but they still did not treat women as equals. As queen, she a lot working against her.

So, Hatshepsut ordered her people to only ever draw her as a man. In every picture, she was to be drawn with rippling biceps and a full beard. She called herself the “Son of Ra” whenever she introduced herself, and it is very likely that she actually wore a fake beard in real life, too.

She managed to accomplish a lot while she was alive, in part by tricking everyone into thinking she was a man—but it did not pan out. Her son ended up erasing her from history to hide that a woman had ever been king. He did it so well, in fact, that we did not even find out she existed until 1903.

6Amasis’s Fart-Based Diplomacy


Amasis was not exactly the most polite Pharaoh to ever sit on the throne. He was an alcoholic. He was a kleptomaniac who would steal his friends’ stuff, put it in his house, and then try to convince them that they had never owned it in the first place.

He got the throne by force. The king had sent him to calm down a rebellion, but when he got there, he realized the Rebels had a pretty good chance of winning—so he decided to lead them, instead. Ever a master of tact, he sent the king his declaration of war by lifting up his leg, farting, and telling a messenger, “Take that back to the king!”

All Amasis’s uncouth habits, though, actually led to some major reforms. When he had been a poor kleptomaniac, he had been sent to stand in front of oracles who were supposed to be able to divine whether he was innocent or guilty. When he was king, every oracle who had let him off the hook was punished for being a fraud. If they had really been able to speak to god, Amasis figured, they would have known he was guilty.


5Actisanes’s City of Noseless Criminals


Amasis’s people did not put up with him for long. He was a harsh ruler, and it did not take long before he was overthrown. This time, the revolution was led by an Ethiopian named Actisanes, who was determined to take a gentler approach.

Actisanes had a new idea for dealing with criminals. Every person who committed a crime, he ruled, would have their nose cut off. Then they would be sent off to a town he called Rhinocolura—literally, the town of cut-off noses.

This would have been one hell of a weird town to visit. It was exclusively populated by noseless criminals, forced to fend for themselves in one of the harshest environments in the country. The water was contaminated, and they lived off scattered pieces of brine that they found lying around.

Today that sounds harsh—but for a sixth century B.C. ruler, this was considered the height of benevolence. Romans wrote about Rhinocolura, calling it an example of Actisanes’s “kindly manner towards his subjects.” Back then, if you broke the law and just lost your nose, you were getting off easy.

4Ramses II’s 100 Children


Ramses II lived so long that people started getting seriously worried that he might never die. In a time when most kings got assassinated within the first few years, Ramses II lived to be 91 years old. He enjoyed his time alive, too. Right up until the very end, he built more statues and monuments than anyone—and he slept with more women than anyone, too.

By the time he had died, Ramses II had at least 100 children with at least nine wives. It took a lot of sleeping with women to get there, but he made sure he put the hours in.

Ramses II married pretty well every girl he saw. When he invaded Kheta, he refused to sign a peace treaty unless they handed over their eldest daughter. And he did not shy away from his daughters, either. He married at least three of his own kids, including his first-born.

He may have married four. Historians are not sure whether his wife Henutmire was his daughter or his sister—but, since this is Ramses II we are talking about, there is no reason that “daughter,” “sister,” and “wife” have to be mutually exclusive.

3Cambyses’s Hatred for Animals


Cambyses was not actually Egyptian, he was Persian, and the son of Cyrus the Great. After his nation conquered Egypt, though, he was put in charge of the country. And so, he was a ruler of Egypt—and, apparently, someone who absolutely hated animals.

Nearly every story the Egyptians told about Cambyses involved him ruining the life of one animal or another. Early on, he went to see Apis, a bull the Egyptians treated as a god. Right in front of the priests of Apis, he pulled out a dagger and started stabbing the bull, laughing at them and saying, “This is a god worthy of the Egyptians!”

It was not just that he liked picking on Egyptians, though. He just liked watching animals suffer. In his spare time, he put on fights between lion cubs and puppies and made his wife watch as they tore each other apart.

2Akhenaten’s City Built on Broken Backs


Akhenaten changed Egypt completely. Before he took the throne, the Egyptians had many gods, but Akhenaten cut out every god but one: Aten, the god of the sun. It meant a major upheaval in how Egypt was run, and it took a lot of work to do it. So much, in fact, that he literally worked his people to death.

He built a whole new city, Amarna, in honor of his god. He moved 20,000 people there and had them build it, no matter how badly their bodies ached. These people had to push through everything. Based on the bones in the town cemetery, more than two-thirds of his workers broke a bone while they were working, and a good one-third of them broke their spines.

The people were barely fed. Almost every person in the town was malnourished, and they were not allowed to do anything about it. If they broke rank and tried to snatch a little something extra, they were sentenced to be repeatedly stabbed.

And it was all for nothing. As soon as Akhenaten died, everything he did was destroyed. His very name was erased from Egyptian history.

1Menkaure’s Refusal to Die


Even a Pharaoh dies. Though their titles called them undying, every pharaoh knew his end would come. And, though they built pyramids to take them onto the afterlife, every pharaoh must have had his doubts about what would come when they closed their eyes for the last time.

Menkaure, a pharaoh who ruled in the 26th century B.C., definitely had his doubts. When an oracle came to him and told him that he only had six years left to live, he was terrified. He did everything he could to avoid it.

He decided he could fool the gods. As long as night never came, Menkaure figured, a new day would never begin. If a new day never began, time could not pass—and he could not die. So, every night, he lit up as many lamps as he could and convinced himself it was still daytime.

For the rest of his life, Menkaure would not sleep. He spent every night up drinking and celebrating under artificial light, terrified of the moment when his light finally went out.


10 Incredible Discoveries That Changed Ancient Archaeology

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10 Incredible Discoveries That Changed Ancient Archaeology



There is nothing quite like finding the first bone or brick of ancient remains. While such discoveries can take mere moments, understanding the whole story behind ruins, lost kingdoms, and old familiars can take decades. Archaeological sites can grind to a standstill, only moving forward again with the “story” when the next find falls into place like a lost puzzle piece. These additional discoveries can change long-held beliefs, open new mysteries, and even change the entire purpose of an ancient site.


10De Palomares Tomb


Miguel de Palomares was one of the first Catholic Priests to arrive in Mexico after the Spanish conquest in 1521. His grave was discovered by accident when, in 2016, workers dug a pit for a lamp post. When archaeologists widened the space, they discovered a large slab with the name de Palomares carved on it. The two-meter-long gravestone marks an unusual burial placefor a Catholic priest—beneath the floor of an Aztec temple.

For a long time, scholars were aware that the Spaniards erected churches over native religious sites. The behavior was labeled as a dominant display of whose god was better, in effect, a symbolic replacement of the local deities by Christianity. Now, it would appear that the Spaniards were a little more practical-minded. The Aztec temples had solid foundations and sturdy walls, all ready to be used. To save time, de Palomares’s particular temple’s floor was simply whitewashed and otherwise left untouched when it was turned into Mexico City’s first cathedral in 1524.

9Victorian Tastes


A slice of the Victorian palate was revealed during construction work in London. In 2010, a demolition team took apart an old nightclub to make way for the Crossrail station. The club hailed from the 1970s but had been built over an even older site. Crosse & Blackwell had a factory there from 1830 to 1921, and archaeologists got a peek at the products that appealed to the Victorians.

Beneath the former nightclub, they found over 13,000 jars. Pots of Mushroom Catsup, jam, marmalade, and Piccalilli made up the discarded stash of flavors. The cistern in which they were found powered the factory’s steam engines up until the 1870s when it became a dump during an overhaul of the warehouse. The massive haul is valuable due to its size, rarity, and ability to reveal the tastes of the time. After shutting down, the factory became a cinema in 1927 before opening as a nightclub in 1976.


8The Sterling Stones


At the entrance to Police Scotland Central Division’s Randolphfield HQ, based in Sterling, stands a pair of standing stones. For a long time, these were admired as 3,000-year-old monuments with a mysterious connection to a nearby ancient graveyard. It turns out, the pair could be honoring a much more recent event. Radiocarbon testing placed the stone sentinels closer to 1314.

Something of note did occur in the area during that year. The English and Scottish clashed in the Battle of Bannockburn. On the first day, under the lead of Sir Thomas Randolph (also the Earl of Moray), the Scots cleverly managed to redirect the route of the larger English army. This protected Sterling Castle from an intended attack and also helped the Scottish side to defeat their enemy in a historic encounter the next day. Much like a commemoration plaque today, it is believed that the standing stones were placed on the battlefield to mark Randolph’s success when he managed to throw the English off course.

7The Edo Map


In 2017, experts at the Matsue History Museum decided to re-examine one of its artifacts, “Edo Hajimezu”—an illustration of an ancient building in Tokyo. The 400-year-old map showed Edo Castle, a vast structure that belonged to the feudal family Tokugawa. Continual rebuilding obscured Edo Castle’s original design until researchers realized that the old map showed it all along.

Drawn shortly after the castle was completed, between 1607 and 1609, it was a testimony to a clan that took no chances with their own safety. The design was highly defensive, more fort than home-sweet-home. Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616), who built Edo, was at war with the Toyotomi family for the top dog position.

The map revealed a great deal about walls, mounds, and the castle’s interior. The most fascinating defense architecture could be seen to the south of the castle. The gates and walls were planned in such a way that the enemy would have been forced to zigzag instead of advancing in a straight line. Unfortunately, this innovative feature did not survive to modern times.

6House Of Gates

house of gates

It is hard to imagine that finding a gate at a place called the “House of Gates” would surprise anyone, but this one did. Beit She’arim (Hebrew for “House of Gates”) is a UNESCO world heritage site located in northern Israel. When excavations in 2016 turned up a mammoth gateway, the diggers were stunned. It included half of what appeared to have been a fortified wall with doors and a tower.

During the Roman and Byzantine eras, Beit She’arim was a hub of Jewish culture and law. However, the town remained small and thus far, assumed to have had no need for protective city walls. So convinced were the experts that they believed the word “gates” in its ancient name could not be literal. They even skewed it as Beit Sharay, which means “court.” Since the town was the headquarters of the Jewish judicial council, the theory fit snugly.

The discovery of the imposing limestone gates forced archaeologists to rethink the town’s name and purpose. Dating to Roman times, there is even the intriguing possibility that the gatehouse is the first ruins of an unknown Roman fortress at the site.


5Kingdom Of Rheged


The Galloway Picts Project was started in 2012 to unravel the history behind rock carvings discovered in Trusty’s Hill Fort. When their meaning became clear, or rather what researchers believe they represent, it recovered a lost kingdom. Nobody was looking for Rheged when they first began studying the Pictish symbols on the bedrock. They were unique to the area, which made for a good archaeological riddle. Also, while its exact location was not known, the sixth-century kingdom was thought to be somewhere in Cumbria.

The inscriptions did not confirm that there was once a community of Picts in Galloway, but instead hinted heavily at a royal citadel from the Dark Ages (around A.D. 600). The excavations produced enough evidence to suggest that Trusty’s Hill was once at the center of Rheged. If so, the rediscovery of the kingdom is a fantastic find. Rheged was a prominent powerhouse among the northern kingdoms, and its influence was felt throughout Scotland’s literature and history.

4Mayan Superhighways


Ancient highways exist in the jungles of northern Guatemala. Covering an area of over 150 miles, it first came to the public’s attention in 1967 when British explorer Ian Graham published a map of El Mirador that included the roads.

El Mirador was once the largest city-state with around a million citizens living inside its boundaries of 833 square miles. Due to being covered by thick rain forest, the causeways proved difficult to study. To bypass the secretive forest canopy, a laser project was started in 2006. After scanning the Mirador Basin from the air, remarkable 3D images showed massive superhighways and other structures that surprised even the research team.

Highly detailed pyramids, canals, terraces, and animal corrals were revealed. The most exciting discovery was the scope of the 17-road network. Snaking over the land, at some places as far as 25 miles, the causeways were up to 20 feet high and 130 feet wide. They were built at different times, between 600-400 B.C. and 300 B.C.-A.D. 100. The sophisticated road system united the large state by allowing the transport of supplies and people.

3Ancient Construction Site


The archaeological site of Qantir-Piramesse once hosted Egypt’s capital, Pi-Ramesse, under the rule of Pharaoh Ramesses the Great. Established between 1300 B.C. and 1100 B.C., no substantial ruins remain of what was likely the biggest human settlement during the Bronze Age.

A German team used a novel way to find subterranean leftovers of the great city. For an incredible sixteen years (1996-2012), they magnetically mapped the area. Since ancient mud-brick buildings have a different magnetic “look” than normal earth, foundations and walls soon started to appear. They were enormous. Upon closer inspection, researchers felt they were looking at a construction site. The large-scale restoration project was perhaps set up around a palace and temple complex.

Not far away was a pit with mortar at the bottom. Touchingly, the footprints of a toddler were preserved in this layer. Something else was found in the pit, and it could change the face of Egyptian art. Fragments of plaster may sound mundane, but these appeared to belong to a decorative fresco, something almost unheard of during this particular era.

2The Montezuma Attack


One of Arizona’s landmarks received a tragic overhaul of its past. The two buildings, carved from a limestone cliff almost 900 years ago, form a part of Montezuma Castle National Monument. For more than eight decades, the disappearance of the inhabitants was one of the Southwest’s greatest mysteries.

Signs that the dwellings suffered a serious fire was filed away as a “decommissioning ritual” done after the evacuation. However, Hopi traditions tell of their ancestors, the Sinagua, being attacked on site—and the story includes the use of arson as a weapon. The Tonto Apache have a similar tale but of their ancestors trying to flush the Sinagua out with fire. Modern investigations provided the archaeological evidence to these tales.

The period between 1375-1395 is significant. Pottery was produced and the blaze happened, indicating that people lived there until the last moments. Four bodies found together in the 1930s were thought to predate the flames, but another look revealed their gruesome end. Three had fractured skulls. All had cut and burn marks sustained shortly before death. A brutal attack explains the sudden departure, but archaeologists still do not know what sparked the assault.

1Sahara Castles


The Garamantes was an enigmatic African people. In 2011, an expedition to Libya to find out more about the mysterious Garamantes was cut short by civil war. Another attempt, using satellite photography, gave researchers a good view of over 100 fortified settlements belonging to the lost civilization.

Walled towns and villages stood abandoned in the Sahara 620 miles south of Tripoli. Dating A.D. 1-500, the mud-brick structures were masterfully constructed, and there are still walls standing up to 13 feet (4 meters) high. All earlier understanding of the culture came from the Garamantes’ capital, Jarma, about 125 miles to the northwest.

Jarma revealed a powerful African kingdom with a writing system, metallurgy, trading, and textiles. The Sahara fortresses added another remarkable achievement. In the super-dry environment, they created oases where crops flourished. They did this with a complex subterranean canal system that brought groundwater to the surface. Why the fortresses were abandoned is unknown. Most likely, disappearing water sources and trade routes collapsing with the fall of the Roman Empire contributed.

Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries From The Nordic Region

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Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries From The Nordic Region



The Nordic Region includes several countries and islands. Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Aland are all steeped in ancient history. Constant new discoveries prove that there’s still much to learn from this corner of the world. From mysterious settlers and circles to the graves of saints and ships to bloody battles, Nordic soil will keep archaeologists digging for a long time.


10Hiking Viking

Viking Sword

In 2015, Goran Olson decided to take a breather while hiking in Haukeli in Norway, a popular place among outdoorsmen. Sitting down, he made an extraordinary find under some rocks: a Viking sword. Unbelievably, the weapon had remained undiscovered for over 1,000 years, despite being on a well-trodden trail. The sword was missing its handle and looked a bit rusty, but archaeologists were elated when Olson handed the artifact over to the University Museum of Bergen. Despite the damage, it’s still in exceptional condition.

For something from the Viking Age, the sword is both rare and a valuable contribution. The high mountain pass where it resurfaced is packed with snow for at least half the year. This helped preserve the wrought iron blade and could have caused misfortune to its owner. It’s likely that the individual had an accident or succumbed to the weather while traveling the same ancient route that Olson did. Iron swords were difficult to manufacture, which made owning one a status symbol. Roughly dating to AD 750, the 76-centimeter (30 in) sword would have belonged to a rich Viking.

9Miracle King’s Church

Olaf Altar

Photo credit: NIKU

Here’s something you don’t hear every day: A Viking marauder became a saint. Olaf Haraldsson was born around 995, raided as a youth, and turned over a new leaf in 1013, when he was baptized as a Roman Catholic. Wanting to unite Norway, he became king in 1016 and established the Church of Norway a few years later. Olaf sought safety in Russia when Canute I, the king of England and Denmark, added Norway to his kingdom. Olaf died during battle, trying to retake the throne in 1030. He was buried in Trondheim.

Within a year, locals claimed that the dead king caused miracles. Church teachings tell of how when the royal grave was opened and Olaf’s corpse was found unnaturally well-preserved, the local bishop made Olaf a saint. His body was moved to St. Clement’s Church. The pope officially recognized Olaf’s sainthood in 1164.

Archaeologists believe that they’ve located his final resting place. In 2016, they discovered the stone foundations, a sacred well, and a rectangular rock platform that could be the high altar constructed over St. Olaf’s final grave.


8Galiciefarer’s Grave

Galicefarer Grave

Another high-ranking Viking’s tomb was discovered in Denmark. Unlike St. Olaf, Ulv Galiciefarer became notorious for the usual reasons: He terrorized Northern Spain. Looting and pillaging kept the Viking chief busy. Galiciefarer was also the great-grandfather of one of Denmark’s kings, Valdemar the Great, who ruled from 1157 to 1182.

Archaeologists unearthed a tomb in 2009 that had all the signs of an important person. There’s a chance that it might even be Galiciefarer’s grave. The site matches other noble tombs in the area of Naesby in Jutland. Written history calls the chieftain an “earl of Denmark,” which would have called for a stately burial. Royal graves from the time were covered with a building. While there was none at the newly discovered site, a large square in the ground shaped the foundations for one. A sword from the tomb indicated that the person lived during the first half of the 1000s, fitting with when Galiciefarer lived. The land was also Valdemar’s ancestral property, making it likely that Valdemar had Galiciefarer buried on family land.

7Sole Secrets

Foot Petroglyphs

In Stjordal, a team of archaeologists excavated what looked like normal burial mound in 2010. Things turned interesting when they realized that the ancient builders had used a hill as a foundation, shaving time off construction and raising the mound higher than normal. Then they discovered unexpected petroglyphs. Beneath a layer of what appeared to be a double cremation were eight carvings depicting the soles of human feet and five slightly sunken areas. Researchers believe the grave was ritually built over the drawings, which date to the Bronze Age (1800–500 BC).

The exact meaning of the feet remains a mystery. A nearly identical find was made in Ostlandet County, also with illustrated soles beneath a Bronze Age tomb, but this is the first to be found in Stjordal. The excavation also produced scorched animal and human bones from several individuals. A little south of the tomb, which dates between 500 BC and AD 1, were more drawings of soles, this time with toes and a pair of boats.

6Mystery Settlers


Between Norway and Iceland are the Faroe Islands. Called the “steps to the Americas,” the isles allowed Europeans a foothold in the Atlantic before colonizing the continents. Historical accounts place the Vikings as the first arrivals. In 2013, however, researchers found signs that somebody reached the Faroe Islands 300–500 years before the Vikings. Whoever these mysterious pioneers were, they didn’t settle en masse like the Vikings would later do, but they stayed for a long time.

On the island of Sandoy, they dusted the dunes with ash, a known technique used by ancient Europeans to steady sand and prevent wind erosion. The ash contained barley grains dating to a pre-Viking era. Barley was not native to the island and had to have been cultivated or imported. There are the first hard archaeological traces of a colony that history forgot. The find raises the question of how many other unknown companies explored the North Atlantic territories and when.


5The Palisade Fences

Palisade Fence Denmark

Photo credit: Pernille Rohde Sloth

A fascinating phenomenon in Nordic countries are palisade enclosures. In Denmark, near Stevns, one hugs the landscape with such epic proportionsthat it stunned archaeologists in 2017. Built in the Stone Age, it runs like a strange labyrinth over an area of 18,000 square meters (200,000 ft2). Several palisade rings make up the interior. The timber palisade’s center yielded sun symbols and possibly a solar temple. A second, similar construction also exists on the island.

More palisades dot the fields in Denmark’s East Zealand and Falster as well as in Skane, Sweden. In 1988, some of the most intriguing sites were found on the Danish island of Bornholm. The Bornholm sites are the only palisades with any connection to ritual and worship. They are also older than Stevns, which was probably erected from 2900 to 2800 BC. Archaeologists don’t know why palisade patches were created, but they were obviously important. Despite their differences, they enclosed something, perhaps of religious value, like the Bornholm temples.

4Denmark’s Oldest Boat

Denmark Islands

Photo via Ancient Origins

In 2014, an energy company was laying cables under the sea when they found Denmark’s oldest boat. The wreck was tucked away near Asko Island. The 6- to 7-meter-long (20–23 ft) treasure is thought to be 6,500 years old. That’s almost two millennia older than Egypt’s most ancient pyramid.

Thousands of years of being submerged have done their damage, but scientists got excited over a particular crack, which formed when the vessel was brand-new. The owners had attempted to cure the problem by drilling holes around it and plugging the split with a piece of bark. Remarkably, the 2-millimeter-wide bark and sealing mass inside the holes survived.

Connected to the boat discovery was another submerged find. A complete Stone Age village sits nearby beneath the waves. One day, the settlement might help researchers redraw Denmark’s coastlines the way they looked thousands of years ago.

3Proof Of Sverre’s Saga

Sverresborg Castle Well Skeleton

The Kongesagaer is a collection of tales about medieval Norwegian kings. Historians have long been wary about how much is authentic recollection and how much has been embellished. Now, one story appears to be true—very true, in fact. Sverre’s Saga tells of a defeat that King Sverre Sigurdsson suffered in 1197 at his own castle, Sverresborg. After burning down the buildings, the Baglers threw one of the king’s mercenaries down the well to spoil the stronghold’s drinking water. The Baglers then topped up the well with stones.

In Trondheim, Norway, archaeologists were clearing debris from a well belonging to the ancient castle when they found human bones at the bottom in 2016. Radiocarbon testing placed the person’s lifetime during the last part of the 12th century. That slots perfectly into the saga’s time line. The individual who ended up in the castle’s water source is the only known example of remains that can be tied to an act of war as long ago as 1197.

2Sandy Borg Massacre

Sandy Borg Child

Photo credit: Kalmar Lans Museum

On the Swedish island of Oland, the Sandy borg ringfort once held a thriving community. But some 1,500 years ago, a number of villagers were massacred. The horrific event was unearthed when researchers began excavations in 2010. Initially, it was thought that only adults had stayed at the fort, but in 2014, two child victims were also discovered. Whoever ambushed the fort excluded nobody from the massacre, not even small kids. Aged two to five, they were found in a house with a male adult, who met with a particularly gruesome end. The 50- to 60-year-old was incapacitated in some way before he fell face-first into the home’s burning hearth.

Due to a lack of finances, only three percent of the fort has been excavated, but it was enough to reveal the scale of the horror. In that small area, ten bodies were found, the two children among them. A lot more bodies likely await discovery. Whatever happened, the survivors abandoned the fort in such a hurry that they left valuable gold jewelry behind.

1The Blekinge


Photo credit: Javier Kohen

In 2017, marine archaeologists found a vessel on the sea floor near the coast of the Swedish city of Karlskrona. Partially crushed and stuck deeply in the sediment, enough of the ship was visible to identify her. Experts are convinced that this is the warship Blekinge. The historic ship was the first to be built in Karlskrona and was put to sea in 1682. After 31 years of service, she sank near her home city during a campaign to defend Sweden from Russia. The wreck is about 45 meters (150 ft) long and packs around 70 deadly cannons.

At this point, it remains too difficult to remove the vessel, due to its bad condition and depth in the sand. However, the Blekinge strongly resembles another famous warship, the Vasa (pictured above), in age and size. The Stockholm-built Vasa bubbled under during her maiden voyage in 1628 and is the only 17th-century ship to be raised from the sea almost completely intact. The 64-gunner has her own museum, and salvaged artifacts allow a rich glimpse into everyday Swedish life of the era.


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The area of Aswan and its surroundings was the northernmost part of a country known as Nubia in ancient times. Aswan is a city that witnessed many civilisations come and go since prehistoric times. It has however preserved its original traditional heritage.

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Aswan has a mixed and diverse population with a distinct Nubian culture. It has therefore an African atmosphere which is different from the rest of Egypt. The pace of life is slow and relaxing. To get a real taste of this ancient and rich culture, visit Nubia Museum and a number of Nubian villages in and around Aswan, often very picturesque and worth visiting. You can also stay overnight in one of the Nubian houses. It’s a memorable experience!

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Nubians live in houses painted with bright colours. Traditionally, the floor was made of sand and not all the rooms were roofed. Protection against rain is not a priority since Aswan is one of the driest places in the world.

Nubians are friendly and hospitable. They often invite you to their homes for a cup of tea or “Karkade”, a drink made of hibiscus flowers. Many would happily show you their handicrafts. They sometimes invite you to taste their unique “Shamsi” bread which has a special baking technique. The bakers, usually the women of the village, let the dough rise in the sun before baking it. Some connoisseurs claim that the “Shamsi” bread is one of the best kinds of bread in the world. After such hospitality, a reciprocal gesture of generosity is not necessary but would certainly be appreciated!

Nubian villages are found in and around Aswan. A couple of them are located only 150 meters from the corniche onElephantine Island in Aswan archipelago. The island can be reached by felucca or by a public ferry.

Other interesting villages are located on the west bank of the Nile and can be reached by boats or cars. A famous one is “Gharb Sehel” which is located near the old dam south of the archipelago on the west bank.

Many Nubians used to live in the Nile Valley, south of Aswan. However, the artificial Lake Nasser created by the construction of the high dam flooded many Nubian villages. As a result, more than 100,000 Nubian inhabitants of the area were relocated to villages north of Aswan and around Kom Ombo.

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If you are interested to learn more about the Nubian people and their history and culture, then a visit to Nubia Museum, located close to the Old Ctaract hotel, is a MUST.

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Image Gallery: Beautiful Nubian Art

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Image Gallery: Beautiful Nubian Art

Ancient Nubia: A Brief History

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Ancient Nubia: A Brief History

Top 10 Remarkable Moments Involving Mummies

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Top 10 Remarkable Moments Involving Mummies



Mummies aren’t just for museum viewing and freaking out sensitive moviegoers. Sometimes, these time capsules return lost information capable of answering mysteries—or, just as easily, starting some fresh ones. As silent as these people and animals are, they convey information invaluable to experts trying to understand the rituals, illnesses, and even scandals of the past.


10The Tebtunis Portraits


As the first man-made pigment, Egyptian blue was sought after by ancient painters. When researchers studied 11 mummy portraits, they were stunned to find the precious tint hidden instead of flaunted.

Mummy portraits were paintings of the deceased placed over the face. Found at Tebtunis, Egypt, between 1899 and 1900, the portraits reflected a popular second-century trend—using only the four colors favored by the masterful Greeks. Closer inspection of the white, black, yellow, and red revealed something surprising. The Tebtunis painters stayed true to the vogue color scheme but worked blue into the art in a way never before seen in the ancient world.

Normally, Egyptian blue received a place of honor in paintings and sculptures throughout the Mediterranean, but here, it was used as underdrawings, enriching the four Greek colors with more hues and shading. Even today, researchers aren’t certain that all the ways in which Egyptian blue was used is known.

9Sacred Scandal


Today, the scandal merely lifted a few academic eyebrows, but during ancient Egypt, it would have been epic.

When scientists at the Manchester Museum scanned 800 animal mummies, one-third proved to be empty of skeletal remains. When worshipers wanted to connect with a certain animal god, they bought a related mummified creature as an offering. The faithful fully expected a wrapped cat to contain a dead kitty. As it turned out, the fervently religious nation’s demand couldn’t be met.

Perhaps the profit-minded sellers didn’t want to let a good opportunity go, but the researchers believe the deception wasn’t so much forgery-orientated as it was to supply people with a religious experience. There just wasn’t enough time or animals to match the rapid sales. To speed things up, the beautifully crafted mummies were secretly filled with something linked to that animal, such as nest stuffing and egg shells for birds.


8The Sand Skull


A 3,200-year-old Egyptian mummy named Hatason sparked serious scientific interest after a scan. She died between 1700–1000 BC, a time when brains stayed intact during mummification. Adding material inside the skull cavity while it still contained gray matter is unheard of, but somebody forced a substance into her head. Strangely, the skull appears to be stuffed with dark sand.

The woman was likely a citizen experimented on by a mortician. It’s hard to tell, since few mummies remain from that era and not a lot is known about her—or if she’s even a woman. Pelvic bones can reveal sex, but Hatason’s is crushed. The skull appears to be female. The coffin depicts a woman wearing the clothing of a standard citizen but there’s no way to prove it was hers. The mummy, currently in San Francisco, was removed from Egypt in the 1800s when buyers switched coffins as the need arose.

7Sobek Surprise


At the Dutch National Museum is a wrapped “crocodile.” Measuring three meters long, a previous scan revealed it contained two of the fearsome reptiles shaped as one giant croc about 3,000 years ago. In 2016, the mummy was sent to an Amsterdam medical center to undergo a cutting edge 3-D CT scan. The images were extraordinary.

Egyptologists expected nothing new, but dozens of previously undetected bundles appeared to be tucked away between the wrappings. Closer examination proved that they were all individually bandaged baby crocodiles. While not unique, this type of mummy is extremely rare, and the Dutch one is also in superb condition. It would’ve made a great offering to the Egyptian crocodile god Sobek, which was probably what it was created for. The idea behind the strange arrangement is not clear. Experts suspect the different ages of the animals could be symbolic of rejuvenation after death.

6Practical Prosthetics


Looking at old personal items, it can be hard to discern which had a practical or cosmetic use. This holds true for ancient Egypt. Burial preparations often included false body parts, even when the deceased had no amputations. Recently, the University of Manchester strapped a special kind of replica on volunteers lacking a right big toe.

The recreations copied two Egyptian artifacts that may be the first known prosthetics. Respectively, the toe sets consist of cartonnage (before 600 BC) and wood and leather (950–710 BC). The second was found on a Luxor mummy’s foot. Signs of long-term use hinted at prosthetics in the truest sense and not burial props.

The volunteers went barefoot then wore the toes, with and without authentically remade Egyptian sandals. The study revealed that both devices were highly successful replacements for real toes and removed the crippling pressure traditional sandals would’ve caused.



5Rediscovery Of C1bi


Photo credit: Schobinger, J. et al

In 1985, hikers found a body on Argentina’s Aconcagua mountain. The child, dead for five centuries, turned out to be an Incan boy killed during a sacrifice. The height at which he died, 5,300 meters above sea level, provided extreme dryness, and the seven-year-old mummified naturally.

His good condition allowed geneticists to extract his entire mitochondrial genome. The DNA placed the boy in a genetic group called C1b, an ancient Paleoindian lineage older than 18,000 years. However, he didn’t match any of the plentiful subgroups dividing up the population. Researchers created a new one, called it C1bi, and scoured databases for more members of this lost line. Only four turned up. Three were from modern Peruvians and Bolivians. The last belonged to a person of the pre-Inca Wari Empire of Peru.

An estimated 90 percent of native South Americans perished during the Spanish conquest. This genetic annihilation is behind C1bi’s scarcity today and also why it remained unknown until the discovery of the Aconcagua boy.

4The Hathor Tattoos


Photo credit: Radio-Canada

Egyptologists once believed priestesses were painted with images, not tattooed. A well-preserved woman changed that.

Cedric Gobeil, a Canadian researcher working in Egypt since 2013, noticed dark shapes on the body and dismissed it as embalming residue. However, when the 3,300-year-old skin was extended with imaging software, the historic tattoos reappeared. They are the only depictions of recognizable things, not just shapes, ever found on a dynastic Egyptian. Lotus flowers, animals including cows and snakes, as well as symbols are part of 30 tattoos adorning the upper body and hips.

Nobody knows what the full collection looked like. Her head and legs have never been found. Gobeil believes the skin art marked her as a priestess of the goddess Hathor, since several of the images are linked to this deity. That alone makes it a unique case. She’s also the first proof that murals showing figures with recognizable objects as body decorations are depictions of tattooed Egyptians.

3The Age Of Smallpox


Photo credit: Kiril Cachovski

In the crypt of a Lithuanian church, the remains of a toddler yielded the oldest traces of the smallpox virus. The first human disease to be wiped out with vaccination, the origins of smallpox remains a mystery. For a long time, it was thought to be a millennia-old disease that even plagued the Egyptians, when the latter provided a few pockmarked mummies. The Lithuanian discovery challenged this when analysis concluded the virus was only a few hundred years old.

By comparing the 360-year-old strain from the child against all the known mutations, researchers determined they shared a single ancestor that first appeared sometime between 1588–1645. Had smallpox been thousands of years old, there would’ve been a significant increase in the number of strains, but the variety simply isn’t there. Some Egyptian mummies dating back thousands of years do have the trademark scarring, but measles and chickenpox could also have been responsible.

2The Cladh Hallan Burials


A decade ago, scientists were excavating a buried 3,000-year-old couple from the prehistoric village of Cladh Hallan, Scotland. Things didn’t get weird until one man noticed the female mummy’s jaw looked out of sorts, like it didn’t fit.

DNA tests told a macabre story. The pair had been pieced together from parts belonging to six unrelated people. Those assembling the woman date back to the same time period, but her male counterpart’s contributors died at different times, some hundreds of years apart. Even their burial took centuries to complete. First they were placed in a peat bog until they were mummified and were then reburied at the village, 300–600 years later. Interred in the fetal position, all soft tissue was destroyed by the soil of their new grave. It remains a riddle why the villagers went through all that trouble.

1Otzi Speaks

The superstar of the mummy world is undoubtedly Otzi. German tourists discovered him 25 years ago in South Tyrol, Italy. Researchers already determined his last meal, that he might have been murdered, looked at his DNA, tattoos, and health, then famously recreated his looks. In 2016, they finally returned Otzi’s voice.

The team faced several obstacles in the quest to hear him speak. One arm is flung across his throat, obstructing an examination. The tongue bone was also incomplete. An MRI scanner was preferred for its greater detail, but the body’s fragility meant it couldn’t be moved. After the scientists settled on a CT scan, Otzi’s vocal tract was inspected, and the tongue bone was recreated virtually. With the help of additional software and mathematical models, sound came to life.

It ranged between 100 and 150 Hz, normal for a human male. Since researchers don’t know how vocal cord tension and soft tissues affected his speech, his true speaking voice cannot be recreated. However, the tone of his vowels can, and it reveals a man sounding almost like a heavy smoker.