6 surprising things invented by ancient Egyptians



6 surprising things invented by ancient Egyptians

The ancient Egyptians were one of the most intriguing and mysterious civilizations in history. They erected enormous stone pyramids without the use of any of the heavy machinery we have today, they had a culture rich in mythology and unique ideas about death and the afterlife, and they were one of the first groups of people to translate their spoken language into a written one. You don’t have to be an Egyptologist to know that we owe the Egyptians big time for many of the ideas we still use today, but it may surprise you to learn that these six things we use on a regular basis were invented by the ancient Egyptians as well.


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Okay, so this first one isn’t so surprising. Egyptians invented writing, so it makes sense that they invented paper, too. Before the Egyptians started using papyrus to write on, everyone else was using clay tablets, stones, animal hides, or wood. Once papyrus was created (by pressing together pieces of the stalk of a papyrus plant to make a smooth surface), it changed the way people wrote all over the world. Papyrus was exported to places all over the Mediterranean, and the idea was eventually refined into the paper we use today.


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Speaking of papyrus, the oldest formula for toothpaste ever written was found on a piece of papyrus that is said to be more than 1,700 years old. The writer of the recipe called it “a powder for white and perfect teeth,” which, when mixed with saliva, forms a “tooth paste” that cleans teeth. Ingredients included rock salt, mint, dried iris flower, and crushed pepper. One dentist who tried it said that it made his gums bleed, but that it was much more effective than some other toothpastes that were created in the last century.

Prosthetic limbs

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Scientists knew that the ancient Egyptian civilization was advanced, but they didn’t know just how advanced it was until they discovered a prosthetic toe on the foot of a female mummy that dates back to sometime between 950 to 710 B.C. While false body parts were often attached to mummies for burial purposes, experts are in agreement that this toe was in fact used while the person was still alive. The wear and tear on the papier-mâché-type appendage (which was thought to be tied onto the foot or a sandal with string) proved that it was used to help the person walk, which means that we may have to thank the Egyptians for passing down their knowledge of prosthetics to modern-day doctors.

The modern calendar

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While Egyptians weren’t the first to invent a calendar, they were the ones who invented the calendar we use today. Since farming was very important to the Egyptians, they made up a schedule of when the different seasons were (the flooding season, the sowing season, and the harvesting season) to make their farming practices more efficient. After doing extensive research on the movements of the stars and the solar cycle, they broke each season into four months, each with 30 days (with a couple extra at the end of the season), which gave us the 365 day calendar we have been using ever since.


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For some reason, many scholars credit Leonardo da Vinci with inventing scissors (maybe because he invented so darn many other things). There is proof, though, that the Ancient Egyptians were using scissors long before da Vinci was even born—way back in 1500 B.C., to be precise. These scissors were composed of a single piece of bronze formed into two blades and held together by a strip of metal. The strip of metal kept the blades apart until they were squeezed together to cut things.


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The oldest lock known to man was extracted from the remains of an Egyptian palace, and it was surprisingly complex. The lock consisted of “a wooden bolt securing a door, with a slot with several holes on its upper surface. A device attached to the door contained wooden pins which would drop into the holes and secure the bolt.” A wooden key with matching pins would be inserted into the lock to open it, giving later civilizations some great ideas to work with when they started coming up with their own security systems.

5 things Leonardo da Vinci invented that we still use today




5 things Leonardo da Vinci invented that we still use today

Leonardo da Vinci was the ultimate Renaissance man. That’s true in the literal sense, because da Vinci did, in fact, live and create during the Renaissance.

But it’s true figuratively as well. He achieved so much and across such a wide variety of disciplines that it boggles the mind.

As if painting the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” weren’t enough, Leonardo da Vinci is also credited with dreaming up plenty of inventions, some of which have been in active use for centuries.

Here are just five of da Vinci’s inventions that we still use today.

Ball bearing

Close up photo of the inner mechanism of a ball bearing
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A ball bearing is positioned between a wheel and a fixed axle to help separate the moving and stationary parts and reduce friction. While a ball bearing might not be a super exotic invention, it sure is a useful one. Ball bearings allow for smooth movement of all sorts of mechanical devices by reducing the friction between surfaces.

We take it for granted today, but without this da Vinci creation, our machines would never have evolved to what they are today.

Diving gear

Old diving suit
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Da Vinci didn’t just embrace different artistic disciplines, but different elements, too. In addition to creating designs for flying machines and parachutes, da Vinci also came up with a design for a suit to be worn by soldiers planning stealthy attacks on enemy ships.

His design was for a suit made of leather with a bag-like mask to be worn over a diver’s head and face. Two tubes were attached to the nostrils at one end and to a floating diving bell above surface to let air in.

The mask also had a balloon that could either inflate or deflate, so divers could sink or rise on command. While the design didn’t become well-known until after da Vinci’s death, today’s diving suits bear more than a passing resemblance to da Vinci’s design.

Machine gun

An old machine gun
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Believe it or not, the painter of the famed “Mona Lisa” also designed an early version of the machine gun. Da Vinci was obsessed with making modern warfare more efficient, and among his many designs was one for a cannon with multiple barrels that rotated so that it could fire one load while another was being loaded.

Many see this design of a portable, fast and lightweight weapon as the earliest version of the machine gun.


Photo of a parachute over the ocean with a boat in the background
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True, the parachute as we know it today is largely credited to Sebastien Lenormand’s 1783 creation. However, Leonardo da Vinci came up with the idea a couple centuries earlier.

On his sketch, he noted: “If a man have a tent made of linen of which the apertures [openings] have all been stopped up, and it be twelve braccia [about 23 feet] across and twelve in depth, he will be able to throw himself down from any great height without suffering any injury.” Sounds like a parachute to us!

Of course, da Vinci’s design had issues. For one, it was made with linen on a wood frame, and the weight of that wood could have been an impediment to a smooth descent.


Photo of an old suit of armor next to gears and other mechanisms
Credit: Erik Möller/ Public Domain

While it would be hundreds of years before robots hit the mass market, Leonardo da Vinci is said to have made a beta version as early as the 1490’s.

Da Vinci created a robotic knight that was operated by levers and pulleys and mimicked human movement, which was undoubtedly a huge hit at the Milan celebration where it was unveiled.

Here’s to innovation!

Statue of of Leonardo da Vinci
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While many of da Vinci’s creations weren’t fully realized during his lifetime, many of his concepts and inventions were spot on and are credited with leading to the creation of products that are still used today. If you have a crazy idea for an invention, write it down! It might just be the toast of the town a few centuries down the line.