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Fun Fact: We’re closer to the time of Cleopatra (70 – 30 BCE), than Cleopatra is to the building of The Great Pyramid (2601 BCE).
Yup, that’s how old Ancient Egypt is. And it keeps on giving.
The greatest and longest civilization known to man has had its lasting effect on the world for thousands of years. From its inventions and innovations to its religions, languages, numeracy and construction methods, its given us so much. Over 5,000 years have passed, yet the Egyptians have cemented their spot in our world’s history.
The pyramids have already seen it all so there not going anywhere and until we have absolutely zero reminisce of our modern technology, which would take centuries if not millennia, the Egyptian legacy will carry on.
When it comes to their innovations and inventions, I don’t even know where to start.
Make-up, paint, perfume, copper pipping, hair combs, door locks, sailboats, our 365-day calendar, a mail and postal system, toothpaste, toothbrushes, all types of mathematical arithmetic’s, master bedrooms; yup, they covered it all and that’s just a minuscule fraction of what they did. Not to mention, they invented high heels! Yes, even they were “in” 4,000 years ago, although it was only for the upper class as the lower class walked barefoot. The higher the heel, the higher the position. Heck, they even invented breathe mints using things like cinnamon and honey. Your welcome Tic Tac.
They didn’t forget to have fun either.
Next time you go bowling, say thank you to our ancient friends because they were throwing balls at pins over 4,000 years ago. They also had games with small figurines and dice that would be used in a multitude of activities.
(Heidie Konkanen / Flikr)
The Egyptians were also very in touch with the medical side of things. They were the first in history to practice a type of gynecology, they had pregnancy tests, birth control, bandages, prosthetics and could even fix a broken nose with rhinoplasty.
As I said, this is just a tiny fraction of what they accomplished, and we can already see the impact it still has in today’s world. One of their most important innovations though is how they wrote.
Many historians and archeologists believe the first instance of the first full sentence being documented was carved in a cylinder seal by the Pharoah Seth-Peribsen during the Second Dynasty (2890 – 2686 BCE): “He has united the Two Lands for his son, Dual King Peribsen.” That’s the first sentence ever written!
How they wrote was just as important as what they wrote on. The Egyptians were the first known people to write on a paper like material using the plant papyrus, which was grown and cultivated all around The Nile River. They would cut it in thin strips, press it and dry it out to form a smooth writing surface.
(Below: Papyrus plant)
(Patricia Elsner / Flikr)
We could spend forever going over what they discovered, invented or innovated and we still wouldn’t cover everything. Remember, they were around for 3,500 years so the list is endless.
Besides all these achievements, there was one thing they did not accept or appreciate. What they didn’t know though is, is what they denied may have been the first sign of the largest religion in the world today.
The Egyptians were polytheists, so they believed in many deities. They had different gods that represented almost everything in their daily life from war and hunting to fertility and the afterlife. For a short period of time though, one Pharoah abandoned all this.
Amenhotep IV landed on the throne around 1350 BCE (the exact date is still debated among historians, but this is the general time frame). The name, Amenhotep, meant “Amun is satisfied”, who was the god of the air, but this didn’t last very long after he became king.
He changed his name to Akhenaten, which means “Aten is satisfied”, who was the sun god. The reason for this change was more than just him wanting a new name. He wasn’t a polytheist; he didn’t believe in multiple gods. He’s considered to be the first-ever monotheist believing in only one god: Aten, the sun god.
At a time of unprecedented wealth, Akhenaten was making major changes with his resources and power. His belief in only one god led to many changes included the closure of temples, statues of deities being destroyed and moving the capital city from Thebes to a city he built named Akhetaten (Horizon of the Aten), better known today as Armana.
(Below: Statue of Akhenaten)
(vanna martin / Flikr)
This change from polytheism to monotheism was definitely not popular with many people in the kingdom, especially the high priests. His reign lasted about 20 years and once he died, he was considered the “Heretic King” for his views on religion. Once he was no longer wearing the crown, most of his statues were broken, covered over, his writings trashed, his temples destroyed or used for other deities because the Egyptians wanted to forget about the Heretic King.
Although the people at the time thought this was heresy, he was actually before his time and is considered by many to be the forerunner of Christianity and most polytheist religions today. Before him, ancient civilizations believed in multiple gods in order to make sense of their world but not Akhenaten. To some, he may have been a heretic, but to others, he may have been a pioneer.
With everything the Ancient Egyptians did, what’s most admirable about their civilization is how long it lasted: approximately 3,500 years. Over that time, everything went through an evolution. From their language and communication methods to math, politics and everything in between.
Compare that to us today. The industrial revolution was only a couple hundred years ago and look what we’ve done to our society and to Mother Earth since then.
The Ancient Egyptians are doused in mystery, but the facts that we have are undeniable in their worth. If we dive deep into how they lived, I think we can learn a lot. I’m not saying living in Egypt 4,000 years ago would have been better, but I do think there is something to say for a civilization lasting over 3,000 years and then taking a look at what we’ve done in only a couple hundred.
Do you think our civilization could last another 3,000 years?