Ancient Egyptian frescoes.

Ancient Egyptian Inventions That Are Still Used Today

From the calendar system which structures modern day life, to shaving tools, writing utensils, and recreational activities, the Ancient Egyptian civilization invented many meaningful tools and systems which are major parts of modern day life. Without these innovations, who knows how long it would have been before similar things were created or adopted into every day use?


Ancient Egyptian calendar engraved on the stonewall.
Ancient Egyptian calendar engraved on the stonewall of the Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt. 

While the 365-day modern calendar seems like something that is a given, it didn't really exist before Ancient Egyptian times. Ancient Egyptians created a calendar as a means of tracking agricultural seasons. As the nearby Nile River flooded annually, this calendar allowed them to anticipate when the river's banks would overflow. The flood cycle was the basis of their calendar, but similar to the modern calendar, it contained 365 days in it. The calendar was also separated into 12 months, though each consisted of 30 days at the time, with the five remaining days occurring at the end of the year rather than being spread out as they are today. This system was vital to agriculture in Egypt and ensured people did not go hungry or lose their groups to flooding. Though the reasoning for this calendar has shifted, it is the basis of what most of the world still uses today. 

Papyrus And Ink (writing tools)

Antique Egyptian papyrus and hieroglyph
Antique Egyptian papyrus and hieroglyph. 

Ink was not used prior to the time of Ancient Egyptians. However, as they became interested in documenting their history, they looked to find a way to document their activities and stories. The Egyptians were able to create the first ink using a mixture of vegetable gum, soot, and beeswax. Similarly, they made the first types of paper from papyrus leaves, which were created by pressing and squeezing pulp (a process that is similar to what is done today, though the modern paper has become more and more thin and smooth as the process has been refined). These paper and ink documents are still in existence today and show the beginnings of modern paper and ink used worldwide today. 


Portrait of a beautiful young couple with eye makeup in an ancient egyptian tomb.
Portrait of a beautiful young couple with eye makeup in an ancient egyptian tomb, necropolis of the nobles at thebes, near Luxor, Egypt. 

While makeup may also seem like a modern creation, it dates back to the Ancient Egyptians. Eye makeup was first invented around 4000 B.C. and used very similar techniques as makeup manufacturing does today. Soot was mixed with galena to form a black material known as kohl, which was then used for eyeliner. This is very similar to eyeliner pencils today and even goes by the same name. Additionally, green-tinted makeup was also made by mixing malachite - a deep green mineral rock - with the same galena. Makeup in Ancient Egyptian times was worn by both men and women as a status symbol and also for religious purposes. Upper-class people and royals wore large amounts of makeup and thick eyeliner, which is where the "egyptian eye" look comes from. In a spiritual sense, Egyptians also believed that wearing eye makeup would protect them from falling victim to the evil eye. 

Breath Mints

Ancient Egyptians often had problematic teeth, or bad breath. Since stones, and devices such as stone mortar and pestles were used to grind flour and grains, sand was often common in their meals. This grit is thought to have worn down tooth enamel, making their teeth more prone to cavities and disease. This in turn led to bad breath. In order to fight off the smell, Ancient Egyptians created the first known breath mints. These were made from combining frankincense, cinnamon and myrrh, which were then boiled with honey and shaped into pellets, much like mints. 

Shaving And Haircuts

Ancient Egyptians were some of the first known people to shave their hair. Long hair was thought to be unhygienic, and the heat of Egypt may have likely made having lots of hair uncomfortable. Because of this, the trend became clean-shaven. Hair was cut short or removed altogether, and it is thought that priests went as far as to shave their entire bodies every three days. A lack of hair was also part of a status symbol, and stubble was considered low class. This aversion to hair - or specifically hair on one's head, led the Egyptians to invent what is thought to be the first razors. These were made from sharp stones which were filed down to blades and inserted into wooden handles. These were then 'upgraded' with the invention of copper blades. Similarly, barbering was invented as wealthy people were able to summon someone to their residence in order to shave or cut their hair. 

Door Locks

Wooden latch of a wooden ancient gate in Cairo, Egypt.
Wooden latch of a wooden ancient gate of the caravansary of Bazaraa, Cairo, Egypt. 

It is hard to think of a time when door locks didn't exist, but they simply were not a thing before Ancient Egyptian times. In 4000 B.C., the pin tumbler lock, which is much like a deadbolt, was first created. This particular lock consisted of a hollowed-out bolt, which had pins that could be shifted with the insertion of a key. By pushing the key against these pins, they moved away from the bolt shaft, in turn enabling the shaft to be withdrawn. Due to a lack of refinement, however, locks at this time were significantly larger than modern-day ones. These Ancient Egyptian locks were more than half a meter in size, and rather heavy and cumbersome. 


While bowling isn't a useful tool, like many of the other inventions on this list, it is still interesting to note that the ancient Egyptians invented this still-popular pastime thousands of years ago. Archaeologists discovered the remains of a room which contained a set of lanes, which measured nearly 4 meters in length. Along with the lane was discovered a set of balls in a variety of sizes. This room, which was located in Narmoutheos (some 90- kilometers outside Cairo), was thought to be evidence of early bowling games. This game was more like current bocci or lawn bowling games (which involve throwing larger heavy balls and attempting to land them nearest to a small target ball). Instead of knocking over pins, as is the objective in modern bowling, the Egyptian version seemed to involve landing your throwing balls into a small hole in the middle of the lane. (In essence, this is a mixture of the party game cornhole and traditional bocci ball). 


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