Fun Facts About Ancient Civilizations

Fun Facts About Ancient Civilizations: Hipsters of Beer, Robots, and Saunas

Ancient civilizations are incredibly interesting (says me... someone that LOVES history). Frankly, I can't understand why some struggle with gleaning interesting nuggets from past cultures. Perhaps they just haven't found a captivating teacher or a story that hit close to home. Well buckle up, because today we're going to change that. Here's 20 fascinating fun facts about ancient civilizations to whet your whistle. Let's go.

1. Egyptians Used Beer as Currency

The laborers who built the Great Pyramids of Giza were often paid in beer. It was considered both a refreshment and a form of nutrition. Forget about gold or silver; in ancient Egypt, liquid bread was the real treasure.

2. Mayans Predicted Eclipses

The Mayans had an advanced understanding of astronomy. They could predict solar and lunar eclipses and even had a calendar more accurate than the Julian calendar. All this without a single telescope or computer.

3. Roman Vomitoriums Weren't for Vomiting

Despite the misleading name, vomitoriums were actually the entranceways that led into Roman amphitheaters. They were designed for quick exits, not for purging after a feast.

4. Chinese Invented Toilet Paper

The Chinese were using toilet paper as early as the 6th century AD. This was a luxury item reserved for emperors and high-ranking officials. Meanwhile, Europeans were still using leaves, hay, and even their own hands.

6. Aztecs Played Deadly Ball Games

The Mesoamerican ball game was no joke. The rubber ball used could weigh up to 9 pounds, and the game often ended in human sacrifices. Losing a game could literally cost you your life.

7. Cleopatra Wasn't Egyptian

Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Egypt, was actually of Greek descent. She belonged to the Ptolemaic dynasty and was more Greek than Egyptian. She even spoke Greek and worshipped Greek gods. (They all liked cats though!)

Cleopatra Fun Facts

8. Vikings Never Wore Horned Helmets

Those iconic horned helmets are a myth created by 19th-century artists. In reality, Vikings wore simple leather and metal helmets. Horns would have been impractical in battle and could easily be grabbed by enemies.

9. Incas Had No Written Language

The Incas had no written language but used a system of knotted strings called "quipu" for record-keeping. These strings were color-coded and had various types of knots to represent different data.

10. Mesopotamians Invented the Wheel

The wheel was initially invented not for transportation but for pottery. Mesopotamians used it to shape clay before someone had the bright idea to put it on a chariot.

11. Phoenicians Created the Alphabet

The Phoenician alphabet was the basis for many Western scripts, including Greek and Latin. This seafaring people used their alphabet for trade, making it one of the earliest forms of international communication.

12. Sumerians Have the Oldest Surviving Beer Recipe

The Sumerians loved beer so much that they wrote down its recipe on a 4,000-year-old clay tablet. This ancient brew was a barley-based concoction that would make any modern-day hipster swoon.

13. Ancient Greeks Had Robots

The Greeks had automated figures known as "automatons" that could perform simple tasks. One famous example is the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek analog computer used for astronomy.

15. Babylonians Invented the 7-Day Week

The Babylonians were keen astronomers and chose to divide the week based on the seven celestial bodies visible to the naked eye. This system was later adopted by the Jews and, eventually, the rest of the Western world.

16. Egyptians Wore Wigs to Keep Cool

Egyptians shaved their heads to avoid lice and other pests. They wore wigs made of human hair, wool, or palm-leaf fibers to protect their scalps from the sun.

17. Romans Used Urine as Mouthwash

The ammonia in urine made it an effective, albeit disgusting, mouth cleanser. Roman laundries even used urine to bleach clothing.

18. Mayans Used Saunas for Rituals

The Mayan saunas, known as "temazcals," were used for purification rituals. Built from stone and clay, these saunas were believed to cleanse both the body and spirit.

19. Persians Invented the Fridge

The Persians used deep, underground chambers called "yakhchals" to store ice and perishables. These ancient fridges were often dome-shaped and

20. Japanese Samurai Had Day Jobs

When they weren't serving their lords or practicing martial arts, many Samurai were skilled in other arts like poetry and painting. They were the original Renaissance men, just with katanas.

Ancient civilizations were a hotbed of ingenuity, weirdness, and practices that would make modern life look like a snooze fest. If you're feeling pretty small in the grand scheme of things, you're not alone. Check out our post on 14 reasons why you are pretty small in the scheme of things. Or, if you're still hungry for more oddities, explore our other fun facts.

About the author(s):

Christman & Raelina

Christman and Raelina are both professional designers, writers and have been working with educational content for nigh on 30 years (between the two).

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