The Lives of Average Ancient Egyptians

Nearly all historical studies tend to focus on major figures — monarchs, chiefs, military leaders, and revolutionaries — the folks who most stood out in terms of their pivotal roles, monuments, or outsized characters. But clearly, these individuals are an exceedingly small minority in the societies they lived in, and hardly representative of the typical person’s lifestyle, beliefs, routines, etc. We can only glean so much from the exceptional and often disconnected upper-classes that are often disproportionately represented.

Moreover, even the greatest and most exemplary leaders could only accomplish so much without the thousands (if not millions) of faceless and nameless people that helped make it happen. From the peasants and laborers that helped build empires, to the grunts that executed successful conquests and campaigns, these are the neglected masses that deserve some attention, if only to know: how did average joes and janes like us get by day-to-day?

With respect to Ancient Egypt at least — one of the world’s most spectacular and captivating civilizations — there is thankfully a great two-part series that sheds some light on how members of this advanced society got by. It is of course courtesy of the esteemed BBC.   Check out the videos below, as they are well worth your time.

Who knew that Egyptian courtship was relatively so liberal? Or that Egyptian homes were advanced enough to feature proto-fridges and ovens? Or that the Egyptians used moldy bread to successfully treat infection, unknowingly realizing the benefits of penicillin before we even knew such microorganisms existed. The familiarity and humanity of these thousands-year old people is absolutely awe-inspiring…to me at least.

Feel free to share your own thoughts and reactions.

Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives

I’ve had a long day at work, and I am subsequently left with little energy for writing. So, I thought I’d keep today’s entry short and instead share a very illuminating educational series I stumbled upon recently.

Firstly, this isn’t the same Terry Jones who infamously burned a copy of the Quran a few months ago. Rather, he is a prominent Welsh comedian – better known as a member of the Monty Python comedy troupe – who hosted a brief but well-received documentary series on the everyday life of various medieval archetypes. The premise of the show, to borrow from it’s own introduction:

Terry Jones’ mission is to rescue this romanticised era from cliches and well-worn platitudes. Revealing that no one thought the world was flat and dental hygiene was actually better than it is today, Jones will use animation, medieval locations across Europe and new research to bring the Middle Ages to life. The truth behind eight familiar medieval archetypes including the Knight, the Damsel and the King is unravelled, exposing some wonderfully human stories

Indeed, I’m for anything that seeks to  reassess our understanding of a subject and challenge what we think we know. As to be expected from a host of his talents, the series often has a fun and silly tone to it, though that no way detracts from it’s interesting and engaging premise. This is definitely a win for any of my fellow history buffs.

This is a link to the entire season, which could be found on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/show?p=s-Gqsjg9y-8&tracker=show0. While it’s brief, at only eight episodes, I think it does a good job in providing some fresh insight into a little-know and largely misunderstand era of human history. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.