Talk Like an Ancient Egyptian

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Some things never change.
Ancient Egyptians gossiped about a bald queen, royals who had affairs, missing bodies, homosexuality, harem intrigue and more, according to a noted Egyptologist.
 
Lisa Schwappach-Shirriff, curator of California’s Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, which houses North America’s largest collection of Egyptian artifacts, recently found evidence for tabloid-like gossip in the museum’s eclectic archives and elsewhere. The findings suggest humans always have enjoyed chatting about personal or sensational information concerning others.
 
They also reveal what officials communicated through their official artwork and hieroglyphics.
 
“The ancient Egyptians believed that anything written down became magically true, so even if something was true, if it was unpleasant, it was usually not written,” said Schwappach-Shirriff, who recently presented her findings at the museum, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
 
She added, “That is what makes it so interesting when you find out small details of what we would consider gossip.”
 
As an example, she explained that a text from around 5,000 years ago described how an unnamed king frequently visited one of his general’s houses at night. The text repeats the phrase, “in whose home there was no wife,” suggesting that the king was having a homosexual affair.
 
“Did that mean the Egyptians were anti-homosexual in their opinions? Maybe not,” Schwappach-Shirriff told Discovery News. “The problem could have been that the general was not fulfilling his social duties by producing an heir from a wife.”
 
Andre Dollinger, another Egyptologist who has published many works on Egyptian history and culture, suggested people also gossiped about royals who partied too much.
 
“A drawing on limestone shows a king with what seems to be a six o’clock shadow, looking much the worse for wear,” Dollinger said.
 
Schwappach-Shirriff said a more visual form of gossip was discovered near the temple of Queen Hatshepsut. She declared herself king and had a close relationship with an advisor named Senenmut.
 
“How close is a matter of conjecture, but it is clear that the workmen who were building the temple thought that it was very close,” she said. “A graffito was discovered depicting a distinctly feminine ‘king’ in a compromising position with a non-royal individual. Since this was found at a construction worker’s rest area at the site, you can imagine them giggling to themselves over lunch.”
Update: Top 5 bits of gossip that you might have heard at a party in Ancient Egypt:
 
5. “Look at the size of her Tut.”
4. “Did you hear about Pharises? He got involved in a pyamid scheme and lost all of his money.”
3. “Apparently, Rameses got himself a sugar-mummy.”
2. “Cleopatra moved on from Amun ben Affleck, and is now dating Mark Anthony.”
1. “I heard that Pharaoh’s son Moses is actually a Jooooooo.”

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An Aussie immigrant to Israel, David Lange is founder and managing editor of Israellycool. He is a happy family man, and a lover of steak, Australian sports and single malt whisky.