Ancient Egypt Pharaohs: Ruthless Practices, Inventions, and Curses

Updated on March 10, 2020
Gerry Glenn Jones profile image

Gerry Glenn Jones is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, as well as scripts for theatre and film. This is a factual account.

All Gizah Pyramids
All Gizah Pyramids | Source

When the Pharaohs Ruled Egypt

We normally take our trips in our everyday world of the present, but this time we're going to travel to ancient Egypt and visit the pharaohs. The Egyptians and their pharaohs have given modern-day civilization things to ponder on with the pyramids being the central point of conversation. There are still so many unanswered questions about how they accomplished their magnificent building projects and how they were able to be so precise in their calculations. However, that is not all that they make us scratch our heads about.

Although the pharaohs reigned for thousands of years, they ultimately lost their powers to rule. Listed below are some of the things they did that might have been a huge factor in their loss of power.

Mummy of Ahmose-Sitkamose, one of the Great Royal Wives of pharaoh Ahmose, found in DB320.
Mummy of Ahmose-Sitkamose, one of the Great Royal Wives of pharaoh Ahmose, found in DB320. | Source

Some of the Pharaohs' Evil and Stinky Practices

Some of the pharaohs kept flies away from themselves by having their slaves coated with honey. Not only was the honey sticky and the flies very annoying, the bees and wasps were also drawn to the sweet nectar.

The Egyptians had a sport where contenders knocked other contenders out of boats in crocodile-infested waters. If they weren't immediately killed by a crocodile, they usually drowned.

Some forced their women to use crocodile dung as a contraceptive. One thing is for sure; it kept any man, who didn't have a smelling problem away.

The mummified head of Egyptian pharaoh King Ahmose I.
The mummified head of Egyptian pharaoh King Ahmose I. | Source

The Pharaoh's Crocodiles

The Egyptian Pharaohs believed Sobek, a mythical man with the head of a crocodile was a god, and they worshiped him to receive his protection, strength, fertility, and rebirth. They believed he was the creator of the Nile River.

Because of this belief, the Nile crocodiles were considered guardians to the pharaohs and high priests of Egypt. Many of the creatures were exalted by the Egyptians, even though they feared them.

Crocodile mummy from ancient Egypt
Crocodile mummy from ancient Egypt | Source

First Known Use of Organized Labor

The first known use of organized labor was created by the pharaohs. It was very apparent in the building of the pyramids. This process of organized labor was once believed to be through the use of slaves brought together by the pharaohs, but it is believed by some now that they were built by paid laborers. This was announced by Egypt's chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass. He provided the following evidence to substantiate his claim.

He said the builders were skilled workers from poor families but were builders who came from poor families and were respected for their work. The workers who died during the construction of the pyramids were buried in tombs near the sacred pyramids.

Hawass further stated their burials close to the pyramids and the burial preparations for the afterlife would not have been done for slaves. He said they were surrounded by jars that were once filled with supplies for use in the afterlife.

I am sure that many others would respond to this with the assumption that the corpses found in the graves were paid, skilled laborers, but their responsibilities were to see that slaves carried out their work properly.

Mummy of Ahmose-Sitkamose, one of the Great Royal Wives of pharaoh Ahmose, found in DB320.
Mummy of Ahmose-Sitkamose, one of the Great Royal Wives of pharaoh Ahmose, found in DB320. | Source

The Ancient Egyptians Were Inventors

Although there were some pretty awful practices perpetrated by the pharaohs, there were some greatly significant inventions that came out of ancient Egypt. Here are some of them:

  • Papyrus Sheets
  • Black Ink
  • The Ox-drawn Plough
  • The Sickle
  • Irrigation
  • The Calendar
  • Clocks
  • The Police
  • Surgical Instruments
  • Cosmetic Makeup
  • Mummification
  • Pyramids

The Curse of King Tut

We have all heard about the "Curse of King Tut," and how it claimed the lives of at least people who were associated with the discovery of his tomb or involved in the examination of the pharaoh, King Tutankhamun, himself. However, the truth is, the curse was fabricated and even printed in a newspaper, with the following inscription, "They who enter this sacred tomb shall swift be visited by wings of death." There is no record of this phrase anywhere in the report on the tomb.

 Howard Carter opens the innermost shrine of King Tutankhamun's tomb near Luxor, Egypt.
Howard Carter opens the innermost shrine of King Tutankhamun's tomb near Luxor, Egypt. | Source

The Imaginary Curse Claims Its Victims

The hype of the day; however, is still very much alive in some Hollywood films, and paranormal media. Therefore, I must list those that society has labeled "victims of the course."

  • George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon died on April 5, 1923, from an infected mosquito bite.
  • George Jay Gould I, a visitor to the tomb, died of fever on 16 May 1923.
  • Prince Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey of Egypt was shot and killed by his wife on July 10, 1923.
  • Sir Archibald Douglas-Reid, a radiologist who x-rayed Tutankhamun's mummy, died on 15 January 1924 from a mysterious illness.
  • Sir Lee Stack, Governor-General of Sudan, was assassinated on November 19, 1924.
  • Arthur Cruttenden Mace, who was part of the dig-team, died on April 6, 1928, of arsenic poisoning.
  • Mervyn Herbert died from pneumonia on May 26, 1929.
  • Richard Bethell, Carter's personal secretary, died on Nov. 14, 1929.
  • Richard Luttrell Pilkington Bethell died on Feb. 20, 1930. He apparently committed suicide.
  • Howard Carter died on March 2, 1939; 17 years after the discovery.
  • Lady Evelyn Herbert was Lord Carnarvon's daughter and had actually been listed in some reports as being the first person to enter Tut's burial chamber because she was small enough to squeeze through the narrow leading to it. She died on January 31, 1980, at the age of 78; 57 years after the chamber was discovered.

Howard Carter, Lord Carnarvon and his daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert at the steps leading to the newly discovered tomb of Tutankhamen, November 1922.
Howard Carter, Lord Carnarvon and his daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert at the steps leading to the newly discovered tomb of Tutankhamen, November 1922. | Source

The End of the Pharaohs' Reign

Everything must come to an end, including the reign of the pharaohs. The last native Pharaoh, Nectanebo II was defeated by an army led by Artaxerxes III in 343 BC. There were some others that claimed the title pharaoh, but they were not Egyptian natives.

Be sure to watch the short video in this article, titled "Ancient Egyptian five minutes or less."


"In the Valley of the Kings – Howard Carter and the Mystery of King Tutankhamun's Tomb", Daniel Meyerson, p. 158, Ballantine Books, 2009, ISBN 978-0-345-47693-7

The Mummy's Curse - Mummymania in the English-speaking World, Jasmine Day, Routledge, 2006, pp. 46–7; 52–3

Curse of the Pharaohs -

Pharaoh - Ancient History Encyclopedia -

Pharaoh | Egyptian king | -

Egyptian Civilization -

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Gerry Glenn Jones


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      • Gerry Glenn Jones profile imageAUTHOR

        Gerry Glenn Jones 

        21 months ago from Somerville, Tennessee

        Thank you, I still believe that slave labor was used, even though some believe they were hires. I believe the hired, skilled laborers were like foremen over the unskilled slaves, and they were the ones buried near the pyramids.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        21 months ago from Sunny Florida

        I have always been fascinated by the pyramids in Egypt, ot that I have actually been there. I didn't know about all the cruel practices, but just to get the pyramids built had to have killed some people.

        This is a very interesting historic article.


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