In ancient times, most Egyptians enjoyed a good life. Thanks to the annual flooding of the Nile, enough food could be grown and harvested to guarantee no one went hungry.
Pharaohs and their large extended families lived in beautiful palaces with high ceilings, tiled floors, and grand columned rooms painted with scenes from nature. Year-round warm weather allowed wealthy or well-connected Egyptians to enjoy outdoor living spaces landscaped with reflecting pools and fruit trees.
Everyday workers had modest 2-story homes with flat roofs for entertaining and sleeping, small windows and downstairs areas for cooking or storage.
BUT…rich or poor, the ancient Egyptians still had to deal with the same pesky critters that bug us today. And just as now, nothing much could rid the Egyptians of their creepy creatures.
Let’s take a look at some of the world’s oldest annoying pests.
Head lice, the same ones that give nightmares to school nurses, were common in the ancient world. In Egypt, children’s heads – especially the boys – were shaved to discourage lice from laying eggs in their hair. Yick.
Bedbugswere another annoyance, and as difficult to be rid of then as now. Ancient papyrus documents from the time of the pharaohs discussed ways to get rid of bed bugs and also how to use them as cures for ailments. (Don’t believe this one:To cure a snake bite, drink a cup of mashed bed bugs.)
In 1990, archeologists discovered 3,550-year-old bed bug fossils in an ancient Egyptian village.
Today we have bug spray to keep away mosquitoes and gnats, but in ancient times, people spread scented oil on their bodies to discourage the bugs from biting.
Fishermen figured out that they could roll themselves up in fishing nets at night, to prevent gnats and mosquitoes from snacking on them as they slept, much the same way malaria nets work today to protect people from infected mosquito bites.
Fleas bites, ever-present in the ancient world, still create red, itchy rashes on dogs and unsuspecting humans. Fleas infected by rats are also blamed as carriers of plagues, fast-moving diseases that wiped out entire populations in the ancient world.
Had enough? I have! Next week I’ll blog about another kind of pest in the ancient world.