Translation helps us understand people from other cultures, even if they vanished thousands of years ago. For example, consider the ancient Egyptians. Until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone allowed ancient Egyptian writing to be translated in 1820, all that we knew of them came from the writings of historians from other cultures. However, these accounts were often inaccurate.
Fortunately for us, writing was a vital part of ancient Egyptian culture. Once scholars were able to read what they left behind, they learned a surprising amount about how the ancient Egyptians lived.
Here are 8 interesting facts about ancient Egypt we learned from translation:
Why Scribes Really Ran the Ancient Egyptian World
Writing was an essential skill in ancient Egyptian society. To keep the empire running smoothly, they needed to write everything down, from the sacred (funeral texts, magic spells) to the mundane (contracts, legal documents). And yet, only about 1% of the population was literate.
Because of this, scribes became a privileged intellectual class. Their services were always in high demand. Sometimes, scribes even led large building and infrastructure projects. To quote one ancient text, The Satire of the Trades,
“See, there is no office free from supervisors, except the scribe’s. He is the supervisor!”