Vol. 2 No. 1 (2018)
Historical Articles

Snapshots of chemical practices in Ancient Egypt

Jehane Ragai
Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, The American University in Cairo, 37, Sedley Taylor road, CB28PN, Cambridge, UK
Bio

Published 2018-03-26

Keywords

  • ancient egyptians,
  • chemical synthesis,
  • Egyptian Blue,
  • Kohl,
  • scientific method

How to Cite

Ragai, J. (2018). Snapshots of chemical practices in Ancient Egypt. Substantia, 2(1), 93-101. https://doi.org/10.13128/Substantia-43

Abstract

This article gives a historical overview of a number of chemical practices carried out by the Ancient Egyptians and shows that beyond being purely empirical, in more than one instance their methods suggest an understanding of the rudiments of modern day chemistry. A close analysis of some of their preparations indicates that Ancient Egyptians were familiar with the principles of oxidation and reduction, could control the pH of a solution and were successful in preparing novel compounds through a controlled technology of chemical synthesis. In the latter endeavor it is shown that these Ancient people embraced the scientific method, preceding Aristotle’s rejection in Ancient Greece of a purely deductive approach to scientific enquiry. Egyptian Blue, the only pigment synthesized by the Ancient Egyptians is also discussed, and attention is drawn to its potential future contributions to modern high-tech applications.