Ancient Egyptian pyramids were funerary monuments. Besides the three world-famous pyramids at Giza, Egypt contains the remains of over eighty other large royal pyramids that were built during the Old and Middle Kingdoms, and of hundreds of smaller pyramids that adorned the New Kingdom tombs of private individuals; large groups of small royal pyramids were later built in Nubia, modern Sudan. Symbols of the connection between earth and sky, pyramids were built along the Nile for nearly three thousand years, displaying a range of shapes, dimensions, and construction techniques.
Our knowledge of these monuments is extensive yet uneven: a linear evolution of shape and layout appears to proceed alongside the periodic appearance of unique elements; the few extant mathematical sources from ancient Egypt provide information on how the slope of these monuments was measured and calculated, but not on how it was chosen; the precision of the orientation of the sides towards the four cardinal points indicates a stellar alignment, but the identification of the stars involved in the process is still doubtful; the archaeological evidence suggests that ramps where used in the construction, but their structure and shape can only be guessed. Therefore, the main challenge in the ongoing study of pyramids is that of combining various sources and reckoning with the simultaneous presence of recurring elements and unique circumstances.
The Greek, Hellenistic and Roman worlds were characterized by a culture of knowledge that fostered and celebrated innovation and invention. Greeks and Romans not only embraced technological practices developed elsewhere in earlier periods, maximizing their use, but also saw the diffusion of a broad range of inventions and innovations in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transport, and communication. These innovations not only had a tangible impact on everyday material culture, but also supported the increasingly complex social, economic and political networks that came to characterize the ancient Mediterranean.
Graeco-Roman antiquity was a pre-industrial and agrarian society. It had limited means to circulate knowledge, and there were structural constraints on the emergence and diffusion of innovations compared to the early modern and modern world. At the same time, the Graeco-Roman world grew into an increasingly vast and complex conglomerate of social, political, and economic networks that facilitated (and fostered) innovation more than ever before, which resulted in significant change in technological practice and a well-developed consumer culture in which invention and knowledge could be appreciated and celebrated.
First attested indirectly in the 3rd millennium
Specialization, starting with dentistry, ophthalmology, pharmacology and veterinary medicine attest to a high degree of professional education and practice in the 3rd millennium. Any generalizing term for the art of medicine is unknown; names of individuals involved in it are known to us from either autobiographical inscriptions or documentary texts from everyday life. In many cases, magical incantations and rituals went along with the “medical” treatments. Medicine and magic cannot be separated from each other in ancient Egypt.
Andrew M. Riggsby
There is a large body of evidence for Roman use of weights and measures. In theory, they would have been able to measure a variety of quantities with great precision, given the variety of different-sized units at their disposal and an elaborate system of fractional subdivisions of those units. Moreover, those measurements could have been accurate with respect to a shared system because of publicly available exemplary standards, a theoretical connection between the definitions of the most important measurements, and the existence of state officials who could enforce the standards. As a result, Romans could, in principle, have conveyed very specific metrological information across a great deal of space and time. In practice, measurement was considerably less predictable and less precise. Actual measurement did not necessarily avail itself of the full resources of the theoretical system, and sometimes did not appeal to any general system. Moreover, overtly competing systems coexisted with the “official” ones at all times. Finally, it is not clear how coherent that official system was, nor were the actual systems of enforcement particularly robust. As a result, measurement was often imprecise and/or tightly localized (which probably generated weak expectations of being able to replicate measurement across different contexts).
Women were involved in both practical and theoretical aspects of scientific endeavour in the ancient world. Although the evidence is scant, it is clear that women innovated techniques in textile manufacture, metallurgy, and medical sciences. The most extensive engagement of women in science was in medicine, including obstetrics, gynaecology, pharmacology, and dermatology. The evidence for this often comes from male medical writers. Women were also involved in the manufacture of gold alloys, which interested later alchemists. Maria of Alexandria innovated equipment and techniques while also theorizing about chemical change. Many of the works ascribed to women in antiquity were not written by women. However, they do indicate what sorts of sciences were taken to be the province of women.
Scientific achievements are not the result of individual genius. Science has been a collective endeavour, involving the whole structure of society. The ancient world is no exception to this. Indeed, what is known about the desire for knowledge and control of the physical world indicates that the ways in which Greeks and Romans pursued it were various and diverse, and included the thoughts and activities of many women.
The term “Babylonian astronomy” is used to refer to a diverse range of practices undertaken by people in ancient Babylonia and Assyria including what in modern English would be referred to as astronomy, astrology and celestial divination, and cosmology. The earliest astronomical or astrological texts preserved from Babylonia and Assyria date to the early 2nd millennium