by: Geoff Ficke

Any visitor to modern Egypt, or viewer of a travelogue on this amazing country is awed by the antiquities visible everywhere. The Sphinx, hundreds of pyramids and mausoleums, temples and statuary are testament to the brilliance of this 4000 year old culture. These relics have survived the ravages of time, weather, wars and invasions.

Almost entirely forgotten, however, is the ancient Egyptian fetish for personal health and cleanliness. We know from written records and paintings that they were very keen to promote health, wellness and hygiene in ways that were amazingly advanced for the time, and would be considered modern today. Unfortunately, after the glory of the pharaoh’s faded, these habits were forgotten for centuries and, particularly in Western Europe, people lived in filth for ages.

An example of ancient Egyptians interest in cleanliness is their oral hygiene regimen. Egypt is an arid, windy, sandy country. Dust was omnipresent and was often blown into their foodstuffs. Grains were ground for flour between stone wheels and bits of the stone would become mixed into the final product. We know from examining mummies that their teeth were ground down almost to the gum line from a lifetime of chewing this gritty diet. The pain must have been unbearable.

Halitosis is most prevalent when tooth and gum disease is present. The Egyptians perfected the art of perfumery. For treatment of halitosis they would chew fragrant herbs and rinse with a concoction of warm water, a drop of perfume and an herb cocktail. They also practiced a form of dentistry, using needles to pierce and bleed abscesses. Priests acted as doctors and dentists.

More than half of all ancient Egyptian babies died before the age of five. Women were very protective of their bodies as soon as they became aware of their imminent pregnancy. We know that they utilized a very clever pregnancy test, thousands of years before the red/blue urine test modern women buy at pharmacies. Wheat or oat grains were collected, and the ancient Egyptian woman would urinate on the seeds. If the seeds sprouted, the woman knew she was pregnant and would adjust her personal regimen to prepare for the precious moment of childbirth.

There are many more examples of practical, but advanced hygienic procedures that were used 4000 years ago to pamper and protect the human body. And yet, a millennium later, virtually none were in wide use in most of the world. What happened?

Climate, demographics, social mores and superstitions are a few of the reasons historians and anthropologist’s offer as evidence for the loss of ancient healthcare techniques. Today, we believe that living in advanced modern societies we will improve and perfect new care techniques and each subsequent generation will live better, healthier lives than previous generations. Unless we learn the lessons of history there is no guarantee that we might not revert to a Dark Age lifestyle.

Currently there is a world economic crisis. If we had studied and learned from past economic calamities much of the pain being suffered by the worlds economy could have been mitigated. The fact is we often ignore or forget the lessons of the past. The bubonic plague of the middle-ages would most assuredly have been mitigated if society had utilized hygienic procedures perfected by the ancient Egyptians and Romans. Manias like Holland’s 17th century tulip-mania, South Africa’s milk culture scheme, Ponzi schemes, and countless modern recessions and the great depression all germinate from the same seeds: greed, fear and a lack of historical perspective.

Societies do forget. Governments do forget. Groups and individuals do forget. The ancient Egyptians gifted the world with many advances in engineering, construction, science, health care and art. These lessons were largely lost in subsequent centuries. Some, such as the mystery of the erection of the pyramids, have never been rediscovered. It behooves us all today to rekindle an interest in history and ancient creativity.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.