Over half of Brits admit they know ‘next to nothing’ – about Ancient Egypt

Eight in ten Brits (79%) feel it is important to be knowledgeable about history – and yet as many as 56% admit they know “next to nothing” about Ancient Egypt, a study has found.

Despite 39% claiming this era of history is the one they are most interested in, only a third (32%) are able to name any of the famous landmarks from the era.

One in ten claim they have never heard of the Pyramids of Giza, and 8% said the same of the Great Sphinx – while 21% are uncertain whether Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Egypt, really existed.

And nearly half (48%) didn't realise that cats are associated with this period – while only 6% knew that the era lasted 3,000 years. In fact, over a quarter (26%) of the 18-34-year-old respondents believe Ancient Egypt lasted no more than a century.

And this age group was also most likely to believe in Ancient Egyptian myths and legends, such as the hidden maze beneath the paws of the Great Sphinx (17%).

They also believe that the Pyramids of Giza were built by aliens (10%), and that they were built in alignment with the stars (21%) – despite there being no evidence of this.

The research was commissioned to mark the launch of Total War: PHARAOH, with SEGA Europe Limited and Creative Assembly teaming up with historian, Bettany Hughes, to open the “Ancient Legacies of Egypt” exhibition at The Outernet London.

It features sand sculptures made by Sand In Your Eye – including the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Great Sphinx of Giza, and a bust of Ramesses III, each weighing in at 800kg, and standing 1.7 metres tall.

Bettany Hughes said: “Ancient Egypt was such a fascinating period in history. This new research clearly underlines how people passionately want to learn more about such an intriguing era, which has captured the hearts and minds of historians for centuries.

“I hope the “Ancient Legacies of Egypt” exhibition, with its intricately detailed recreations of architectural masterpieces, will inspire visitors to discover more about Ancient Egypt.”

The study also found that 89% did not realise it took the Ancient Egyptians 20 years to build the Great Pyramid.

And 41% were unaware that the only surviving structure of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was built as a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu.

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Meanwhile, as many as 71% don’t know Tutankhamun, arguably the most famous pharaoh from Ancient Egypt, was just in his late teens when he died. And most (56%) aren’t aware the young pharaoh’s tomb was found in the 20th Century.

But while 52% know British archaeologist, Howard Carter, is credited with the discovery, 48% have no idea Tutankhamun’s tomb was found in the Valley of the Kings.

Nearly a quarter (24%), of 18-34-year-olds, think it was discovered in the Great Pyramid, while 5% think it was found at the bottom of the river Nile.

The study, carried out via OnePoll, also found that, after Ancient Egypt, the periods of history people are most interested in are World War I (33%) and World War II (33%).

Todor Nikolov, game director for Total War: PHARAOH, said: “We chose Ancient Egypt as the next chapter in our historical strategy series because it remains one of the most iconic periods in the history of humankind.

“Thousands of years after its downfall, its breath-taking architecture, charismatic leaders, and epic tales of warfare, remain some of the most alluring to have ever existed.

“During development, our team fell in love with Ancient Egypt as we uncovered so much about life at the time, especially how the different leaders waged war and left their mark on history.”

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