Ancient Egypt stood as one of the world's most advanced civilizations for nearly 3,000 years and created a culture so rich that it has spawned its own field of study. But while Egyptian art, architecture and burial methods have become enduring objects of fascination, there is still a lot you probably don't know about these famed builders of the pyramids. From the earliest recorded peace treaty to ancient board games, find out 11 surprising facts about the Gift of the Nile.
1. Cleopatra was not Egyptian.
Along with King Tut, perhaps no figure is more famously associated with ancient Egypt than Cleopatra VII. But while she was born in Alexandria, Cleopatra was actually part of a long line of Greek Macedonians originally descended from Ptolemy I, one of Alexander the Great's most trusted lieutenants. The Ptolemaic Dynasty ruled Egypt from 323 to 30 B.C., and most of its leaders remained largely Greek in their culture and sensibilities. In fact, Cleopatra was famous for being one of the first members of the Ptolemaic dynasty to actually speak the Egyptian language.
2. The ancient Egyptians forged one of the earliest peace treaties on record.
For over two centuries the Egyptians fought against the Hittite Empire for control of lands in modern day Syria. The conflict gave rise to bloody engagements like 1274 B.C.'s Battle of Kadesh, but by time of the pharaoh Ramses II neither side had emerged as a clear victor. With both the Egyptians and Hittites facing threats from other peoples, in 1259 B.C. Ramses II and the Hittite King Hattusili III negotiated a famous peace treaty. This agreement ended the conflict and decreed that the two kingdoms would aid each other in the event of an invasion by a third party. The Egyptian-Hittite treaty is now recognized as one of the earliest surviving peace accords, and a copy can even be seen above the entrance to the United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York.