Do you ever get a stiff neck from doing assignments? Do your thumbs ever get sore after playing lots of video games? Sitting in the same position or doing the same task over and over can cause injuries and even change your bones! And we just found out that this has been going on for a very, very long time.

4,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians called scribes did all the writing needed for business and government. A typical day for a scribe involved hours of sitting cross-legged, bending their head over their work and chewing on a brush-like pen. We know about their posture from ancient paintings and statues.

Ancient Egyptian sculptures, one sitting cross-legged the other three standing.

Ancient Egyptian scribes spent hours sitting with crossed legs. Credit: Martin Frouz and the Czech Institute of Egyptology, Charles University

Person writing whilst kneeling with one leg up. Points on the body are highlighted with red dots and closeup circles show bones.

Where scribes get injuries on their skeletons. Drawing by Jolana Malátková. Credit: © Archive of Czech Institute of Egyptology, Faculty of Arts, Charles University

Recently, a team of archaeologists compared the skeletons of scribes to those of other ancient Egyptians. They found that the scribes had a lot more injuries to their neck, shoulder, leg and jaw bones. These injuries match up with a scribe’s typical day of sitting and chewing. Turns out a stiff neck from doing homework is nothing new!

Explore this story in more depth on Cosmos!

Note: the team of researchers who did this work came from the National Museum of Prague and Charles University in Prague.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By submitting this form, you give CSIRO permission to publish your comments on our websites. Please make sure the comments are your own. For more information please see our terms and conditions.

Why choose the Double Helix magazine for your students?

Perfect for ages 8 – 14

Developed by experienced editors

Engaging and motivating

*84% of readers are more interested in science

Engaging students voice