Yasser Metwally

My life…and the world

Ancient Egyptian Agriculture

The author: Professor Yasser Metwally

http://yassermetwally.com


A tomb relief depicts workers plowing the fields, harvesting the crops, and threshing the grain under the direction of an overseer. A combination of favorable geographical features contributed to the success of ancient Egyptian culture, the most important of which was the rich fertile soil resulting from annual inundations of the Nile River. The ancient Egyptians were thus able to produce an abundance of food, allowing the population to devote more time and resources to cultural, technological, and artistic pursuits. Land management was crucial in ancient Egypt because taxes were assessed based on the amount of land a person owned.

A tomb relief depicts workers plowing the fields, harvesting the crops, and threshing the grain under the direction of an overseer....Click to enlarge

Figure 1. A tomb relief depicts workers plowing the fields, harvesting the crops, and threshing the grain under the direction of an overseer.

Farming in Egypt was dependent on the cycle of the Nile River. The Egyptians recognized three seasons: Akhet (flooding), Peret (planting), and Shemu (harvesting). The flooding season lasted from June to September, depositing on the river’s banks a layer of mineral-rich silt ideal for growing crops. After the floodwaters had receded, the growing season lasted from October to February. Farmers plowed and planted seeds in the fields, which were irrigated with ditches and canals. Egypt received little rainfall, so farmers relied on the Nile to water their crops. From March to May, farmers used sickles to harvest their crops, which were then threshed with a flail to separate the straw from the grain. Winnowing removed the chaff from the grain, and the grain was then ground into flour, brewed to make beer, or stored for later use.

The ancient Egyptians cultivated emmer and barley, and several other cereal grains, all of which were used to make the two main food staples of bread and beer. Flax plants, uprooted before they started flowering, were grown for the fibers of their stems. These fibers were split along their length and spun into thread, which was used to weave sheets of linen and to make clothing. Papyrus growing on the banks of the Nile River was used to make paper. Vegetables and fruits were grown in garden plots, close to habitations and on higher ground, and had to be watered by hand. Vegetables included leeks, garlic, melons, squashes, pulses, lettuce, and other crops, in addition to grapes that were made into wine.

Sennedjem plows his fields with a pair of oxen, used as beasts of burden and a source of food...Click to enlarge

Figure 2. Sennedjem plows his fields with a pair of oxen, used as beasts of burden and a source of food

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November 27, 2009 - Posted by | Ancient Egyptian panorama

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