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The Egyptians – Expert Farmers
One of the reasons why the Ancient Egyptian civilization was so successful and
lasted for so long was the fact that they were able to farm the fertile soil around the
Nile and produce their own food and cloth and raise their own animals.
The river Nile is the longest river in the
World. The source of the river is in the
modern day country of Burundi in
Central Africa. It then flows through
Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt and empties
into the Mediterranean Sea.
During the early summer months, the
mountain region of Ethiopia experiences
very heavy rainfall which increases the
water level of the Nile. The heavy rain
happens almost 1500 km from dry
Egypt, yet the Nile floods in Egypt
between June and September. The
Egyptians called this the inundation. It
happened every year almost without fail.
If the flooding didn’t happen, Egypt
experienced famine (not enough food).
If too much water came down the river,
Egypt experienced extreme flooding.
The Farming Year
The four seasons in Canada and in many other countries of the world can be easily
identified because of the temperatures. In Egypt, it was always hot, so their seasons
were based on the Nile River and farming. They had three seasons:
1. The Inundation or Flooding (called Akhet) June to September in our
the Nile floodplains during flooding
When the Nile River flooded, water, mud and dirt from the river was washed up
over the river banks onto the floodplains. A floodplain is an area surrounding the
river that holds the flood water during the flood. It is usually dry the rest of the
year. When the water finally left the floodplains, the river sediments (mud and dirt)
became a productive growing area for the Egyptian crops.
During the period of the flood the Egyptian farmers couldn’t do any farming, so
they spent time mending and making tools and looking after the animals. Many
farmers earned extra money during the flood by working for the pharaoh building
pyramids and temples.
2. Growing Season (called Peret) October to February in our calendar
As soon as the flood waters
began to drop and the ground
dried up a bit, the Ancient
Egyptians ploughed the soil to
get it ready for planting. They
had hand ploughs or larger
ones that were pulled by oxen.
Seeds were then planted into
the newly ploughed soil. Goats
and other animals then walked
over the fields to push the
seeds into the ground.
Crops that were grown included wheat, barley, flax, onions, leeks, garlic, beans,
lettuce, lentils, cabbages, radishes, turnips, grapes, figs, plums and melons. The
Egyptians had plenty of food with great variety!
Since Egypt didn’t get much rain, they had to find a way of watering the crops once
all of the flood water receded (went away). The Egyptians solved this problem by
digging ponds and canals in the flood plain before the flooding. Once the water
receded, these ponds trapped the flood water to be used when needed.
The Egyptians invented a Shaduf to help get the trapped water from the ponds to
the crops. A shaduf has a long pole over a cross piece. The large pole has a
heavy weight on one end with a bucket on a string on the other end (a first class
lever). Once the bucket is filled with water, the weight on the other end made it
easy for the farmer to lift the bucket of water which was dumped into a canal which
led to the crops.
3. Harvest Time (Shemu) March to May
The harvest time was a very
busy time for farmers. Grain
was cut using a sickle (a
long curved knife). The cut
grain was then tied into
bundles and carried away.
Wheat was made into bread,
barley was made into beer
and flax was made into linen
Papyrus reeds grew naturally along the banks of the Nile. They were not a crop,
yet the Egyptians used the papyrus to make sandals, boats, baskets, mats and
Fruit and vegetables were harvested when they ripened.
Cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, and oxen were raised by farmers for their meat,
milk, hides and also to help with farm work.
This drawing gives a good idea of what the entire year may have looked like. It
shows the ploughing, planting, watering and harvesting all in one picture.
Q. What do you think the wood in the canals was used for?
A. _______________________________________________________________