; The Livelihood of a Civilization
Agriculture and food production are quite literally the skills that feed a civilization. Old Kingdom Egypt excelled in this area. Egypt’s high success in agriculture was due to many things, ranging from a near constant climate, to the Nile and its annual inundations causing the land to be inexhaustible, to Egypt’s vast amount of other natural resources.
This paper will only give a general overview of the more popular resources yielded by agriculture and food production in Old Kingdom Egypt.
The Nile is of particular importance, as it was the source of life in Egypt. Egypt’s crop fields are the product of the fertile kamat soil. Egypt’s primary concern was on cereal crops that’s yields had various functions. Egypt’s marshlands provided Egypt with plants that could provide oil as well as building materials. It was also a source of a wide range of species of fish. Animal husbandry was particularly important in Old Kingdom Egypt, especially when dealing with cows.
Cattle were a source of milk, of meat, and of prize animals. Both practically and religiously functional, the cow had a special place in Old Kingdom Culture. As previously stated, one cannot look at agriculture in Egypt without first examining the source of life, the Nile River.
The Nile waters made farming and food production possible in Egypt. These waters provided the minerals, humidity, and irrigation that the Egyptians needed to grow their fields, as well as the drinking water necessary for animals.
Literally speaking, the Nile made life possible in Egypt. The Nile tended to follow a constant cycle of flooding and receding. This pattern was particularly important for Egyptian agriculture.
Inundation was a process pivotal to the success of an Egyptian’s field crop. Inundation was the annual flooding of the Nile.
It was caused by rainfall in “Central Africa and melting snow in the Ethiopian highlands.” The Inundation could be both a harbinger of wealth or death. If the inundation was too low, there was famine, if the inundation was too high, there was destruction of land and property. An inundation of seven to eight metres was the ideal. The inundation was very important because it was the vehicle which brought minerals, and thus fertility to the Egyptian soil. As the waters gathered and grew high, more minerals would be picked up.
As the waters flooded onto the lands, the minerals would settle on the bottom, and when the water withdrew, the minerals would be left behind. The area that was rich with these minerals was referred to as kemet’. Agriculture depended on the inundation in order to be a success.
Inundation governed the seasons of agriculture. There were essentially three seasons, there was inundation which begin in July with the slow rising of water levels and ran through October, going down of inundation, which started in November as the water levels were falling and lasted until February, and drought which happened in March when water levels were the lowest. Inundation also regulated the taxes in Old Kingdom Egypt.
Government officials would keep watch up the level of water in order to determine the amount of applicable taxes, one of the ways to do this was through the use of Nilometers. Nilometers were a form of a well that was used to measure the height of the water. These contraptions could also be used to predict the beginning of the inundation. The Nile’s flooding did not always reach land that was being cultivated; likewise, towns and villages did not want to partake in this deluge. As a result, a form of irrigation had to be developed to control and utilize the waters of the Nile. The Nile was such a regular river that it influenced the Egyptian’s concept of stability, truth, order, justice, all that is good in the world ma’at.
The Nile was the source of life in such a harsh land. Without the Nile, life would not have been possible within Egypt.
Irrigation was utilized in the Old Kingdom for various functions, from blocking flood waters to utilizing the waters. There were three main forms of irrigation techniques used: The first was the building dykes .