Ancient Egyptian Agriculture
There are many valid points to be made in Ancient Egyptian Agriculture. Essay Irrigation, ploughing and planting, harvesting, and of course, crops. These will be some of the subtopics I will be touching upon in this essay of ancient Egyptian agriculture.
When the Nile is overflowing, it floods the Delta and the lands called Libyan and Arabian, for a distance of a journey of two days from both banks in places, and sometimes, sometimes less. I could not learn anything about its nature, neither from the priests nor from anyone else.
I was curious to learn why the Nile is flooding for a hundred days from the summer solstice; and when this time is passed, sinks again, and the river is low during the whole winter until the summer solstice again.
-Herodotus, Histories 2,19
Above, is a quote from a man recovered from an article of writing back in the ancient Egyptian times. Irrigation is a form of re-routing water, to parts of land that the water is needed, in farming terms. For Example, there are two crops, one crop is getting all the water, and its flooding. With irrigation, the farmer will re-route the water towards the other crop, as well as sharing the water with the crop that was being flooded. So now, both crops are getting enough water and they are not flooding nor suffering from drought.
Natural river irrigation shaped the early landscape of ancient Egypt. Drainage was not required for the Valley to become liveable. With the natural flooding and draining of the floodplain, the annual flood allowed a single crop-season over two-thirds of the alluvial ground. Once the main canals, many of them natural, were in place, they just had to be scoured yearly to prevent their clogging up. The levees had to be raised, and smaller ditches had to be re-excavated.
Organized by the regional authorities, every Egyptian had to move about thirty cubic metres of soil in about ten days every year.
With this relatively small investment of labour, they kept the system in working order. Once the main canals, many of them natural, were in place, they just had to be dredged yearly to prevent their clogging up; the levees had to be raised, and smaller ditches had to be re-excavated.
At the time of the highest flooding (towards the end of September) most of the Nile Valley was covered with water, only villages and cities, built on higher ground and connected by dams, were above water.
Ploughing and Planting
Ploughing, is the process of turning over soil, so it stays fresh and high in nutrients so crops can grow nice and big. Planting, is inserting the seeds of plants into places into the soil, where you think they would grow the best. Many tools were used to help the people of Egypt do their ploughing and planting.
The Egyptian plough was lightly built and tied to the horns of the cattle. Cows were generally used for ploughing, which caused their milk production to decrease during ploughing time. A helper, often a child, led the animals, sometimes urging them on with a stick. When draft animals were unavailable, humans would pull the plough.
Hoeing was another way of loosening the soil. Because the handles of the hoes were very short (an aspect of these tools even today in southern countries), this was backbreaking work.
The planter of seeds walked ahead of the team, a two handled woven basket tied around his neck, his hands free for sowing. The plough covered the seeds with earth. Driving hogs or sheep over the field sometimes also served the same purpose.
Harvesting is when after the seeds have fully bloomed, you go out and take all the plants out in an orderly fashion, so you wont ruin the soil or the seeds of your crops for next the harvest.
The harvest generally took place shortly before the beginning of the next flooding, about in May or June, at times in April. The whole population took part and on big estates journeying harvesting teams were employed.
These itinerant reapers began the season in the southern part of the country and followed the ripening crops downriver.
The administration was involved in everything the farmer .