• Science
  • Egyptian Agriculture

  • Egytpian Agricultural achievements

    Dynastic PeriodAchievements
    Early Dynastic Period - River irrigation 4000 BC
    - Wine cellars, world's earliest known 3100 BC
    Old Kingdom - Beekeeping 2500 BC
    - Beer production 2200 BC
    Middle Kingdom - Fayum Irrigation - 1st man made water reservoir 1900 BC

    Comparison Between Egyptian and Greek Agriculture

    Criteria Egyptian Agriculture Ancient Greek Agriculture
    ImagesEgyptian agriculture Greek Agriculture
    Land Fertility - Fertile Nile valley - the annual flood rejuvenates the soil
    - The rest of the country is barren desert
    Poor land, stony quality. Only a few rare plains such as those of Messenia qualify as being fertile.
    Land Cultivation - Single crop every season Biennial crop rotation - alternating from year to year between fallow and cultivated land
    Land Ownership Property concentrated among few land owners: The local nobility, temples and State officials.
    These landowners employed Farmers in return for food, clothes and shelter
    - Ownership widely distributed - Most citizens of hoplite rank owned some land. For Example during the classical period, the wealthy Alcibiades possessed only 28 hectares
    Irrigation Catch Basins
    • Egyptians built Canals at right angles to the flow of the Nile
    • At the time of the highest flooding towards the end of September, the river water flowed into the canals filling catch basins which were used for water storage
    • In the dry season the dykes in the catch basins were opened to water the fields
    Shaduf
    The shaduf was ideal for irrigating higher land. A large pole balanced on a crossbeam with a rope and bucket on one end and a heavy counter weight at the other. By pulling the rope it lowered the bucket into the Nile and the counterweight would raise the bucket to a level where it could be emptied into a channel at the edge of the field.

    - In most lands the fields were irrigated by natural rainfall - Mediterranean climate with rains coming chiefly in Autumn, Winter and early Spring.
    - Rivers and springs dry up in summer making droughts a frequent problem
    - In low plains Greeks dug canals to channel water from springs to farms.
    - Archimedes developed a spiral structure in a cylindrical casing that could lift water when it was spun. It was used to raise water from a stream or irrigation ditch to the fields. This device, known as Archimedes' Screw, is still by Egyptian farmers to draw water from the Nile today.
    Crops - Wheat and barley were the most important components of Egyptian Food - Barley in plains
    - grapes in hills
    - olives in poor rocky soil
    Farming
    1. Ploughing: Nile flood deposited the nutrients on top, and the ploughing served just to break up the top soil. The Egyptian plough was lightly built and carried by a single cow or human. Another way for loosening the soil was hoeing it with simple wooden axes.
    2. Sowing: The sower walked back and forward over the moist field, a two handled woven basket tied around his neck, and his hands free for sowing.
    3. Driving hogs or sheep over the field covered the seeds with earth, to push the seeds out of the reach of birds looking for a quick meal
    1. Ploughing: Heavy ploughs were used to completely turn over the soil of the less fertile land and bring nutrients to the surface. The basic plough was the ard, which was drawn by a pair of cattle.
    2. Sowing: was conducted concurrently with ploughing, the sower walking behind the plough and scattering seeds into the furrows.
    3. A harrow was used to cover the seeds
    Harvest - Harvests in May and June.
    - The whole population took part on harvesting teams
    - Supervisors and inspectors measured the size of the fields and estimated the quantity of grain. These officials fixed the taxes land owners had to give up to the royal treasury or local temples.
    Peasant farmers were only given enough food to keep them within subsistence level.
    - Harvests from late Autumn to the beginning of Winter