Egyptian Agriculture

Egyptian Agriculture




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Egyptian Agriculture


Agriculture first emerged in the Nile Valley around 5000 B.C. From the very beginning the communities of the Delta and Nile Valley realized that if they were going to have an efficient irrigation system then they would have to work together. Archaeologists have discovered limestone scenes that depict the ruler Scorpion initiating an irrigation program in 3200 B.C. These early Egyptians constructed earthen dikes that divided the rich Nile River Valley into compartments of different sizes. When the river rose the water was diverted into these areas through a system of canals.

Then by 305 B.C., Egypt experienced significant change and prosperity under the rule of the Ptolemies. This would be done by greatly improving the irrigation systems. The Ptolemies accomplished this by utilized various water raising mechanisms. They now had ox driven water wheels and another invention called the Achimedean screw. These new inventions allowed for vast new areas to come under cultivation. At this time they mostly cultivated domestic grain which was important because it provided a regular food supply. The regular food supply would eventually result in a population increase and more free time.

The main Egyptian crop was cereals. The Egyptians learned about their cultivation from the Near East. Largely, farmers grew an Asian barley with both splet and emmer wheat. All of these flourished in the hot Egyptian climate, and once the irrigation systems were complete they required little care. When they were ripe their tops were harvested with a crescent shaped scythe before being spread out onto a community thrashing area. Once in the thrashing area they were trodden by farm animals until the grain was freed from the stalks and husks. Afterward, the grain was collected and stored inside beehive shaped silos until needed. The three grains provided the ancient Egyptians with the two of the most important elements in their diet, beer and bread. Bread came in a wide variety of forms and was baked in a variety of ways. Egyptians flavored their bread with the use of additives such as honey, anise, and cumin to enhance flavor. Bread was so important that they ate it every meal except when they were in mourning. Ancient Egyptians produced both barley and wheat beers that were about 7% alcohol. Sometimes they added date juice or dye.

The other main product that was produced was linen. Linen was produced from flax which was cultivated and prepared for spinning and weaving by peasants. Eventually, cotton was introduced from Nubia during the Coptic Period. It would become one of Egypt's main products. Olives were also grown in great quantity for their oil and as a food. Wine was also a major industry and grape vines were first introduce to Egypt from Asia in 3000 B.C.. Papyrus was an important agricultural product. Laborers cut down the huge thickets of papyrus in the marshland and turned it into paper, rope, baskets, sails, and sandals.

Ancient Egyptian farmers also grew onions, lettuce, celery, squash, beans, and cucumbers. At the same time they enjoyed fruits like watermelons, grapes, and figs. Fig juice was very popular, and so were sun dried raisins. There was nothing bland about Egyptian food. They grew and used a wide variety of spices including garlic, anise, celery seeds, salt, coriander, dill, thyme, sage, and cinnamon. In addition, farmers raised goats, cattle, ducks, pigeons, geese, sheep, gazelles, onyx, and two breeds of oxen for meat.