Agriculture and Farming in Ancient Egypt

Ancient civilisation was based on Egyptian agriculture, which was far more important than symbolic achievements such as building huge pyramids. One reason for the success of the ancient Egyptian civilisation was that they were able to cultivate the fertile lands around the Nile and produce their own food and cloth. The Nile is the longest river in the world. It flows from Burundi in central Africa and flows through Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt before falling into the Mediterranean.

In ancient Egypt, farmers were very important because they grew food for their communities. To feed his people, the Pharaoh bought fertile land and ordered farmers to cultivate, manage and harvest it. Although most peasants were farmers and lived off the land, some lived in small towns with merchants.

Ancient Egyptians cultivated a wide range of crops: wheat, barley, beans, cabbages, onions, leeks, lettuce, figs and melons.

Cereals were the most important crop in ancient Egypt, used to make porridge, bread, beer, etc. In Egyptian agriculture, cereals were the first crop to be cultivated after the flood (also known as the flood period). After the harvest, ancient Egyptian farmers grew vegetables. To preserve their crops, the Egyptians built large storehouses to keep them dry and fresh. The Egyptians exchanged grain for other goods.

Fruit and vines were often grown in towns or along roadsides to provide shade for villagers.

Ancient Egyptians also kept animals on their farms. They had cows, goats, pigs, ducks and chickens.

Cows were particularly important because they helped Egyptian farmers to draw ploughs, eat leftover grain and wheat, grind seeds and give milk.

The Nile, the longest river in the world, provided the Egyptians with fertile black soil ideal for growing rich crops. Egyptian farmers planted crops on the banks of the Nile that absorbed nutrients and grew large and strong.

Tools of Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian farming practices were highly developed, allowing this civilisation to flourish.

The tools used by Egyptian farmers are not very different from those used today. They used a plough, either by hand or with a larger plough pulled by a cow. The plough could be used to turn the soil, allowing nutrients to circulate, and seeds could be easily sown in open furrows.

They also used a tool resembling a hammer and axe together, called a ‘hoe’. Egyptian farmers used an excavator to crush the soil, remove large stones and loosen the earth.

Other tools used for cultivation and harvesting were mowers, rakes, rakes and excavators.

The three seasons in ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian agriculture was characterised by the division of the year into three distinct seasons. Each season determined what farmers would do.

The first season of the Egyptian calendar was Akhet. Akhet was the time of the flood, or inundation. The flood season lasted from June to September. Farmers could not work, so they earned money by other means, such as fishing.

The second period was called Perethor, the period of emergency. This was the growing season, which lasted from October to February. It was an ideal time to grow crops, as the floods left rich soil for farmers to sow seeds.

The third and final season was Shemu, the time of harvest. The harvesting season in March, April and May was hard work as farmers spent long hours harvesting. Harvesting had to be done quickly before the floods returned.

Agriculture was important to the ancient Egyptians

Agriculture was very important to the ancient Egyptians because it allowed their civilisation to flourish. The ancient Egyptians were one of the first societies to practice agriculture on a large scale. Many of the farming techniques invented by the Egyptians, such as ploughing, are still in use today.

Learning about where food and agriculture come from brings young learners closer to other people and nature. It allows them to make informed choices that benefit the planet. For example, buying locally grown and produced food is a much better option for the environment.

Ancient Egyptian agriculture

Ancient Egyptian civilisation owed its existence to the Nile and its reliable seasonal floods. The river’s predictability and fertile soil enabled the Egyptians to build an empire based on great agricultural wealth. The Egyptians were one of the first groups of people to practice agriculture on a large scale. This was made possible by the ingenuity of the Egyptians, who developed the irrigation of pools. Their agricultural practices enabled them to grow staple crops, especially cereals such as wheat and barley, as well as industrial crops such as flax and papyrus. They excelled in horticulture.

In addition to rural greening, orchards and gardens were established in the river valleys. This horticulture was generally practised further away from the Nile floodplain and was therefore more labour intensive. The perennial irrigation required by orchards forced farmers to carry water by hand from wells or the Nile to water their crops. Although the Nile provided the valley with a naturally fertilizing sludge, orchards had to be fertilized with pigeon dung. Vegetables, vines and fruit trees were commonly grown in these gardens and orchards. The Egyptians cultivated a variety of crops, including cereals, vegetables and fruit. However, their diet was dominated by a few staple crops, especially cereals and barley.

Other important cereals were einkorn and emmer wheat, which were grown for bread-making. Beans, lentils and later chickpeas and kidney beans were also available to the majority of the population. Root crops such as onions, garlic and radishes were grown, as were salads such as lettuce and parsley. Fruits were often featured in Egyptian artwork, suggesting that their cultivation was also one of the main agricultural endeavours as the civilisation developed its agricultural technology. Unlike cereals and legumes, fruits required more sophisticated and complex cultivation techniques, such as the use of irrigation systems, cloning, propagation and training. Although the first fruits cultivated by the Egyptians were probably indigenous fruits such as date palm and sorghum, other fruits were introduced by other crops.

Grapes and watermelons, as well as old figs, coconut palms and the Christian hawthorn, were found in all pre-dynastic Egyptian settlements. During the New Kingdom, the Egyptians brought carob, olives, apples and pomegranates. Later, in the Greco-Roman period, peaches and pears were also introduced. The Egyptians used agriculture for more than just food production. They used plants creatively in medicine, religious practices and clothing. Herbs were probably used in many ways: in cooking, medicine, cosmetics and embalming.