Plowing Egyptian Farmer

Plowing Egyptian Farmer

Plowing Egyptian Farmer - History

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Plow, also spelled plough, most important agricultural implement since the beginning of history, used to turn and break up soil, to bury crop residues, and to help control weeds.

The antecedent of the plow is the prehistoric digging stick. The earliest plows were doubtless digging sticks fashioned with handles for pulling or pushing. By Roman times, light, wheelless plows with iron shares (blades) were drawn by oxen these implements could break up the topsoil of the Mediterranean regions but could not handle the heavier soils of northwestern Europe. The wheeled plow, at first drawn by oxen but later by horses, made possible the northward spread of European agriculture. The 18th-century addition of the moldboard, which turned the furrow slice cut by the plowshare, was an important advance. In the mid-19th century the black prairie soils of the American Midwest challenged the strength of the existing plow, and American mechanic John Deere invented the all-steel one-piece share and moldboard. The three-wheel sulky plow followed and, with the introduction of the gasoline engine, the tractor-drawn plow.

In its simplest form the moldboard plow consists of the share, the broad blade that cuts through the soil the moldboard, for turning the furrow slice and the landside, a plate on the opposite side from the moldboard that absorbs the side thrust of the turning action. Horse-drawn moldboard plows, which are no longer commonly used, have a single bottom (share and moldboard), while tractor-drawn plows have from 1 to 14 hydraulically lifted and controlled bottoms staggered in tandem. Listers and middlebusters are double-moldboard plows that leave a furrow by throwing the dirt both ways.

Disk plows usually have three or more individually mounted concave disks that are inclined backward to achieve maximum depth. They are particularly adapted for use in hard, dry soils, shrubby or bushy land, or on rocky land. Disk tillers, also called harrow plows or one-way disk plows, usually consist of a gang of many disks mounted on one axle (see harrow). Used after grain harvest, they usually leave some stubble to help reduce wind erosion and often have seeding equipment. Two-way (reversible) plows have disks or moldboards that can be either opposed, so that one fills the trench made by the other, or set to throw the soil entirely to the right or left.

Rotary plows or tillers (sometimes called rototillers) have curved cutting knives mounted on a horizontal power-driven shaft. The pronged rotary hoe, a plow used chiefly for seedbed and weed control, works well at high speed. Garden sizes cut swaths from 1 to 2.5 feet (about 0.33 to 0.8 metre) wide tractor types, more than 10 feet.

Deep tillage implements, used chiefly to break up hardpan and packed soils, include the subsoiler and the chisel plow. The subsoiler must be pulled by a heavy tractor, for its steel-pointed shank is capable of penetrating the subsoil to a depth of three feet. The chisel plow, or ripper, has several rigid or spring-toothed shanks with double pointed shovels mounted on a transverse bar at intervals of one to three feet. Plowing depths vary from a few inches to 1.5 feet.

Key to good farming

Why plow at all? It is true that modern no-till farming techniques have lessened the need for routine spring and fall plowing, and the field cultivator has replaced the moldboard plow in many cases. Further, the use of chemical weed killers leaves fields relatively clean of last season&rsquos residue. But when a thickly sodded piece of ground is to be made into a seedbed, the plow is the tool with which to start.

The plow&rsquos purpose is to pulverize (or break up) the soil, admitting air and light, two essentials to normal plant growth. The plow inverts the sod and covers trash (such as corn stalks) and manure, mixing it with the soil to decay and furnish plant food.

The plowed soil must have good contact with the subsoil to facilitate the rise of moisture. Voids and clods of trash or sod impede root growth and break contact with the subsoil. As a 1930s John Deere Power Farming brochure states, &ldquoNo matter how carefully you carry on subsequent tillage operations, you can&rsquot correct the mistakes of poor plowing. Good plowing and good farming go hand in hand.&rdquo

First, some terms and definitions are in order:

Plow There are many devices called plows (or ploughs), including snowplows. The subject of this article is the moldboard field plow. The two main types are trailer plows and mounted plows. The main parts of both are the bottoms, coulters, jointers, furrow wheels (or rolling landsides) and beams. The bottoms consist of the moldboard, share, frog and landside, and in some cases, a replaceable shin.

These parts are identified in this image, except for the frog and shin. The frog is a steel piece that holds the landside and moldboard together and also supports the share. Multiple-bottom plows use sliding landsides on the rear bottom only. Certain types of chilled-iron plows have a replaceable shin that serves as the leading edge of the moldboard. This surface gets the hardest wear and can be replaced when dull.

Plows are available with one bottom or as many as 20. The smallest is generally a 12-inch bottom (indicating the width of the cut), but 14-, 16- and 18-inch plows are common. With a 2-bottom, 14-inch plow, an area 28 inches wide is plowed on each pass. Plows generally roll the soil to the right, although two-way plows have alternate bottoms that turn the soil either right or left.

Both trailer and mounted plows can be mechanically raised and lowered, or operated hydraulically. Mechanical trailers come with a &ldquotrip rope&rdquo that either drops the plows to start plowing, or raises the plows (through power from the plow wheels) at the end of the furrow.

Hydraulic mounted plows are generally based on 3-point hitch patents by Harry Ferguson first used in the U.S. on the 1939 Ford-Ferguson 9N tractor. These have automatic draft compensation known as &ldquodraft control.&rdquo Draft control automatically raises the plow as necessary when hard going is encountered, thus preventing the tractor from stalling. The system then returns the plow to its original depth when the hard ground is passed.

Suction Both the landside and the share are made with a slight amount of concave curvature. This creates suction that pulls the plow down into the soil and also holds the landside tightly against the furrow wall. Wear reduces suction eventually, these parts must be replaced.

Land The section of a field to be plowed is called a land. The ends and sides of the land are called the headlands. A large field may be divided into several lands, to be plowed separately for economic reasons.

Furrow The open ditch left by the rear-most bottom as the plow progresses through the land is called a furrow. A dead furrow results when neighboring furrows are plowed in opposite directions, throwing the soil away from each other (or the open furrow left at the edge of the field). A back furrow is the opposite, when the opposing furrows fold together.

Agriculture in ancient Egypt , irrigation tools and techniques of farming

Agriculture in ancient Egypt was the most important aspect of the life of ancient Egyptians. Now, we are going to talk about the techniques of farming and tools that were used in agriculture.

Irrigation tools

Ancient Egyptian agriculture

The agricultural lands were irrigated by the water of the Nile River and its canals. Moreover some agricultural lands were watered by the rains, besides that the ancient Egyptians used a basin irrigation strategy to irrigate the lands which located on the same level of the Nile River.

The ancient Egyptians used different tools to irrigate the agricultural lands such as counterpoise lift “Al- shadoof” and the water wheels.

Now we are going to focus on special irrigation tools which the Pharaohs used to irrigate their agricultural lands in ancient Egyptian agriculture.

This special tool has been invented by the ancient Egyptians to irrigate their agricultural lands which located above the high level of the Nile River, highways, and railway, also the small agricultural lands which the modern machines find a difficult to irrigate them.

They used the Tractor in the ancient Egypt, as well as, there were some deceptions on the walls of Maroka’s tomb which confirmed that they were planting the lettuce and water it by the tractor.

Archimedes 287-212 B.C “a Roman archaeologist” has invented another tool to help the ancient Egyptians to irrigate their farm lands.

The ancient Egyptian used this tool to water the highlands which located above the level of the Nile River in the Ptolemaic era, but the archaeologists did not find any deceptions on the walls of the tombs, Moreover the Egyptian peasants are still using this tool.

The archaeologists did not find any depiction of the water wheel on the walls of the tombs, but Darsi confirmed that he has found out a water wheel during he was cleaning a hole in “Al- Deir El-Bahari”, Tebes, he has found the oldest Egyptian water wheel.

In 1931 A.C, Samy Gabra has found out this water wheel during the Excavations of Tuna El-Gebel which dates back to the roman era. This water wheel is still there in Tuna El-Gebel.

They used the water wheel in the last period of the Pharaonic era and the early period of the Roman and Greek era. The used these tools in the ancient Egyptian agriculture.

The ancient Egyptians had used the tools which made of stones, before the appearing of the metals, so they had made their tools from metals instead of the stones.

They used these tools (the Axe, the plough, Hatech, Al-Mazarah and the sickle) to restore and cultivate the agricultural lands.

We are going to show you the tools which the ancient Egyptian peasants used to cultivate the farmlands beside its advantages and disadvantages.

This tool considered as the oldest farming tools which have invented by the ancient Egyptians.

The Egyptians were using this tool in a prehistoric era, the Egyptians are still using this tool instead of the hand until now to scarify the lands, but using this tool made this mission so difficult.

The ancient Egyptians were calling this tool “ska”, and finally, they released if the stick of the ax became longer, they would be able to put it between the horns of the oxen.

The ancient Egyptian has invented another tool “the Sickle” they took the idea of this tool during seeing the oxen was eating the grass. This tool consisted of the wooden piece and sharp, thin and zigzag blades.

This tool consisted of the wooden piece like a palm of the hand, which help them to collect the crops and separated the grains from the crops.

They used it in the Palaeolithic era “the old stone age” to clean the land from harmful grasses, at the beginning. This tool was made from stones, then, they made it from copper in the ancient Egypt.

The knife was made of stone and its stick was made of wood and they find different types of the knives which backward to the fifth dynasty.

The thresher:

The ancient Egyptian did not use this tool to plant the seeds but they used the animal, moreover they used this tool besides other tools such as (ropes, wooden scales and to separate the grains from crops) in the Roman and Greek era.

The origin of the agriculture in ancient Egypt:

The ancient Egypt agriculture has been discovered by the ancient Egyptians in the Neolithic era” the new stone age”. Before discovering the farming, the ancient Egyptian had lived on hunting, fishing, and harvests the wild food.

The discovering of farming was a great one in the history of the human beings, Moreover the human’s life has completely changed, the Homo sapiens became more Creativity, after they had been controlled by nature.

  • The ancient Egyptian agricultural methods:
  1. Preparing the agricultural lands for cultivating:

The ancient Egyptian peasants had followed most important steps before cultivating the farm lands, so they were getting the land very ready by purging the canals and the land from the harmful insects after the flooding water had reduced.

The ancient Egyptian peasants were using the cows and oxen to plow up the agricultural lands. There were some inscriptions of the plowing lands on the walls of the “Bani Hassan’s tombs” and” Nikht’s tomb “in Thebes.

They were using the animal manure to fertilize the farmland, in order that, this type of fertilization very good for the crops because it was providing them with the good nutrients.

The ancient Egyptian peasants were using the ax to scarify the farmland, but in some cases, if the land did not completely dry, the peasant would not scarify the land.

In this step, they were putting the seeds in their hand, then scattered the seeds on the land after that he pressed the seeds by his foot to plant them in the agricultural lands very well.

The Surveying of the agricultural land:

The ancient Egyptians were using the ropes to know the yards of the farmland to calculate the agricultural wealth to impose the taxes on the farmlands.

In this step, they harvested the crops and storing them in the silos, as well as the plants were pulled out by the hand and packed them. They found a scene in the one of Al- Shiekh Said’s tomb, which dates back to the old kingdom, confirmed that they were pulling the plants and feeding them to the animals as forage.

These are the most important steps which the ancient Egyptian peasants were following in the ancient Egyptian agriculture.

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In older English, as in other Germanic languages, the plough was traditionally known by other names, e.g. Old English sulh (modern dialectal sullow ), Old High German medela, geiza, huohilī(n), Old Norse arðr (Swedish årder), and Gothic hōha, all presumably referring to the ard (scratch plough). The term plough, as used in the early 21st century, was not common until 1700.

The modern word comes from the Old Norse plógr, and is therefore Germanic, but it appears relatively late (it is not attested in Gothic), and is thought to be a loan from one of the north Italic languages. The German cognate is "Pflug", the Dutch "ploeg" and the Swedish "plog". In many Slavic languages and in Romanian the word is "plug". Words with the same root appeared with related meanings: in Raetic plaumorati "wheeled heavy plough" (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 18, 172), and in Latin plaustrum "farm cart", plōstrum, plōstellum "cart", and plōxenum, plōximum "cart box". [6] [7] The word must have originally referred to the wheeled heavy plough, common in Roman north-western Europe by the 5th century AD. [8]

Many view plough as a derivative of the verb *plehan

*plegan 'to take responsibility' (cf. German pflegen 'to look after, nurse'), which would explain, for example, Old High German pfluog with its double meaning of 'plough' and 'livelihood'. [9] [10] [11] Guus Kroonen (2013) [12] proposes a vṛddhi-derivative of *plag/kkōn 'sod' (cf. Dutch plag 'sod', Old Norse plagg 'cloth', Middle High German pflacke 'rag, patch, stain'). Finally, Vladimir Orel (2003) [13] tentatively attaches plough to a PIE stem * blōkó- , which supposedly gave Old Armenian peɫem "to dig" and Welsh bwlch "crack", though the word may not be of Indo-European origin.

The basic parts of the modern plough are:

  1. beam (British English: hake)
  2. vertical regulator (knife coulter pictured, but disk coulter common)
  3. chisel (foreshare) (mainshare)
  4. mouldboard

Other parts include the frog (or frame), runner, landside, shin, trashboard, and stilts (handles).

On modern ploughs and some older ploughs, the mould board is separate from the share and runner, so these parts can be replaced without replacing the mould board. Abrasion eventually wears out all parts of a plough that come into contact with the soil.

Hoeing Edit

When agriculture was first developed, soil was turned using simple hand-held digging sticks and hoes. [4] These were used in highly fertile areas, such as the banks of the Nile, where the annual flood rejuvenates the soil, to create drills (furrows) in which to plant seeds. Digging sticks, hoes and mattocks were not invented in any one place, and hoe cultivation must have been common everywhere agriculture was practised. Hoe-farming is the traditional tillage method in tropical or sub-tropical regions, which are marked by stony soils, steep slope gradients, predominant root crops, and coarse grains grown at wide distances apart. While hoe-agriculture is best suited to these regions, it is used in some fashion everywhere. Instead of hoeing, some cultures use pigs to trample the soil and grub the earth.

Ard Edit

Some ancient hoes, like the Egyptian mr, were pointed and strong enough to clear rocky soil and make seed drills, which is why they are called hand-ards. However, domestication of oxen in Mesopotamia and the Indus valley civilization, perhaps as early as the 6th millennium BC, provided mankind with the draft power needed to develop the larger, animal-drawn true ard (or scratch plough). The earliest surviving evidence of ploughing has been dated to 3500–3800 BCE, on a site in Bubeneč, Czech Republic. [14] A ploughed field, from c.2800 BCE, was also discovered at Kalibangan, India. [15] A terracotta model of the early ards was found at Banawali, India, giving insight into the form of the tool used. [16] The ard remained easy to replace if it became damaged and easy to replicate. [17]

The earliest was the bow ard, which consists of a draft-pole (or beam) pierced by a thinner vertical pointed stick called the head (or body), with one end being the stilt (handle) and the other a share (cutting blade) dragged through the topsoil to cut a shallow furrow suitable for most cereal crops. The ard does not clear new land well, so hoes or mattocks had to be used to pull up grass and undergrowth, and a hand-held, coulter-like ristle could be made to cut deeper furrows ahead of the share. Because the ard left a strip of undisturbed earth between furrows, the fields were often cross-ploughed lengthwise and breadth-wise, which tended to form squarish Celtic fields. [18] : 42 The ard is best suited to loamy or sandy soils that are naturally fertilised by annual flooding, as in the Nile Delta and Fertile Crescent, and to a lesser extent any other cereal-growing region with light or thin soil. By the late Iron Age, ards in Europe were commonly fitted with coulters.

Mould-board plough Edit

To grow crops regularly in less-fertile areas, it was once believed that the soil must be turned to bring nutrients to the surface. A major advance for this type of farming was the turn plough, also known as the mould-board plough (UK), moldboard plow (US), or frame-plough. A coulter (or skeith) could be added to cut vertically into the ground just ahead of the share (in front of the frog), a wedge-shaped cutting edge at the bottom front of the mould board with the landside of the frame supporting the under-share (below-ground component). The mould-board plough introduced in the 18th century was a major advance in technology. [4]

Chinese ploughs from Han times on fulfil all these conditions of efficiency nicely, which is presumably why the standard Han plough team consisted of two animals only, and later teams usually of a single animal, rather than the four, six or eight draught animals common in Europe before the introduction of the curved mould-board and other new principles of design in the + 18th century. Though the mould-board plough first appeared in Europe in early medieval, if not in late Roman, times, pre-eighteenth century mould-boards were usually wooden and straight (Fig. 59). The enormous labour involved in pulling such a clumsy construction necessitated large plough-teams, and this meant that large areas of land had to be reserved as pasture. In China, where much less animal power was required, it was not necessary to maintain the mixed arable-pasture economy typical of Europe: fallows could be reduced and the arable area expanded, and a considerably larger population could be supported than on the same amount of land in Europe. [19]

The upper parts of the frame carry (from the front) the coupling for the motive power (horses), the coulter and the landside frame. Depending on the size of the implement, and the number of furrows it is designed to plough at one time, a fore-carriage with a wheel or wheels (known as a furrow wheel and support wheel) may be added to support the frame (wheeled plough). In the case of a single-furrow plough there is one wheel at the front and handles at the rear for the ploughman to steer and manoeuvrer it.

When dragged through a field, the coulter cuts down into the soil and the share cuts horizontally from the previous furrow to the vertical cut. This releases a rectangular strip of sod to be lifted by the share and carried by the mould board up and over, so that the strip of sod (slice of the topsoil) that is being cut lifts and rolls over as the plough moves forward, dropping back upside down into the furrow and onto the turned soil from the previous run down the field. Each gap in the ground where the soil has been lifted and moved across (usually to the right) is called a furrow. The sod lifted from it rests at an angle of about 45 degrees in the adjacent furrow, up the back of the sod from the previous run.

A series of ploughings run down a field leaves a row of sods partly in the furrows and partly on the ground lifted earlier. Visually, across the rows, there is the land on the left, a furrow (half the width of the removed strip of soil) and the removed strip almost upside-down lying on about half of the previous strip of inverted soil, and so on across the field. Each layer of soil and the gutter it came from forms a classic furrow.

The mould-board plough greatly reduced the time needed to prepare a field and so allowed a farmer to work a larger area of land. In addition, the resulting pattern of low (under the mould board) and high (beside it) ridges in the soil forms water channels, allowing the soil to drain. In areas where snow build-up causes difficulties, this lets farmers plant the soil earlier, as the snow run-off drains away more quickly.

There are five major parts of a mouldboard plough:

  1. Mouldboard
  2. Share
  3. Landside (short or long)
  4. Frog (sometimes called a standard)
  5. Tailpiece

The share, landside and mould board are bolted to the frog, which is an irregular piece of cast iron at the base of the plough body, to which the soil-wearing parts are bolted.

The share is the edge that makes the horizontal cut to separate the furrow slice from the soil below. Conventional shares are shaped to penetrate soil efficiently: the tip is pointed downward to pull the share into the ground to a regular depth. The clearance, usually referred to as suction or down suction, varies with different makes and types of plough. Share configuration is related to soil type, particularly in the down suction or concavity of its lower surface. Generally three degrees of clearance or down suction are recognised: regular for light soil, deep for ordinary dry soil, and double-deep for clay and gravelly soils.

As the share wears away, it becomes blunt and the plough will require more power to pull it through the soil. A plough body with a worn share will not have enough "suck" to ensure it delves the ground to its full working depth.

In addition, the share has horizontal suction related to the amount its point is bent out of line with the land side. Down suction causes the plough to penetrate to proper depth when pulled forward, while horizontal suction causes the plough to create the desired width of furrow. The share is a plane part with a trapezoidal shape. It cuts the soil horizontally and lifts it. Common types are regular, winged-plane, bar-point, and share with mounted or welded point. The regular share conserves a good cut but is recommended on stone-free soils. The winged-plane share is used on heavy soil with a moderate amount of stones. The bar-point share can be used in extreme conditions (hard and stony soils). The share with a mounted point is somewhere between the last two types. Makers have designed shares of various shapes (trapesium, diamond, etc.) with bolted point and wings, often separately renewable. Sometimes the share-cutting edge is placed well in advance of the mould board to reduce the pulverizing action of the soil.

The mould board is the part of the plough that receives the furrow slice from the share. [4] It is responsible for lifting and turning the furrow slice and sometimes for shattering it, depending on the type of mould board, ploughing depth and soil conditions. The intensity of this depends on the type of mould board. To suit different soil conditions and crop requirements, mould boards have been designed in different shapes, each producing its own furrow profile and surface finish, but essentially they still conform to the original plough body classification. The various types have been traditionally classified as general purpose, digger, and semi-digger, as described below.

  • The general-purpose mould board. This has a low draft body with a gentle, cross-sectional convex curve from top to bottom, which turns a furrow three parts wide by two parts deep, e. g. 300 mm (12 in) wide by 200 mm (7.9 in) deep. It turns the furrow slice slowly almost without breaking it, and is normally used for shallow ploughing (maximum 200 mm (7.9 in) depth). It is useful for grassland ploughing and sets up the land for weathering by winter frosts, which reduces the time taken to prepare a seedbed for spring sown crops.
  • The digger mould board is short, abruptly curved with a concave cross-section both from top to bottom and from shin to tail. It turns the furrow slice rapidly, giving maximum shatter, deeper than its width. It is normally used for very deep ploughing (300 mm (12 in) deep or more). It has a higher power requirement and leaves a very broken surface. Digger ploughs are mainly used for land for potatoes and other root crops.
  • The semi-digger mould board is somewhat shorter than the general-purpose mould board, but with a concave cross-section and a more abrupt curve. Being intermediate between the two mould boards described above, it has a performance that comes in between (approximately 250 mm (9.8 in) deep), with less shattering than the digger mouldboard. It turns an almost square-sectioned furrow and leaves a more broken surface finish. Semi-digger mould boards can be used at various depths and speeds, which suits them for most of the general ploughing on a farm.
  • In addition, slatted mould boards are preferred by some farmers, though they are a less common type. They consist of a number of curved steel slats bolted to the frog along the length of the mould board, with gaps between the slats. They tend to break up the soil more than a full mould board and improve soil movement across the mould board when working in sticky soils where a solid mould board does not scour well.

The land side is the flat plate which presses against and transmits the lateral thrust of the plough bottom to the furrow wall. It helps to resist the side pressure exerted by the furrow slice on the mould board. It also helps to stabilise the plough while in operation. The rear bottom end of the landslide, which rubs against the furrow sole, is known as the heel. A heel iron is bolted to the end of the rear of the land side and helps to support the back of the plough. The land side and share are arranged to give a "lead" towards the unploughed land, so helping to sustain the correct furrow width. The land side is usually made of solid medium-carbon steel and is very short, except at the rear bottom of the plough. The heel or rear end of the rear land side may be subject to excessive wear if the rear wheel is out of adjustment, and so a chilled iron heel piece is frequently used. This is inexpensive and can be easily replaced. The land side is fastened to the frog by plough bolts.

The frog (standard) is the central part of the plough bottom to which the other components of the bottom are attached. It is an irregular piece of metal, which may be made of cast iron for cast iron ploughs or welded steel for steel ploughs. The frog is the foundation of the plough bottom. It takes the shock resulting from hitting rocks, and therefore should be tough and strong. The frog is in turn fastened to the plough frame.

A runner extending from behind the share to the rear of the plough controls the direction of the plough, because it is held against the bottom land-side corner of the new furrow being formed. The holding force is the weight of the sod, as it is raised and rotated, on the curved surface of the mould board. Because of this runner, the mould board plough is harder to turn around than the scratch plough, and its introduction brought about a change in the shape of fields – from mostly square fields into longer rectangular "strips" (hence the introduction of the furlong).

An advance on the basic design was the iron ploughshare, a replaceable horizontal cutting surface mounted on the tip of the share. The earliest ploughs with a detachable and replaceable share date from around 1000 BC in the Ancient Near East, [21] and the earliest iron ploughshares from about 500 BC in China. [22] Early mould boards were wedges that sat inside the cut formed by the coulter, turning over the soil to the side. The ploughshare spread the cut horizontally below the surface, so that when the mould board lifted it, a wider area of soil was turned over. Mould boards are known in Britain from the late 6th century onwards. [23]

The mould-board plough type is usually set by the method with which the plough is attached to the tractor and the way it is lifted and carried. The basic types are:

  • Three wheel trailing type – attached to the standard tractor draw bar and carried on its own three wheels
  • Mounted or integra – most use a three-point hitch and have a rear wheel in use only when ploughing. Some also have a gauge wheel to regulate maximum depth.
  • Semi-mounted – used principally for larger ploughs. These have a rear wheel which usually carries weight and side thrust when ploughing and sometimes the weight of the rear end of the plough when lifted. The front end of the plough is carried on the tractor lower or draft links.

Plough wheel Edit

  • The gauge wheel is an auxiliary wheel to maintain uniform depths of ploughing in various soil conditions. It is usually placed in a hanging position.
  • The land wheel of the plough runs on the ploughed land.
  • The front or rear furrow wheel of the plough runs in the furrow.

Plough protective devices Edit

When a plough hits a rock or other solid obstruction, serious damage may result unless the plough is equipped with some safety device. The damage may be bent or broken shares, bent standards, beams or braces.

The three basic types of safety devices used on mould-board ploughs are a spring release device in the plough drawbar, a trip beam construction on each bottom, and an automatic reset design on each bottom.

The spring release was used in the past almost universally on trailing-type ploughs with one to three or four bottoms. It is not practical on larger ploughs. When an obstruction is encountered, the spring release mechanism in the hitch permits the plough to uncouple from the tractor. When a hydraulic lift is used on the plough, the hydraulic hoses will also usually uncouple automatically when the plough uncouples. Most plough makers offer an automatic reset system for tough conditions or rocky soils. The re-set mechanism allows each body to move rearward and upward to pass without damage over obstacles such as rocks hidden below soil surface. A heavy leaf or coil-spring mechanism that holds the body in its working position under normal conditions resets the plough after the obstruction is passed.

Another type of auto-reset mechanism uses an oil (hydraulic) and gas accumulator. Shock loads cause the oil to compress the gas. When the gas expands again, the leg returns to its working ploughing position after passing over the obstacle. The simplest mechanism is a breaking (shear) bolt that needs replacement. Shear bolts that break when a plough body hits an obstruction are a cheaper overload protection device.

Trip-beam ploughs are constructed with a hinge point in the beam. This is usually located some distance above the top of the plough bottom. The bottom is held in normal ploughing position by a spring-operated latch. When an obstruction is encountered, the entire bottom is released and hinges back and up to pass over the obstruction. It is necessary to back up the tractor and plough to reset the bottom. This construction is used to protect the individual bottoms. The automatic reset design has only recently [ when? ] been introduced on US ploughs, but has been used extensively on European and Australian ploughs. Here the beam is hinged at a point almost above the point of the share. The bottom is held in the normal position by a set of springs or a hydraulic cylinder on each bottom.

When an obstruction is encountered, the plough bottom hinges back and up in such a way as to pass over the obstruction, without stopping the tractor and plough. The bottom automatically returns to normal ploughing position as soon as the obstruction is passed, without any interruption of forward motion. The automatic reset design permits higher field efficiencies since stopping for stones is practically eliminated. It also reduces costs for broken shares, beams and other parts. The fast resetting action helps produce a better job of ploughing, as large areas of unploughed land are not left, as they are when lifting a plough over a stone.

Loy ploughing Edit

Manual loy ploughing was a form used on small farms in Ireland where farmers could not afford more, or on hilly ground that precluded horses. [24] It was used up until the 1960s in poorer land. [25] It suited the moist Irish climate, as the trenches formed by turning in the sods provided drainage. It allowed potatoes to be grown in bogs (peat swamps) and on otherwise unfarmed mountain slopes. [26] [27]

Heavy ploughs Edit

In the basic mould-board plough, the depth of cut is adjusted by lifting against the runner in the furrow, which limited the weight of the plough to what a ploughman could easily lift. This limited the construction to a small amount of wood (although metal edges were possible). These ploughs were fairly fragile and unsuitable for the heavier soils of northern Europe. The introduction of wheels to replace the runner allowed the weight of the plough to increase, and in turn the use of a larger mould-board faced in metal. These heavy ploughs led to greater food production and eventually a marked population increase, beginning around AD 1000. [28]

Before the Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220), Chinese ploughs were made almost wholly of wood except for the iron blade of the ploughshare. By the Han period the entire ploughshare was made of cast iron. These are the earliest known heavy, mould-board iron ploughs. [22] [29]

The Romans achieved a heavy-wheeled mould-board plough in the late 3rd and 4th century AD, for which archaeological evidence appears, for instance, in Roman Britain. [30] The first indisputable appearance after the Roman period is in a northern Italian document of 643. [18] : 50 Old words connected with the heavy plough and its use appear in Slavic, suggesting possible early use in that region. [18] : 49ff General adoption of the carruca heavy plough in Europe seems to have accompanied adoption of the three-field system in the later 8th and early 9th centuries, leading to improved agricultural productivity per unit of land in northern Europe. [18] : 69–78 This was accompanied by larger fields, known variously as carucates, ploughlands, and plough gates.

Improved designs Edit

The basic plough with coulter, ploughshare and mould board remained in use for a millennium. Major changes in design spread widely in the Age of Enlightenment, when there was rapid progress in design. Joseph Foljambe in Rotherham, England, in 1730, used new shapes based on the Rotherham plough, which covered the mould board with iron. [31] Unlike the heavy plough, the Rotherham, or Rotherham swing plough consisted entirely of the coulter, mould board and handles. It was much lighter than earlier designs and became common in England. It may have been the first plough widely built in factories and commercially successful there. [32]

In 1789 Robert Ransome, an iron founder in Ipswich, started casting ploughshares in a disused malting at St Margaret's Ditches. A broken mould in his foundry caused molten metal to come into contact with cold metal, making the metal surface extremely hard. This process, chilled casting, resulted in what Ransome advertised as "self-sharpening" ploughs. He received patents for his discovery.

James Small further advanced the design. Using mathematical methods, he eventually arrived at a shape cast from a single piece of iron, an improvement on the Scots plough of James Anderson of Hermiston. [33] A single-piece cast-iron plough was also developed and patented by Charles Newbold in the United States. This was again improved on by Jethro Wood, a blacksmith of Scipio, New York, who made a three-part Scots plough that allowed a broken piece to be replaced. In 1837 John Deere introduced the first steel plough it was so much stronger than iron designs that it could work soil in US areas previously thought unsuitable for farming.

Improvements on this followed developments in metallurgy: steel coulters and shares with softer iron mould boards to prevent breakage, the chilled plough (an early example of surface-hardened steel), [34] and eventually mould boards with faces strong enough to dispense with the coulter.

Single-sided ploughing Edit

The first mould-board ploughs could only turn the soil over in one direction (conventionally to the right), as dictated by the shape of the mould board therefore, a field had to be ploughed in long strips, or lands. The plough was usually worked clockwise around each land, ploughing the long sides and being dragged across the short sides without ploughing. The length of the strip was limited by the distance oxen (later horses) could comfortably work without rest, and their width by the distance the plough could conveniently be dragged. These distances determined the traditional size of the strips: a furlong, (or "furrow's length", 220 yards (200 m)) by a chain (22 yards (20 m)) – an area of one acre (about 0.4 hectares) this is the origin of the acre. The one-sided action gradually moved soil from the sides to the centre line of the strip. If the strip was in the same place each year, the soil built up into a ridge, creating the ridge and furrow topography still seen in some ancient fields.

Turn-wrest plough Edit

The turn-wrest plough allows ploughing to be done to either side. The mould board is removable, turning to the right for one furrow, then being moved to the other side of the plough to turn to the left. (The coulter and ploughshare are fixed.) Thus adjacent furrows can be ploughed in opposite directions, allowing ploughing to proceed continuously along the field and so avoid the ridge–furrow topography.

Reversible plough Edit

The reversible (or roll-over) plough has two mould-board ploughs mounted back to back, one turning right, the other left. While one works the land, the other is borne upside-down in the air. At the end of each row the paired ploughs are turned over so that the other can be used along the next furrow, again working the field in a consistent direction.

These ploughs date back to the days of the steam engine and the horse. In almost universal use on farms, they have right and left-handed mould boards, enabling them to work up and down the same furrow. Reversible ploughs may either be mounted or semi-mounted and are heavier and more expensive than right-handed models, but have the great advantage of leaving a level surface that facilitates seedbed preparation and harvesting. Very little marking out is necessary before ploughing can start idle running on the headland is minimal compared with conventional ploughs.

Driving a tractor with furrow-side wheels in the furrow bottom provides the most efficient line of draught between tractor and plough. It is also easier to steer the tractor driving with the front wheel against the furrow wall will keep the front furrow at the correct width. This is less satisfactory when using a tractor with wide front tyres. Although these make better use of the tractor power, the tyres may compact some of the last furrow slice turned on the previous run. The problem is overcome by using a furrow widener or longer mould board on the rear body. The latter moves the soil further towards the ploughed land, leaving more room for the tractor wheels on the next run.

Driving with all four wheels on unploughed land is another solution to the problem of wide tyres. Semi-mounted ploughs can be hitched in a way that allows the tractor to run on unbroken land and pull the plough in correct alignment without any sideways movement (crabbing).

Riding and multiple-furrow ploughs Edit

Early steel ploughs were walking ploughs, directed by a ploughman holding handles on either side of the plough. Steel ploughs were so much easier to draw through the soil that constant adjustment of the blade to deal with roots or clods was no longer necessary, as the plough could easily cut through them. Not long after that the first riding ploughs appeared, whose wheels kept the plough at an adjustable level above the ground, while the ploughman sat on a seat instead of walking. Direction was now controlled mostly through the draught team, with levers allowing fine adjustments. This led quickly to riding ploughs with multiple mould boards, which dramatically increased ploughing performance.

A single draught horse can normally pull a single-furrow plough in clean light soil, but in heavier soils two horses are needed, one walking on the land and one in the furrow. Ploughs with two or more furrows call for more than two horses, and usually one or more have to walk on the ploughed sod, which is hard going for them and means they tread newly ploughed land down. It is usual to rest such horses every half-hour for about ten minutes.

Heavy volcanic loam soils such as are found in New Zealand require the use of four heavy draught horses to pull a double-furrow plough. Where paddocks are more square than oblong, it is more economical to have horses four wide in harness than two-by-two ahead, so that one horse is always on the ploughed land (the sod). The limits of strength and endurance in horses made greater than two-furrow ploughs uneconomic to use on a farm. [ citation needed ]

Amish farmers tend to use a team of about seven horses or mules when spring ploughing. As Amish farmers often cooperate on ploughing, teams are sometimes changed at noon. Using this method, about 10 acres (4.0 ha) can be ploughed per day in light soils and about 2 acres (0.81 ha) in heavy soils. [ citation needed ]

Improving metallurgy and design Edit

John Deere, an Illinois blacksmith, noted that ploughing many sticky, non-sandy soils might benefit from modifications in the design of the mould board and the metals used. A polished needle would enter leather and fabric with greater ease and a polished pitchfork also require less effort. Looking for a polished, slicker surface for a plough, he experimented with portions of saw blades, and by 1837 was making polished, cast steel ploughs. The energy required was lessened, which enabled the use of larger ploughs and more effective use of horse power.

Balance plough Edit

The advent of the mobile steam engine allowed steam power to be applied to ploughing from about 1850. In Europe, soil conditions were often too soft to support the weight of a traction engine. Instead, counterbalanced, wheeled ploughs, known as balance ploughs, were drawn by cables across the fields by pairs of ploughing engines on opposite field edges, or by a single engine drawing directly towards it at one end and drawing away from it via a pulley at the other. The balance plough had two sets of facing ploughs arranged so that with one was in the ground, the other was lifted in the air. When pulled in one direction, the trailing ploughs were lowered onto the ground by the tension on the cable. When the plough reached the edge of the field, the other engine pulled the opposite cable, and the plough tilted (balanced), putting the other set of shares into the ground, and the plough worked back across the field.

One set of ploughs was right-handed and the other left-handed, allowing continuous ploughing along the field, as with the turn-wrest and reversible ploughs. The man credited with inventing the ploughing engine and associated balance plough in the mid-19th century was John Fowler, an English agricultural engineer and inventor. [35] One notable producer of steam-powered ploughs was J.Kemna of Eastern Prussia, who became the "leading steam plough company on the European continent and penetrated the monopoly of English companies on the world market" [36] at the beginning of the 20th century.

In America the firm soil of the Plains allowed direct pulling with steam tractors, such as the big Case, Reeves or Sawyer-Massey breaking engines. Gang ploughs of up to 14 bottoms were used. Often these were used in regiments of engines, so that in a single field there might be ten steam tractors each drawing a plough. In this way hundreds of acres could be turned over in a day. Only steam engines had the power to draw the big units. When internal combustion engines appeared, they lacked the comparable strength and ruggedness. Only by reducing the number of shares could the work be completed.

Stump-jump plough Edit

The stump-jump plough, an Australian invention of the 1870s, is designed to break up new farming land that contains tree stumps and rocks expensive to remove. It uses a moveable weight to hold the ploughshare in position. When a tree stump or rock is encountered, the ploughshare is thrown up clear of the obstacle, to avoid breaking its harness or linkage. Ploughing can continue when the weight is returned to the earth.

A simpler, later system uses a concave disc (or pair of them) set at a wide angle to the direction of progress, using a concave shape to hold the disc into the soil – unless something hard strikes the circumference of the disc, causing it to roll up and over the obstruction. As this is dragged forward, the sharp edge of the disc cuts the soil, and the concave surface of the rotating disc lifts and throws the soil to the side. It does not work as well as a mould-board plough (but this is not seen as a drawback, because it helps to fight wind erosion), but it does lift and break up the soil (see disc harrow).

Modern ploughs Edit

Modern ploughs are usually multiply reversible, mounted on a tractor with a three-point linkage. [37] These commonly have from two to as many as seven mould boards – and semi-mounted ploughs (whose lifting is assisted by a wheel about halfway along their length) can have as many as 18. The tractor's hydraulics are used to lift and reverse the implement and to adjust furrow width and depth. The ploughman still has to set the draughting linkage from the tractor, so that the plough keeps the proper angle in the soil. This angle and depth can be controlled automatically by modern tractors. As a complement to the rear plough a two or three mould-board plough can be mounted on the front of the tractor if it is equipped with front three-point linkage.

Chisel plough Edit

The chisel plough is a common tool for deep tillage (prepared land) with limited soil disruption. Its main function is to loosen and aerate the soils, while leaving crop residue on top. This plough can be used to reduce the effects of soil compaction and to help break up ploughpan and hardpan. Unlike many other ploughs, the chisel will not invert or turn the soil. This feature has made it a useful addition to no-till and low-till farming practices that attempt to maximise the erosion-preventing benefits of keeping organic matter and farming residues present on the soil surface throughout the year. Thus the chisel plough is considered by some [ who? ] to be more sustainable than other types of plough, such as the mould-board plough.

Chisel ploughs are becoming more popular as a primary tillage tool in row-crop farming areas. Basically the chisel plough is a heavy-duty field cultivator intended to operate at depths from 15 cm (5.9 in) to as much as 46 cm (18 in). However some models may run much deeper. [ clarification needed ] Each individual plough or shank is typically set from 230 mm (9 in) to 360 mm (14 in) apart. Such a plough can meet significant soil drag: a tractor of sufficient power and traction is required. When ploughing with a chisel plough, 10–20 horsepower (7.5–14.9 kW) per shank is required, depending on depth. [ citation needed ]

Pull-type chisel ploughs are made in working widths from about 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) up to 13.7 metres (45 ft). They are tractor-mounted, and working depth is hydraulically controlled. Those more than about 4 metres (13 ft) wide may be equipped with folding wings to reduce transport width. Wider machines may have the wings supported by individual wheels and hinge joints to allow flexing of the machine over uneven ground. The wider models usually have a wheel each side to control working depth. Three-point hitch-mounted units are made in widths from about 1.5 to 9 metres (4 ft 11 in to 29 ft 6 in).

Cultivators are often similar in form to chisel ploughs, but their goals are different. Cultivator teeth work near the surface, usually for weed control, whereas chisel plough shanks work deep under the surface therefore, cultivation takes much less power per shank than does chisel ploughing.

Country plough Edit

The country plough is a slanted plough. [38] The most common plough in India, [39] it is recommended for crops like groundnut after the use of a tractor. [40]

Ridging plough Edit

A ridging plough is used for crops such as potatoes or scallions grown buried in ridges of soil, using a technique called ridging or hilling. A ridging plough has two back-to-back mould boards cutting a deep furrow on each pass with high ridges either side. The same plough may be used to split the ridges to harvest the crop.

Scots hand plough Edit

This variety of ridge plough is notable for having a blade pointing towards the operator. It is used solely by human effort rather than with animal or machine assistance and pulled backwards by the operator, requiring great physical effort. It is particularly used for second breaking of ground and for potato planting. It is found in Shetland, some western crofts, and more rarely Central Scotland, typically on holdings too small or poor to merit the use of animals.

Mole plough Edit

The mole plough allows under-drainage to be installed without trenches, or breaks up the deep impermeable soil layers that impede it. It is a deep plough with a torpedo or wedge-shaped tip and a narrow blade connecting it to the body. When dragged over ground, it leaves a channel deep under it that acts as a drain. Modern mole ploughs may also bury a flexible perforated plastic drain pipe as they go, making a more permanent drain – or may be used to lay pipes for water supply or other purposes. Similar machines, so-called pipe-and-cable-laying ploughs, are even used under the sea for laying cables or for preparing the earth for side-scan sonar in a process used in oil exploration.

Compacting a tennis ball-sized sample from moling depth by hand, then pushing a pencil through is a simple check to find if the subsoil is in the right condition for mole ploughing. If the hole stays intact without splitting the ball, the soil is in ideal condition for the mole plough.

Heavy land requires draining to reduce its water content to a level efficient for plant growth. Heavy soils usually have a system of permanent drains, using perforated plastic or clay pipes that discharge into a ditch. The small tunnels (mole drains) that mole ploughs form lie at a depth of up to 950 mm (37 in) at an angle to the pipe drains. Water from the mole drains seeps into the pipes and runs along them into a ditch.

Mole ploughs are usually trailed and pulled by a crawler tractor, but lighter models for use on the three-point linkage of powerful four-wheel drive tractors are also made. A mole plough has a strong frame that slides along the ground when the machine is at work. A heavy leg, similar to a sub-soiler leg, is attached to the frame and a circular section with a larger diameter expander on a flexible link is bolted to the leg. The bullet-shaped share forms a tunnel in the soil about 75 mm (3.0 in) diameter and the expander presses the soil outwards to form a long-lasting drainage channel.

Para-plough Edit

The para-plough, or paraplow, loosens compacted soil layers 3 to 4 dm (12 to 16 inches) deep while maintaining high surface residue levels. [41] It is primary tillage implement for deep ploughing without inversion.

Spade plough Edit

The spade plough is designed to cut the soil and turn it on its side, minimising damage to earthworms, soil microorganism and fungi. This increases the sustainability and long-term fertility of the soil.

Switch plough Edit

Using a bar with square shares mounted perpendicularly and a pivot point to change the bar's angle, the switch plough allows ploughing in either direction. It is best in previously-worked soils, as the ploughshares are designed more to turn the soil over than for deep tillage. At the headland, the operator pivots the bar (and so the ploughshares) to turn the soil to the opposite side of the direction of travel. Switch ploughs are usually lighter than roll-over ploughs, requiring less horsepower to operate.

Mould-board ploughing in cold and temperate climates, down to 20 cm (7.9 in), aerates the soil by loosening it. It incorporates crop residues, solid manures, limestone and commercial fertilisers along [ spelling? ] oxygen, so reducing nitrogen losses by denitrification, accelerating mineralisation and raising short-term nitrogen availability for turning organic matter into humus. It erases wheel tracks and ruts from harvesting equipment. It controls many perennial weeds and delays the growth of others until spring. It accelerates spring soil warming and water evaporation due to lower residues on the soil surface. It facilitates seeding with a lighter seed, controls many crop enemies (slugs, crane flies, seedcorn maggots-bean seed flies, borers), and raises the number of "soil-eating" earthworms (endogic), but deters vertical-dwelling earthworms (anecic).

Ploughing leaves little crop residue on the surface that might otherwise reduce both wind and water erosion. Over-ploughing can lead to the formation of hardpan. Typically, farmers break that up with a subsoiler, which acts as a long, sharp knife slicing through the hardened layer of soil deep below the surface. Soil erosion due to improper land and plough utilisation is possible. Contour ploughing mitigates soil erosion by ploughing across a slope, along elevation lines. Alternatives to ploughing, such as a no-till method, have the potential to build soil levels and humus. These may be suitable for smaller, intensively cultivated plots and for farming on poor, shallow or degraded soils that ploughing would further degrade.

Agriculture in ancient Egypt

The second leads the bulls, and after preparing the field, the seeding process begins. In the scenes we see the "field scribe" standing in front of the piles designated for seed. If this is done, they are spread in the fields. Each carries his basket and spreads it in the fields, either by hanging it on his shoulder by a rope or carrying it on his hands

After the end of this process, the process of landing the grain on the ground begins, and it was carried out by sheep and pigs. After this stage, another stage begins, which is

He threshed the grains, then harvested the crop and tied it in bundles. After this process was completed, it began

The process of moving the crop to the place where you will study. This process is to collect the straw in a high pile by a toothed pitchfork, and then start atomizing the grains, which is an attempt to separate the hay and other materials

Far from love and often performed by women with slightly arched wood panels

Then the grains are sifted with a square sieve until they are finally cleared of impurities, and the last of the harvesting work is the appearance of two employees of the farm, one of whom works as a clerk for silos and the other to weigh piles of wheat before storing it in silos, which are conical buildings of clay. In its upper part, there is a small opening

Its lower part is a hole to take the wheat from it

There was also an employee in ancient Egypt who worked as a clerk for silos and another for weighing piles of wheat before storing it in silos, which are made of clay, conical buildings. In its upper part, there is a small opening

Its lower part is a hole to take the wheat from it

In addition to the grains that were grown in ancient Egypt, there were different types of vegetables (such as onions, cucumbers, and melons) and other types that the ancient Egyptians were keen to plant in the garden of their home and this was shown in the inscriptions of their tombs, which listed more than 100 types of trees

(Sycamore, dum, and figs) King Ramses III established in the city of Thebes extensive gardens that appeared in

Cemeteries of the New Kingdom. The Egyptian also knew cattle breeding, which appeared clearly in the scenes, and oxen were the most important and loved domestic animals of the ancient Egyptians

Scenes of animal husbandry in ancient Egypt appeared in many cemeteries, and we see an ox-herder with

His livestock crosses the water or while they eat, and some farmers milk the cows, and the shepherd has taken care of the food of the cattle and has worked on fattening his cattle by feeding them bread dough. Cattle were milked and livestock grazing in alfalfa cultivated fields in the country


The Nile has been the lifeline of its region for much of human history. [8] The fertile floodplain of the Nile gave humans the opportunity to develop a settled agricultural economy and a more sophisticated, centralized society that became a cornerstone in the history of human civilization. [9] Nomadic modern human hunter-gatherers began living in the Nile valley through the end of the Middle Pleistocene some 120,000 years ago. By the late Paleolithic period, the arid climate of Northern Africa became increasingly hot and dry, forcing the populations of the area to concentrate along the river region.

Predynastic period

In Predynastic and Early Dynastic times, the Egyptian climate was much less arid than it is today. Large regions of Egypt were covered in treed savanna and traversed by herds of grazing ungulates. Foliage and fauna were far more prolific in all environs and the Nile region supported large populations of waterfowl. Hunting would have been common for Egyptians, and this is also the period when many animals were first domesticated. [10]

By about 5500 BC, small tribes living in the Nile valley had developed into a series of cultures demonstrating firm control of agriculture and animal husbandry, and identifiable by their pottery and personal items, such as combs, bracelets, and beads. The largest of these early cultures in upper (Southern) Egypt was the Badarian culture, which probably originated in the Western Desert it was known for its high-quality ceramics, stone tools, and its use of copper. [11]

The Badari was followed by the Naqada culture: the Amratian (Naqada I), the Gerzeh (Naqada II), and Semainean (Naqada III). [12] [ page needed ] These brought a number of technological improvements. As early as the Naqada I Period, predynastic Egyptians imported obsidian from Ethiopia, used to shape blades and other objects from flakes. [13] In Naqada II times, early evidence exists of contact with the Near East, particularly Canaan and the Byblos coast. [14] Over a period of about 1,000 years, the Naqada culture developed from a few small farming communities into a powerful civilization whose leaders were in complete control of the people and resources of the Nile valley. [15] Establishing a power center at Nekhen (in Greek, Hierakonpolis), and later at Abydos, Naqada III leaders expanded their control of Egypt northwards along the Nile. [16] They also traded with Nubia to the south, the oases of the western desert to the west, and the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean and Near East to the east, initiating a period of Egypt-Mesopotamia relations. [17] [ when? ]

The Naqada culture manufactured a diverse selection of material goods, reflective of the increasing power and wealth of the elite, as well as societal personal-use items, which included combs, small statuary, painted pottery, high quality decorative stone vases, cosmetic palettes, and jewelry made of gold, lapis, and ivory. They also developed a ceramic glaze known as faience, which was used well into the Roman Period to decorate cups, amulets, and figurines. [18] During the last predynastic phase, the Naqada culture began using written symbols that eventually were developed into a full system of hieroglyphs for writing the ancient Egyptian language. [19]

Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150–2686 BC)

The Early Dynastic Period was approximately contemporary to the early Sumerian-Akkadian civilisation of Mesopotamia and of ancient Elam. The third-century BC Egyptian priest Manetho grouped the long line of kings from Menes to his own time into 30 dynasties, a system still used today. He began his official history with the king named "Meni" (or Menes in Greek), who was believed to have united the two kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt. [20]

The transition to a unified state happened more gradually than ancient Egyptian writers represented, and there is no contemporary record of Menes. Some scholars now believe, however, that the mythical Menes may have been the king Narmer, who is depicted wearing royal regalia on the ceremonial Narmer Palette, in a symbolic act of unification. [22] In the Early Dynastic Period, which began about 3000 BC, the first of the Dynastic kings solidified control over lower Egypt by establishing a capital at Memphis, from which he could control the labour force and agriculture of the fertile delta region, as well as the lucrative and critical trade routes to the Levant. The increasing power and wealth of the kings during the early dynastic period was reflected in their elaborate mastaba tombs and mortuary cult structures at Abydos, which were used to celebrate the deified king after his death. [23] The strong institution of kingship developed by the kings served to legitimize state control over the land, labour, and resources that were essential to the survival and growth of ancient Egyptian civilization. [24]

Old Kingdom (2686–2181 BC)

Major advances in architecture, art, and technology were made during the Old Kingdom, fueled by the increased agricultural productivity and resulting population, made possible by a well-developed central administration. [25] Some of ancient Egypt's crowning achievements, the Giza pyramids and Great Sphinx, were constructed during the Old Kingdom. Under the direction of the vizier, state officials collected taxes, coordinated irrigation projects to improve crop yield, drafted peasants to work on construction projects, and established a justice system to maintain peace and order. [26]

With the rising importance of central administration in Egypt, a new class of educated scribes and officials arose who were granted estates by the king in payment for their services. Kings also made land grants to their mortuary cults and local temples, to ensure that these institutions had the resources to worship the king after his death. Scholars believe that five centuries of these practices slowly eroded the economic vitality of Egypt, and that the economy could no longer afford to support a large centralized administration. [27] As the power of the kings diminished, regional governors called nomarchs began to challenge the supremacy of the office of king. This, coupled with severe droughts between 2200 and 2150 BC, [28] is believed to have caused the country to enter the 140-year period of famine and strife known as the First Intermediate Period. [29]

First Intermediate Period (2181–2055 BC)

After Egypt's central government collapsed at the end of the Old Kingdom, the administration could no longer support or stabilize the country's economy. Regional governors could not rely on the king for help in times of crisis, and the ensuing food shortages and political disputes escalated into famines and small-scale civil wars. Yet despite difficult problems, local leaders, owing no tribute to the king, used their new-found independence to establish a thriving culture in the provinces. Once in control of their own resources, the provinces became economically richer—which was demonstrated by larger and better burials among all social classes. [30] In bursts of creativity, provincial artisans adopted and adapted cultural motifs formerly restricted to the royalty of the Old Kingdom, and scribes developed literary styles that expressed the optimism and originality of the period. [31]

Free from their loyalties to the king, local rulers began competing with each other for territorial control and political power. By 2160 BC, rulers in Herakleopolis controlled Lower Egypt in the north, while a rival clan based in Thebes, the Intef family, took control of Upper Egypt in the south. As the Intefs grew in power and expanded their control northward, a clash between the two rival dynasties became inevitable. Around 2055 BC the northern Theban forces under Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II finally defeated the Herakleopolitan rulers, reuniting the Two Lands. They inaugurated a period of economic and cultural renaissance known as the Middle Kingdom. [32]

Middle Kingdom (2134–1690 BC)

The kings of the Middle Kingdom restored the country's stability and prosperity, thereby stimulating a resurgence of art, literature, and monumental building projects. [33] Mentuhotep II and his Eleventh Dynasty successors ruled from Thebes, but the vizier Amenemhat I, upon assuming the kingship at the beginning of the Twelfth Dynasty around 1985 BC, shifted the kingdom's capital to the city of Itjtawy, located in Faiyum. [34] From Itjtawy, the kings of the Twelfth Dynasty undertook a far-sighted land reclamation and irrigation scheme to increase agricultural output in the region. Moreover, the military reconquered territory in Nubia that was rich in quarries and gold mines, while laborers built a defensive structure in the Eastern Delta, called the "Walls of the Ruler", to defend against foreign attack. [35]

With the kings having secured the country militarily and politically and with vast agricultural and mineral wealth at their disposal, the nation's population, arts, and religion flourished. In contrast to elitist Old Kingdom attitudes towards the gods, the Middle Kingdom displayed an increase in expressions of personal piety. [36] Middle Kingdom literature featured sophisticated themes and characters written in a confident, eloquent style. [31] The relief and portrait sculpture of the period captured subtle, individual details that reached new heights of technical sophistication. [37]

The last great ruler of the Middle Kingdom, Amenemhat III, allowed Semitic-speaking Canaanite settlers from the Near East into the Delta region to provide a sufficient labour force for his especially active mining and building campaigns. These ambitious building and mining activities, however, combined with severe Nile floods later in his reign, strained the economy and precipitated the slow decline into the Second Intermediate Period during the later Thirteenth and Fourteenth dynasties. During this decline, the Canaanite settlers began to assume greater control of the Delta region, eventually coming to power in Egypt as the Hyksos. [38]

Second Intermediate Period (1674–1549 BC) and the Hyksos

Around 1785 BC, as the power of the Middle Kingdom kings weakened, a Western Asian people called the Hyksos, who had already settled in the Delta, seized control of Egypt and established their capital at Avaris, forcing the former central government to retreat to Thebes. The king was treated as a vassal and expected to pay tribute. [39] The Hyksos ("foreign rulers") retained Egyptian models of government and identified as kings, thereby integrating Egyptian elements into their culture. They and other invaders introduced new tools of warfare into Egypt, most notably the composite bow and the horse-drawn chariot. [40]

After retreating south, the native Theban kings found themselves trapped between the Canaanite Hyksos ruling the north and the Hyksos' Nubian allies, the Kushites, to the south. After years of vassalage, Thebes gathered enough strength to challenge the Hyksos in a conflict that lasted more than 30 years, until 1555 BC. [39] The kings Seqenenre Tao II and Kamose were ultimately able to defeat the Nubians to the south of Egypt, but failed to defeat the Hyksos. That task fell to Kamose's successor, Ahmose I, who successfully waged a series of campaigns that permanently eradicated the Hyksos' presence in Egypt. He established a new dynasty and, in the New Kingdom that followed, the military became a central priority for the kings, who sought to expand Egypt's borders and attempted to gain mastery of the Near East. [41]

New Kingdom (1549–1069 BC)

The New Kingdom pharaohs established a period of unprecedented prosperity by securing their borders and strengthening diplomatic ties with their neighbours, including the Mitanni Empire, Assyria, and Canaan. Military campaigns waged under Tuthmosis I and his grandson Tuthmosis III extended the influence of the pharaohs to the largest empire Egypt had ever seen. Beginning with Merneptah the rulers of Egypt adopted the title of pharaoh.

Between their reigns, Hatshepsut, a queen who established herself as pharaoh, launched many building projects, including restoration of temples damaged by the Hyksos, and sent trading expeditions to Punt and the Sinai. [42] When Tuthmosis III died in 1425 BC, Egypt had an empire extending from Niya in north west Syria to the Fourth Cataract of the Nile in Nubia, cementing loyalties and opening access to critical imports such as bronze and wood. [43]

The New Kingdom pharaohs began a large-scale building campaign to promote the god Amun, whose growing cult was based in Karnak. They also constructed monuments to glorify their own achievements, both real and imagined. The Karnak temple is the largest Egyptian temple ever built. [44]

Around 1350 BC, the stability of the New Kingdom was threatened when Amenhotep IV ascended the throne and instituted a series of radical and chaotic reforms. Changing his name to Akhenaten, he touted the previously obscure sun deity Aten as the supreme deity, suppressed the worship of most other deities, and moved the capital to the new city of Akhetaten (modern-day Amarna). [45] He was devoted to his new religion and artistic style. After his death, the cult of the Aten was quickly abandoned and the traditional religious order restored. The subsequent pharaohs, Tutankhamun, Ay, and Horemheb, worked to erase all mention of Akhenaten's heresy, now known as the Amarna Period. [46]

Around 1279 BC, Ramesses II, also known as Ramesses the Great, ascended the throne, and went on to build more temples, erect more statues and obelisks, and sire more children than any other pharaoh in history. [a] A bold military leader, Ramesses II led his army against the Hittites in the Battle of Kadesh (in modern Syria) and, after fighting to a stalemate, finally agreed to the first recorded peace treaty, around 1258 BC. [47]

Egypt's wealth, however, made it a tempting target for invasion, particularly by the Libyan Berbers to the west, and the Sea Peoples, a conjectured confederation of seafarers from the Aegean Sea. [b] Initially, the military was able to repel these invasions, but Egypt eventually lost control of its remaining territories in southern Canaan, much of it falling to the Assyrians. The effects of external threats were exacerbated by internal problems such as corruption, tomb robbery, and civil unrest. After regaining their power, the high priests at the temple of Amun in Thebes accumulated vast tracts of land and wealth, and their expanded power splintered the country during the Third Intermediate Period. [48]

Third Intermediate Period (1069–653 BC)

Following the death of Ramesses XI in 1078 BC, Smendes assumed authority over the northern part of Egypt, ruling from the city of Tanis. The south was effectively controlled by the High Priests of Amun at Thebes, who recognized Smendes in name only. [49] During this time, Libyans had been settling in the western delta, and chieftains of these settlers began increasing their autonomy. Libyan princes took control of the delta under Shoshenq I in 945 BC, founding the so-called Libyan or Bubastite dynasty that would rule for some 200 years. Shoshenq also gained control of southern Egypt by placing his family members in important priestly positions. Libyan control began to erode as a rival dynasty in the delta arose in Leontopolis, and Kushites threatened from the south.

Around 727 BC the Kushite king Piye invaded northward, seizing control of Thebes and eventually the Delta, which established the 25th Dynasty. [51] During the 25th Dynasty, Pharaoh Taharqa created an empire nearly as large as the New Kingdom's. Twenty-fifth Dynasty pharaohs built, or restored, temples and monuments throughout the Nile valley, including at Memphis, Karnak, Kawa, and Jebel Barkal. [52] During this period, the Nile valley saw the first widespread construction of pyramids (many in modern Sudan) since the Middle Kingdom. [53] [54] [55]

Egypt's far-reaching prestige declined considerably toward the end of the Third Intermediate Period. Its foreign allies had fallen under the Assyrian sphere of influence, and by 700 BC war between the two states became inevitable. Between 671 and 667 BC the Assyrians began the Assyrian conquest of Egypt. The reigns of both Taharqa and his successor, Tanutamun, were filled with constant conflict with the Assyrians, against whom Egypt enjoyed several victories. Ultimately, the Assyrians pushed the Kushites back into Nubia, occupied Memphis, and sacked the temples of Thebes. [57]

Late Period (653–332 BC)

The Assyrians left control of Egypt to a series of vassals who became known as the Saite kings of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty. By 653 BC, the Saite king Psamtik I was able to oust the Assyrians with the help of Greek mercenaries, who were recruited to form Egypt's first navy. Greek influence expanded greatly as the city-state of Naukratis became the home of Greeks in the Nile Delta. The Saite kings based in the new capital of Sais witnessed a brief but spirited resurgence in the economy and culture, but in 525 BC, the powerful Persians, led by Cambyses II, began their conquest of Egypt, eventually capturing the pharaoh Psamtik III at the Battle of Pelusium. Cambyses II then assumed the formal title of pharaoh, but ruled Egypt from Iran, leaving Egypt under the control of a satrapy. A few successful revolts against the Persians marked the 5th century BC, but Egypt was never able to permanently overthrow the Persians. [58]

Following its annexation by Persia, Egypt was joined with Cyprus and Phoenicia in the sixth satrapy of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. This first period of Persian rule over Egypt, also known as the Twenty-Seventh Dynasty, ended in 402 BC, when Egypt regained independence under a series of native dynasties. The last of these dynasties, the Thirtieth, proved to be the last native royal house of ancient Egypt, ending with the kingship of Nectanebo II. A brief restoration of Persian rule, sometimes known as the Thirty-First Dynasty, began in 343 BC, but shortly after, in 332 BC, the Persian ruler Mazaces handed Egypt over to Alexander the Great without a fight. [59]

Ptolemaic period (332–30 BC)

In 332 BC, Alexander the Great conquered Egypt with little resistance from the Persians and was welcomed by the Egyptians as a deliverer. The administration established by Alexander's successors, the Macedonian Ptolemaic Kingdom, was based on an Egyptian model and based in the new capital city of Alexandria. The city showcased the power and prestige of Hellenistic rule, and became a seat of learning and culture, centered at the famous Library of Alexandria. [60] The Lighthouse of Alexandria lit the way for the many ships that kept trade flowing through the city—as the Ptolemies made commerce and revenue-generating enterprises, such as papyrus manufacturing, their top priority. [61]

Hellenistic culture did not supplant native Egyptian culture, as the Ptolemies supported time-honored traditions in an effort to secure the loyalty of the populace. They built new temples in Egyptian style, supported traditional cults, and portrayed themselves as pharaohs. Some traditions merged, as Greek and Egyptian gods were syncretized into composite deities, such as Serapis, and classical Greek forms of sculpture influenced traditional Egyptian motifs. Despite their efforts to appease the Egyptians, the Ptolemies were challenged by native rebellion, bitter family rivalries, and the powerful mob of Alexandria that formed after the death of Ptolemy IV. [62] In addition, as Rome relied more heavily on imports of grain from Egypt, the Romans took great interest in the political situation in the country. Continued Egyptian revolts, ambitious politicians, and powerful opponents from the Near East made this situation unstable, leading Rome to send forces to secure the country as a province of its empire. [63]

Roman period (30 BC – AD 641)

Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire in 30 BC, following the defeat of Marc Antony and Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII by Octavian (later Emperor Augustus) in the Battle of Actium. The Romans relied heavily on grain shipments from Egypt, and the Roman army, under the control of a prefect appointed by the Emperor, quelled rebellions, strictly enforced the collection of heavy taxes, and prevented attacks by bandits, which had become a notorious problem during the period. [64] Alexandria became an increasingly important center on the trade route with the orient, as exotic luxuries were in high demand in Rome. [65]

Although the Romans had a more hostile attitude than the Greeks towards the Egyptians, some traditions such as mummification and worship of the traditional gods continued. [66] The art of mummy portraiture flourished, and some Roman emperors had themselves depicted as pharaohs, though not to the extent that the Ptolemies had. The former lived outside Egypt and did not perform the ceremonial functions of Egyptian kingship. Local administration became Roman in style and closed to native Egyptians. [66]

From the mid-first century AD, Christianity took root in Egypt and it was originally seen as another cult that could be accepted. However, it was an uncompromising religion that sought to win converts from Egyptian Religion and Greco-Roman religion and threatened popular religious traditions. This led to the persecution of converts to Christianity, culminating in the great purges of Diocletian starting in 303, but eventually Christianity won out. [67] In 391 the Christian Emperor Theodosius introduced legislation that banned pagan rites and closed temples. [68] Alexandria became the scene of great anti-pagan riots with public and private religious imagery destroyed. [69] As a consequence, Egypt's native religious culture was continually in decline. While the native population continued to speak their language, the ability to read hieroglyphic writing slowly disappeared as the role of the Egyptian temple priests and priestesses diminished. The temples themselves were sometimes converted to churches or abandoned to the desert. [70]

In the fourth century, as the Roman Empire divided, Egypt found itself in the Eastern Empire with its capital at Constantinople. In the waning years of the Empire, Egypt fell to the Sasanian Persian army in the Sasanian conquest of Egypt (618–628). It was then recaptured by the Roman Emperor Heraclius (629–639), and was finally captured by Muslim Rashidun army in 639–641, ending Roman rule.

Administration and commerce

The pharaoh was the absolute monarch of the country and, at least in theory, wielded complete control of the land and its resources. The king was the supreme military commander and head of the government, who relied on a bureaucracy of officials to manage his affairs. In charge of the administration was his second in command, the vizier, who acted as the king's representative and coordinated land surveys, the treasury, building projects, the legal system, and the archives. [71] At a regional level, the country was divided into as many as 42 administrative regions called nomes each governed by a nomarch, who was accountable to the vizier for his jurisdiction. The temples formed the backbone of the economy. Not only were they places of worship, but were also responsible for collecting and storing the kingdom's wealth in a system of granaries and treasuries administered by overseers, who redistributed grain and goods. [72]

Social status

Egyptian society was highly stratified, and social status was expressly displayed. Farmers made up the bulk of the population, but agricultural produce was owned directly by the state, temple, or noble family that owned the land. [77] Farmers were also subject to a labor tax and were required to work on irrigation or construction projects in a corvée system. [78] Artists and craftsmen were of higher status than farmers, but they were also under state control, working in the shops attached to the temples and paid directly from the state treasury. Scribes and officials formed the upper class in ancient Egypt, known as the "white kilt class" in reference to the bleached linen garments that served as a mark of their rank. [79] The upper class prominently displayed their social status in art and literature. Below the nobility were the priests, physicians, and engineers with specialized training in their field. It is unclear whether slavery as understood today existed in ancient Egypt, there is difference of opinions among authors. [80]

The ancient Egyptians viewed men and women, including people from all social classes, as essentially equal under the law, and even the lowliest peasant was entitled to petition the vizier and his court for redress. [81] Although slaves were mostly used as indentured servants, they were able to buy and sell their servitude, work their way to freedom or nobility, and were usually treated by doctors in the workplace. [82] Both men and women had the right to own and sell property, make contracts, marry and divorce, receive inheritance, and pursue legal disputes in court. Married couples could own property jointly and protect themselves from divorce by agreeing to marriage contracts, which stipulated the financial obligations of the husband to his wife and children should the marriage end. Compared with their counterparts in ancient Greece, Rome, and even more modern places around the world, ancient Egyptian women had a greater range of personal choices, legal rights, and opportunities for achievement. Women such as Hatshepsut and Cleopatra VII even became pharaohs, while others wielded power as Divine Wives of Amun. Despite these freedoms, ancient Egyptian women did not often take part in official roles in the administration, aside from the royal high priestesses, apparently served only secondary roles in the temples (not much data for many dynasties), and were not so likely to be as educated as men. [81]

Legal system

The head of the legal system was officially the pharaoh, who was responsible for enacting laws, delivering justice, and maintaining law and order, a concept the ancient Egyptians referred to as Ma'at. [71] Although no legal codes from ancient Egypt survive, court documents show that Egyptian law was based on a common-sense view of right and wrong that emphasized reaching agreements and resolving conflicts rather than strictly adhering to a complicated set of statutes. [81] Local councils of elders, known as Kenbet in the New Kingdom, were responsible for ruling in court cases involving small claims and minor disputes. [71] More serious cases involving murder, major land transactions, and tomb robbery were referred to the Great Kenbet, over which the vizier or pharaoh presided. Plaintiffs and defendants were expected to represent themselves and were required to swear an oath that they had told the truth. In some cases, the state took on both the role of prosecutor and judge, and it could torture the accused with beatings to obtain a confession and the names of any co-conspirators. Whether the charges were trivial or serious, court scribes documented the complaint, testimony, and verdict of the case for future reference. [83]

Punishment for minor crimes involved either imposition of fines, beatings, facial mutilation, or exile, depending on the severity of the offense. Serious crimes such as murder and tomb robbery were punished by execution, carried out by decapitation, drowning, or impaling the criminal on a stake. Punishment could also be extended to the criminal's family. [71] Beginning in the New Kingdom, oracles played a major role in the legal system, dispensing justice in both civil and criminal cases. The procedure was to ask the god a "yes" or "no" question concerning the right or wrong of an issue. The god, carried by a number of priests, rendered judgement by choosing one or the other, moving forward or backward, or pointing to one of the answers written on a piece of papyrus or an ostracon. [84]


A combination of favorable geographical features contributed to the success of ancient Egyptian culture, the most important of which was the rich fertile soil resulting from annual inundations of the Nile River. The ancient Egyptians were thus able to produce an abundance of food, allowing the population to devote more time and resources to cultural, technological, and artistic pursuits. Land management was crucial in ancient Egypt because taxes were assessed based on the amount of land a person owned. [85]

Farming in Egypt was dependent on the cycle of the Nile River. The Egyptians recognized three seasons: Akhet (flooding), Peret (planting), and Shemu (harvesting). The flooding season lasted from June to September, depositing on the river's banks a layer of mineral-rich silt ideal for growing crops. After the floodwaters had receded, the growing season lasted from October to February. Farmers plowed and planted seeds in the fields, which were irrigated with ditches and canals. Egypt received little rainfall, so farmers relied on the Nile to water their crops. [86] From March to May, farmers used sickles to harvest their crops, which were then threshed with a flail to separate the straw from the grain. Winnowing removed the chaff from the grain, and the grain was then ground into flour, brewed to make beer, or stored for later use. [87]

The ancient Egyptians cultivated emmer and barley, and several other cereal grains, all of which were used to make the two main food staples of bread and beer. [88] Flax plants, uprooted before they started flowering, were grown for the fibers of their stems. These fibers were split along their length and spun into thread, which was used to weave sheets of linen and to make clothing. Papyrus growing on the banks of the Nile River was used to make paper. Vegetables and fruits were grown in garden plots, close to habitations and on higher ground, and had to be watered by hand. Vegetables included leeks, garlic, melons, squashes, pulses, lettuce, and other crops, in addition to grapes that were made into wine. [89]


The Egyptians believed that a balanced relationship between people and animals was an essential element of the cosmic order thus humans, animals and plants were believed to be members of a single whole. [90] Animals, both domesticated and wild, were therefore a critical source of spirituality, companionship, and sustenance to the ancient Egyptians. Cattle were the most important livestock the administration collected taxes on livestock in regular censuses, and the size of a herd reflected the prestige and importance of the estate or temple that owned them. In addition to cattle, the ancient Egyptians kept sheep, goats, and pigs. Poultry, such as ducks, geese, and pigeons, were captured in nets and bred on farms, where they were force-fed with dough to fatten them. [91] The Nile provided a plentiful source of fish. Bees were also domesticated from at least the Old Kingdom, and provided both honey and wax. [92]

The ancient Egyptians used donkeys and oxen as beasts of burden, and they were responsible for plowing the fields and trampling seed into the soil. The slaughter of a fattened ox was also a central part of an offering ritual. Horses were introduced by the Hyksos in the Second Intermediate Period. Camels, although known from the New Kingdom, were not used as beasts of burden until the Late Period. There is also evidence to suggest that elephants were briefly utilized in the Late Period but largely abandoned due to lack of grazing land. [91] Cats, dogs, and monkeys were common family pets, while more exotic pets imported from the heart of Africa, such as Sub-Saharan African lions, [93] were reserved for royalty. Herodotus observed that the Egyptians were the only people to keep their animals with them in their houses. [90] During the Late Period, the worship of the gods in their animal form was extremely popular, such as the cat goddess Bastet and the ibis god Thoth, and these animals were kept in large numbers for the purpose of ritual sacrifice. [94]

Natural resources

Egypt is rich in building and decorative stone, copper and lead ores, gold, and semiprecious stones. These natural resources allowed the ancient Egyptians to build monuments, sculpt statues, make tools, and fashion jewelry. [95] Embalmers used salts from the Wadi Natrun for mummification, which also provided the gypsum needed to make plaster. [96] Ore-bearing rock formations were found in distant, inhospitable wadis in the Eastern Desert and the Sinai, requiring large, state-controlled expeditions to obtain natural resources found there. There were extensive gold mines in Nubia, and one of the first maps known is of a gold mine in this region. The Wadi Hammamat was a notable source of granite, greywacke, and gold. Flint was the first mineral collected and used to make tools, and flint handaxes are the earliest pieces of evidence of habitation in the Nile valley. Nodules of the mineral were carefully flaked to make blades and arrowheads of moderate hardness and durability even after copper was adopted for this purpose. [97] Ancient Egyptians were among the first to use minerals such as sulfur as cosmetic substances. [98]

The Egyptians worked deposits of the lead ore galena at Gebel Rosas to make net sinkers, plumb bobs, and small figurines. Copper was the most important metal for toolmaking in ancient Egypt and was smelted in furnaces from malachite ore mined in the Sinai. [99] Workers collected gold by washing the nuggets out of sediment in alluvial deposits, or by the more labor-intensive process of grinding and washing gold-bearing quartzite. Iron deposits found in upper Egypt were utilized in the Late Period. [100] High-quality building stones were abundant in Egypt the ancient Egyptians quarried limestone all along the Nile valley, granite from Aswan, and basalt and sandstone from the wadis of the Eastern Desert. Deposits of decorative stones such as porphyry, greywacke, alabaster, and carnelian dotted the Eastern Desert and were collected even before the First Dynasty. In the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods, miners worked deposits of emeralds in Wadi Sikait and amethyst in Wadi el-Hudi. [101]


The ancient Egyptians engaged in trade with their foreign neighbors to obtain rare, exotic goods not found in Egypt. In the Predynastic Period, they established trade with Nubia to obtain gold and incense. They also established trade with Palestine, as evidenced by Palestinian-style oil jugs found in the burials of the First Dynasty pharaohs. [102] An Egyptian colony stationed in southern Canaan dates to slightly before the First Dynasty. [103] Narmer had Egyptian pottery produced in Canaan and exported back to Egypt. [104] [105]

By the Second Dynasty at latest, ancient Egyptian trade with Byblos yielded a critical source of quality timber not found in Egypt. By the Fifth Dynasty, trade with Punt provided gold, aromatic resins, ebony, ivory, and wild animals such as monkeys and baboons. [106] Egypt relied on trade with Anatolia for essential quantities of tin as well as supplementary supplies of copper, both metals being necessary for the manufacture of bronze. The ancient Egyptians prized the blue stone lapis lazuli, which had to be imported from far-away Afghanistan. Egypt's Mediterranean trade partners also included Greece and Crete, which provided, among other goods, supplies of olive oil. [107]

Historical development

The Egyptian language is a northern Afro-Asiatic language closely related to the Berber and Semitic languages. [108] It has the second longest known history of any language (after Sumerian), having been written from c. 3200 BC to the Middle Ages and remaining as a spoken language for longer. The phases of ancient Egyptian are Old Egyptian, Middle Egyptian (Classical Egyptian), Late Egyptian, Demotic and Coptic. [109] Egyptian writings do not show dialect differences before Coptic, but it was probably spoken in regional dialects around Memphis and later Thebes. [110]

Ancient Egyptian was a synthetic language, but it became more analytic later on. Late Egyptian developed prefixal definite and indefinite articles, which replaced the older inflectional suffixes. There was a change from the older verb–subject–object word order to subject–verb–object. [111] The Egyptian hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic scripts were eventually replaced by the more phonetic Coptic alphabet. Coptic is still used in the liturgy of the Egyptian Orthodox Church, and traces of it are found in modern Egyptian Arabic. [112]

Sounds and grammar

Ancient Egyptian has 25 consonants similar to those of other Afro-Asiatic languages. These include pharyngeal and emphatic consonants, voiced and voiceless stops, voiceless fricatives and voiced and voiceless affricates. It has three long and three short vowels, which expanded in Late Egyptian to about nine. [113] The basic word in Egyptian, similar to Semitic and Berber, is a triliteral or biliteral root of consonants and semiconsonants. Suffixes are added to form words. The verb conjugation corresponds to the person. For example, the triconsonantal skeleton S-Ḏ-M is the semantic core of the word 'hear' its basic conjugation is sḏm, 'he hears'. If the subject is a noun, suffixes are not added to the verb: [114] sḏm ḥmt, 'the woman hears'.


Hieroglyphic writing dates from c. 3000 BC, and is composed of hundreds of symbols. A hieroglyph can represent a word, a sound, or a silent determinative and the same symbol can serve different purposes in different contexts. Hieroglyphs were a formal script, used on stone monuments and in tombs, that could be as detailed as individual works of art. In day-to-day writing, scribes used a cursive form of writing, called hieratic, which was quicker and easier. While formal hieroglyphs may be read in rows or columns in either direction (though typically written from right to left), hieratic was always written from right to left, usually in horizontal rows. A new form of writing, Demotic, became the prevalent writing style, and it is this form of writing—along with formal hieroglyphs—that accompany the Greek text on the Rosetta Stone. [120]

Around the first century AD, the Coptic alphabet started to be used alongside the Demotic script. Coptic is a modified Greek alphabet with the addition of some Demotic signs. [121] Although formal hieroglyphs were used in a ceremonial role until the fourth century, towards the end only a small handful of priests could still read them. As the traditional religious establishments were disbanded, knowledge of hieroglyphic writing was mostly lost. Attempts to decipher them date to the Byzantine [122] and Islamic periods in Egypt, [123] but only in the 1820s, after the discovery of the Rosetta Stone and years of research by Thomas Young and Jean-François Champollion, were hieroglyphs substantially deciphered. [124]


Writing first appeared in association with kingship on labels and tags for items found in royal tombs. It was primarily an occupation of the scribes, who worked out of the Per Ankh institution or the House of Life. The latter comprised offices, libraries (called House of Books), laboratories and observatories. [125] Some of the best-known pieces of ancient Egyptian literature, such as the Pyramid and Coffin Texts, were written in Classical Egyptian, which continued to be the language of writing until about 1300 BC. Late Egyptian was spoken from the New Kingdom onward and is represented in Ramesside administrative documents, love poetry and tales, as well as in Demotic and Coptic texts. During this period, the tradition of writing had evolved into the tomb autobiography, such as those of Harkhuf and Weni. The genre known as Sebayt ("instructions") was developed to communicate teachings and guidance from famous nobles the Ipuwer papyrus, a poem of lamentations describing natural disasters and social upheaval, is a famous example.

The Story of Sinuhe, written in Middle Egyptian, might be the classic of Egyptian literature. [126] Also written at this time was the Westcar Papyrus, a set of stories told to Khufu by his sons relating the marvels performed by priests. [127] The Instruction of Amenemope is considered a masterpiece of Near Eastern literature. [128] Towards the end of the New Kingdom, the vernacular language was more often employed to write popular pieces like the Story of Wenamun and the Instruction of Any. The former tells the story of a noble who is robbed on his way to buy cedar from Lebanon and of his struggle to return to Egypt. From about 700 BC, narrative stories and instructions, such as the popular Instructions of Onchsheshonqy, as well as personal and business documents were written in the demotic script and phase of Egyptian. Many stories written in demotic during the Greco-Roman period were set in previous historical eras, when Egypt was an independent nation ruled by great pharaohs such as Ramesses II. [129]

Daily life

Most ancient Egyptians were farmers tied to the land. Their dwellings were restricted to immediate family members, and were constructed of mudbrick designed to remain cool in the heat of the day. Each home had a kitchen with an open roof, which contained a grindstone for milling grain and a small oven for baking the bread. [130] Ceramics served as household wares for the storage, preparation, transport, and consumption of food, drink, and raw materials. Walls were painted white and could be covered with dyed linen wall hangings. Floors were covered with reed mats, while wooden stools, beds raised from the floor and individual tables comprised the furniture. [131]

The ancient Egyptians placed a great value on hygiene and appearance. Most bathed in the Nile and used a pasty soap made from animal fat and chalk. Men shaved their entire bodies for cleanliness perfumes and aromatic ointments covered bad odors and soothed skin. [132] Clothing was made from simple linen sheets that were bleached white, and both men and women of the upper classes wore wigs, jewelry, and cosmetics. Children went without clothing until maturity, at about age 12, and at this age males were circumcised and had their heads shaved. Mothers were responsible for taking care of the children, while the father provided the family's income. [133]

Music and dance were popular entertainments for those who could afford them. Early instruments included flutes and harps, while instruments similar to trumpets, oboes, and pipes developed later and became popular. In the New Kingdom, the Egyptians played on bells, cymbals, tambourines, drums, and imported lutes and lyres from Asia. [134] The sistrum was a rattle-like musical instrument that was especially important in religious ceremonies.

The ancient Egyptians enjoyed a variety of leisure activities, including games and music. Senet, a board game where pieces moved according to random chance, was particularly popular from the earliest times another similar game was mehen, which had a circular gaming board. “Hounds and Jackals” also known as 58 holes is another example of board games played in ancient Egypt. The first complete set of this game was discovered from a Theban tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenemhat IV that dates to the 13th Dynasty. [136] Juggling and ball games were popular with children, and wrestling is also documented in a tomb at Beni Hasan. [137] The wealthy members of ancient Egyptian society enjoyed hunting, fishing, and boating as well.

The excavation of the workers' village of Deir el-Medina has resulted in one of the most thoroughly documented accounts of community life in the ancient world, which spans almost four hundred years. There is no comparable site in which the organization, social interactions, and working and living conditions of a community have been studied in such detail. [138]


Egyptian cuisine remained remarkably stable over time indeed, the cuisine of modern Egypt retains some striking similarities to the cuisine of the ancients. The staple diet consisted of bread and beer, supplemented with vegetables such as onions and garlic, and fruit such as dates and figs. Wine and meat were enjoyed by all on feast days while the upper classes indulged on a more regular basis. Fish, meat, and fowl could be salted or dried, and could be cooked in stews or roasted on a grill. [139]


The architecture of ancient Egypt includes some of the most famous structures in the world: the Great Pyramids of Giza and the temples at Thebes. Building projects were organized and funded by the state for religious and commemorative purposes, but also to reinforce the wide-ranging power of the pharaoh. The ancient Egyptians were skilled builders using only simple but effective tools and sighting instruments, architects could build large stone structures with great accuracy and precision that is still envied today. [140]

The domestic dwellings of elite and ordinary Egyptians alike were constructed from perishable materials such as mudbricks and wood, and have not survived. Peasants lived in simple homes, while the palaces of the elite and the pharaoh were more elaborate structures. A few surviving New Kingdom palaces, such as those in Malkata and Amarna, show richly decorated walls and floors with scenes of people, birds, water pools, deities and geometric designs. [141] Important structures such as temples and tombs that were intended to last forever were constructed of stone instead of mudbricks. The architectural elements used in the world's first large-scale stone building, Djoser's mortuary complex, include post and lintel supports in the papyrus and lotus motif.

The earliest preserved ancient Egyptian temples, such as those at Giza, consist of single, enclosed halls with roof slabs supported by columns. In the New Kingdom, architects added the pylon, the open courtyard, and the enclosed hypostyle hall to the front of the temple's sanctuary, a style that was standard until the Greco-Roman period. [142] The earliest and most popular tomb architecture in the Old Kingdom was the mastaba, a flat-roofed rectangular structure of mudbrick or stone built over an underground burial chamber. The step pyramid of Djoser is a series of stone mastabas stacked on top of each other. Pyramids were built during the Old and Middle Kingdoms, but most later rulers abandoned them in favor of less conspicuous rock-cut tombs. [143] The use of the pyramid form continued in private tomb chapels of the New Kingdom and in the royal pyramids of Nubia. [144]

Model of a household porch and garden, c. 1981–1975 BC

The Temple of Dendur, completed by 10 BC, made of aeolian sandstone, temple proper: height: 6.4 m, width: 6.4 m length: 12.5 m, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

The well preserved Temple of Isis from Philae is an example of Egyptian architecture and architectural sculpture

Illustration of various types of capitals, drawn by the Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius

The ancient Egyptians produced art to serve functional purposes. For over 3500 years, artists adhered to artistic forms and iconography that were developed during the Old Kingdom, following a strict set of principles that resisted foreign influence and internal change. [145] These artistic standards—simple lines, shapes, and flat areas of color combined with the characteristic flat projection of figures with no indication of spatial depth—created a sense of order and balance within a composition. Images and text were intimately interwoven on tomb and temple walls, coffins, stelae, and even statues. The Narmer Palette, for example, displays figures that can also be read as hieroglyphs. [146] Because of the rigid rules that governed its highly stylized and symbolic appearance, ancient Egyptian art served its political and religious purposes with precision and clarity. [147]

Ancient Egyptian artisans used stone as a medium for carving statues and fine reliefs, but used wood as a cheap and easily carved substitute. Paints were obtained from minerals such as iron ores (red and yellow ochres), copper ores (blue and green), soot or charcoal (black), and limestone (white). Paints could be mixed with gum arabic as a binder and pressed into cakes, which could be moistened with water when needed. [148]

Pharaohs used reliefs to record victories in battle, royal decrees, and religious scenes. Common citizens had access to pieces of funerary art, such as shabti statues and books of the dead, which they believed would protect them in the afterlife. [149] During the Middle Kingdom, wooden or clay models depicting scenes from everyday life became popular additions to the tomb. In an attempt to duplicate the activities of the living in the afterlife, these models show laborers, houses, boats, and even military formations that are scale representations of the ideal ancient Egyptian afterlife. [150]

Despite the homogeneity of ancient Egyptian art, the styles of particular times and places sometimes reflected changing cultural or political attitudes. After the invasion of the Hyksos in the Second Intermediate Period, Minoan-style frescoes were found in Avaris. [151] The most striking example of a politically driven change in artistic forms comes from the Amarna Period, where figures were radically altered to conform to Akhenaten's revolutionary religious ideas. [152] This style, known as Amarna art, was quickly abandoned after Akhenaten's death and replaced by the traditional forms. [153]

Egyptian tomb models as funerary goods. Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Kneeling portrait statue of Amenemhat holding a stele with an inscription c. 1500 BC limestone Egyptian Museum of Berlin (Germany)

Fresco which depicts Nebamun hunting birds 1350 BC paint on plaster 98 × 83 cm British Museum (London)

Portrait head of pharaoh Hatshepsut or Thutmose III 1480–1425 BC most probably granite height: 16.5 cm Egyptian Museum of Berlin

Falcon box with wrapped contents 332–30 BC painted and gilded wood, linen, resin and feathers 58.5 × 24.9 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

Religious beliefs

Beliefs in the divine and in the afterlife were ingrained in ancient Egyptian civilization from its inception pharaonic rule was based on the divine right of kings. The Egyptian pantheon was populated by gods who had supernatural powers and were called on for help or protection. However, the gods were not always viewed as benevolent, and Egyptians believed they had to be appeased with offerings and prayers. The structure of this pantheon changed continually as new deities were promoted in the hierarchy, but priests made no effort to organize the diverse and sometimes conflicting myths and stories into a coherent system. [154] These various conceptions of divinity were not considered contradictory but rather layers in the multiple facets of reality. [155]

Gods were worshiped in cult temples administered by priests acting on the king's behalf. At the center of the temple was the cult statue in a shrine. Temples were not places of public worship or congregation, and only on select feast days and celebrations was a shrine carrying the statue of the god brought out for public worship. Normally, the god's domain was sealed off from the outside world and was only accessible to temple officials. Common citizens could worship private statues in their homes, and amulets offered protection against the forces of chaos. [156] After the New Kingdom, the pharaoh's role as a spiritual intermediary was de-emphasized as religious customs shifted to direct worship of the gods. As a result, priests developed a system of oracles to communicate the will of the gods directly to the people. [157]

The Egyptians believed that every human being was composed of physical and spiritual parts or aspects. In addition to the body, each person had a šwt (shadow), a ba (personality or soul), a ka (life-force), and a name. [158] The heart, rather than the brain, was considered the seat of thoughts and emotions. After death, the spiritual aspects were released from the body and could move at will, but they required the physical remains (or a substitute, such as a statue) as a permanent home. The ultimate goal of the deceased was to rejoin his ka and ba and become one of the "blessed dead", living on as an akh, or "effective one". For this to happen, the deceased had to be judged worthy in a trial, in which the heart was weighed against a "feather of truth." If deemed worthy, the deceased could continue their existence on earth in spiritual form. [159] If they were not deemed worthy, their heart was eaten by Ammit the Devourer and they were erased from the Universe.

Burial customs

The ancient Egyptians maintained an elaborate set of burial customs that they believed were necessary to ensure immortality after death. These customs involved preserving the body by mummification, performing burial ceremonies, and interring with the body goods the deceased would use in the afterlife. [149] Before the Old Kingdom, bodies buried in desert pits were naturally preserved by desiccation. The arid, desert conditions were a boon throughout the history of ancient Egypt for burials of the poor, who could not afford the elaborate burial preparations available to the elite. Wealthier Egyptians began to bury their dead in stone tombs and use artificial mummification, which involved removing the internal organs, wrapping the body in linen, and burying it in a rectangular stone sarcophagus or wooden coffin. Beginning in the Fourth Dynasty, some parts were preserved separately in canopic jars. [160]

By the New Kingdom, the ancient Egyptians had perfected the art of mummification the best technique took 70 days and involved removing the internal organs, removing the brain through the nose, and desiccating the body in a mixture of salts called natron. The body was then wrapped in linen with protective amulets inserted between layers and placed in a decorated anthropoid coffin. Mummies of the Late Period were also placed in painted cartonnage mummy cases. Actual preservation practices declined during the Ptolemaic and Roman eras, while greater emphasis was placed on the outer appearance of the mummy, which was decorated. [161]

Wealthy Egyptians were buried with larger quantities of luxury items, but all burials, regardless of social status, included goods for the deceased. Funerary texts were often included in the grave, and, beginning in the New Kingdom, so were shabti statues that were believed to perform manual labor for them in the afterlife. [162] Rituals in which the deceased was magically re-animated accompanied burials. After burial, living relatives were expected to occasionally bring food to the tomb and recite prayers on behalf of the deceased. [163]

The ancient Egyptian military was responsible for defending Egypt against foreign invasion, and for maintaining Egypt's domination in the ancient Near East. The military protected mining expeditions to the Sinai during the Old Kingdom and fought civil wars during the First and Second Intermediate Periods. The military was responsible for maintaining fortifications along important trade routes, such as those found at the city of Buhen on the way to Nubia. Forts also were constructed to serve as military bases, such as the fortress at Sile, which was a base of operations for expeditions to the Levant. In the New Kingdom, a series of pharaohs used the standing Egyptian army to attack and conquer Kush and parts of the Levant. [164]

Typical military equipment included bows and arrows, spears, and round-topped shields made by stretching animal skin over a wooden frame. In the New Kingdom, the military began using chariots that had earlier been introduced by the Hyksos invaders. Weapons and armor continued to improve after the adoption of bronze: shields were now made from solid wood with a bronze buckle, spears were tipped with a bronze point, and the khopesh was adopted from Asiatic soldiers. [165] The pharaoh was usually depicted in art and literature riding at the head of the army it has been suggested that at least a few pharaohs, such as Seqenenre Tao II and his sons, did do so. [166] However, it has also been argued that "kings of this period did not personally act as frontline war leaders, fighting alongside their troops." [167] Soldiers were recruited from the general population, but during, and especially after, the New Kingdom, mercenaries from Nubia, Kush, and Libya were hired to fight for Egypt. [168]


In technology, medicine, and mathematics, ancient Egypt achieved a relatively high standard of productivity and sophistication. Traditional empiricism, as evidenced by the Edwin Smith and Ebers papyri (c. 1600 BC), is first credited to Egypt. The Egyptians created their own alphabet and decimal system.

Faience and glass

Even before the Old Kingdom, the ancient Egyptians had developed a glassy material known as faience, which they treated as a type of artificial semi-precious stone. Faience is a non-clay ceramic made of silica, small amounts of lime and soda, and a colorant, typically copper. [169] The material was used to make beads, tiles, figurines, and small wares. Several methods can be used to create faience, but typically production involved application of the powdered materials in the form of a paste over a clay core, which was then fired. By a related technique, the ancient Egyptians produced a pigment known as Egyptian blue, also called blue frit, which is produced by fusing (or sintering) silica, copper, lime, and an alkali such as natron. The product can be ground up and used as a pigment. [170]

The ancient Egyptians could fabricate a wide variety of objects from glass with great skill, but it is not clear whether they developed the process independently. [171] It is also unclear whether they made their own raw glass or merely imported pre-made ingots, which they melted and finished. However, they did have technical expertise in making objects, as well as adding trace elements to control the color of the finished glass. A range of colors could be produced, including yellow, red, green, blue, purple, and white, and the glass could be made either transparent or opaque. [172]


The medical problems of the ancient Egyptians stemmed directly from their environment. Living and working close to the Nile brought hazards from malaria and debilitating schistosomiasis parasites, which caused liver and intestinal damage. Dangerous wildlife such as crocodiles and hippos were also a common threat. The lifelong labors of farming and building put stress on the spine and joints, and traumatic injuries from construction and warfare all took a significant toll on the body. The grit and sand from stone-ground flour abraded teeth, leaving them susceptible to abscesses (though caries were rare). [173]

The diets of the wealthy were rich in sugars, which promoted periodontal disease. [174] Despite the flattering physiques portrayed on tomb walls, the overweight mummies of many of the upper class show the effects of a life of overindulgence. [175] Adult life expectancy was about 35 for men and 30 for women, but reaching adulthood was difficult as about one-third of the population died in infancy. [c]

Ancient Egyptian physicians were renowned in the ancient Near East for their healing skills, and some, such as Imhotep, remained famous long after their deaths. [176] Herodotus remarked that there was a high degree of specialization among Egyptian physicians, with some treating only the head or the stomach, while others were eye-doctors and dentists. [177] Training of physicians took place at the Per Ankh or "House of Life" institution, most notably those headquartered in Per-Bastet during the New Kingdom and at Abydos and Saïs in the Late period. Medical papyri show empirical knowledge of anatomy, injuries, and practical treatments. [178]

Wounds were treated by bandaging with raw meat, white linen, sutures, nets, pads, and swabs soaked with honey to prevent infection, [179] while opium, thyme, and belladona were used to relieve pain. The earliest records of burn treatment describe burn dressings that use the milk from mothers of male babies. Prayers were made to the goddess Isis. Moldy bread, honey, and copper salts were also used to prevent infection from dirt in burns. [180] Garlic and onions were used regularly to promote good health and were thought to relieve asthma symptoms. Ancient Egyptian surgeons stitched wounds, set broken bones, and amputated diseased limbs, but they recognized that some injuries were so serious that they could only make the patient comfortable until death occurred. [181]

Maritime technology

Early Egyptians knew how to assemble planks of wood into a ship hull and had mastered advanced forms of shipbuilding as early as 3000 BC. The Archaeological Institute of America reports that the oldest planked ships known are the Abydos boats. [5] A group of 14 discovered ships in Abydos were constructed of wooden planks "sewn" together. Discovered by Egyptologist David O'Connor of New York University, [182] woven straps were found to have been used to lash the planks together, [5] and reeds or grass stuffed between the planks helped to seal the seams. [5] Because the ships are all buried together and near a mortuary belonging to Pharaoh Khasekhemwy, originally they were all thought to have belonged to him, but one of the 14 ships dates to 3000 BC, and the associated pottery jars buried with the vessels also suggest earlier dating. The ship dating to 3000 BC was 75 feet (23 m) long and is now thought to perhaps have belonged to an earlier pharaoh, perhaps one as early as Hor-Aha. [182]

Early Egyptians also knew how to assemble planks of wood with treenails to fasten them together, using pitch for caulking the seams. The "Khufu ship", a 43.6-metre (143 ft) vessel sealed into a pit in the Giza pyramid complex at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza in the Fourth Dynasty around 2500 BC, is a full-size surviving example that may have filled the symbolic function of a solar barque. Early Egyptians also knew how to fasten the planks of this ship together with mortise and tenon joints. [5]

Large seagoing ships are known to have been heavily used by the Egyptians in their trade with the city states of the eastern Mediterranean, especially Byblos (on the coast of modern-day Lebanon), and in several expeditions down the Red Sea to the Land of Punt. In fact one of the earliest Egyptian words for a seagoing ship is a "Byblos Ship", which originally defined a class of Egyptian seagoing ships used on the Byblos run however, by the end of the Old Kingdom, the term had come to include large seagoing ships, whatever their destination. [183]

In 2011, archaeologists from Italy, the United States, and Egypt excavating a dried-up lagoon known as Mersa Gawasis have unearthed traces of an ancient harbor that once launched early voyages like Hatshepsut's Punt expedition onto the open ocean. Some of the site's most evocative evidence for the ancient Egyptians' seafaring prowess include large ship timbers and hundreds of feet of ropes, made from papyrus, coiled in huge bundles. [184] In 2013 a team of Franco-Egyptian archaeologists discovered what is believed to be the world's oldest port, dating back about 4500 years, from the time of King Cheops on the Red Sea coast near Wadi el-Jarf (about 110 miles south of Suez). [185]

In 1977, an ancient north–south canal dating to the Middle Kingdom of Egypt was discovered extending from Lake Timsah to the Ballah Lakes. [186] It was dated to the Middle Kingdom of Egypt by extrapolating dates of ancient sites constructed along its course. [186] [d]


The earliest attested examples of mathematical calculations date to the predynastic Naqada period, and show a fully developed numeral system. [e] The importance of mathematics to an educated Egyptian is suggested by a New Kingdom fictional letter in which the writer proposes a scholarly competition between himself and another scribe regarding everyday calculation tasks such as accounting of land, labor, and grain. [188] Texts such as the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus and the Moscow Mathematical Papyrus show that the ancient Egyptians could perform the four basic mathematical operations—addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division—use fractions, calculate the areas of rectangles, triangles, and circles and compute the volumes of boxes, columns and pyramids. They understood basic concepts of algebra and geometry, and could solve simple sets of simultaneous equations. [189]

Mathematical notation was decimal, and based on hieroglyphic signs for each power of ten up to one million. Each of these could be written as many times as necessary to add up to the desired number so to write the number eighty or eight hundred, the symbol for ten or one hundred was written eight times respectively. [190] Because their methods of calculation could not handle most fractions with a numerator greater than one, they had to write fractions as the sum of several fractions. For example, they resolved the fraction two-fifths into the sum of one-third + one-fifteenth. Standard tables of values facilitated this. [191] Some common fractions, however, were written with a special glyph—the equivalent of the modern two-thirds is shown on the right. [192]

Ancient Egyptian mathematicians knew the Pythagorean theorem as an empirical formula. They were aware, for example, that a triangle had a right angle opposite the hypotenuse when its sides were in a 3–4–5 ratio. [193] They were able to estimate the area of a circle by subtracting one-ninth from its diameter and squaring the result:

a reasonable approximation of the formula πr 2 . [194]

The golden ratio seems to be reflected in many Egyptian constructions, including the pyramids, but its use may have been an unintended consequence of the ancient Egyptian practice of combining the use of knotted ropes with an intuitive sense of proportion and harmony. [195]

Estimates of the size of the population range from 1-1.5 million in the 3rd millennium BCE to possibly 2-3 million by the 1st millennium BCE, before growing significantly towards the end of that millennium. [196]

A team led by Johannes Krause managed the first reliable sequencing of the genomes of 90 mummified individuals in 2017 from northern Egypt (buried near modern-day Cairo), which constituted "the first reliable data set obtained from ancient Egyptians using high-throughput DNA sequencing methods." Whilst not conclusive, because of the non-exhaustive time frame (New Kingdom to Roman period) and restricted location that the mummies represent, their study nevertheless showed that these ancient Egyptians "closely resembled ancient and modern Near Eastern populations, especially those in the Levant, and had almost no DNA from sub-Saharan Africa. What's more, the genetics of the mummies remained remarkably consistent even as different powers—including Nubians, Greeks, and Romans—conquered the empire." Later, however, something did alter the genomes of Egyptians. Some 15% to 20% of modern Egyptians' DNA reflects sub-Saharan ancestry, but the ancient mummies had only 6–15% sub-Saharan DNA. [197] They called for additional research to be undertaken. Other genetic studies show much greater levels of sub-Saharan African ancestry in the current-day populations of southern as opposed to northern Egypt, [198] and anticipate that mummies from southern Egypt would contain greater levels of sub-Saharan African ancestry than Lower Egyptian mummies.

The culture and monuments of ancient Egypt have left a lasting legacy on the world. Egyptian civilization significantly influenced the Kingdom of Kush and Meroë with both adopting Egyptian religious and architectural norms (hundreds of pyramids (6–30 meters high) were built in Egypt/Sudan), as well as using Egyptian writing as the basis of the Meroitic script. [199] Meroitic is the oldest written language in Africa, other than Egyptian, and was used from the 2nd century BC until the early 5th century AD. [199] : 62–65 The cult of the goddess Isis, for example, became popular in the Roman Empire, as obelisks and other relics were transported back to Rome. [200] The Romans also imported building materials from Egypt to erect Egyptian-style structures. Early historians such as Herodotus, Strabo, and Diodorus Siculus studied and wrote about the land, which Romans came to view as a place of mystery. [201]

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Egyptian pagan culture was in decline after the rise of Christianity and later Islam, but interest in Egyptian antiquity continued in the writings of medieval scholars such as Dhul-Nun al-Misri and al-Maqrizi. [202] In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European travelers and tourists brought back antiquities and wrote stories of their journeys, leading to a wave of Egyptomania across Europe. This renewed interest sent collectors to Egypt, who took, purchased, or were given many important antiquities. [203] Napoleon arranged the first studies in Egyptology when he brought some 150 scientists and artists to study and document Egypt's natural history, which was published in the Description de l'Égypte. [204]

In the 20th century, the Egyptian Government and archaeologists alike recognized the importance of cultural respect and integrity in excavations. The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (formerly Supreme Council of Antiquities) now approves and oversees all excavations, which are aimed at finding information rather than treasure. The council also supervises museums and monument reconstruction programs designed to preserve the historical legacy of Egypt.

Frontispiece of Description de l'Égypte, published in 38 volumes between 1809 and 1829.

A study of ancient Egyptian history underscores the origins of its agriculture and horticulture development. The modern world is in debt to this great Nile Valley civilization for its contribution towards many of our basic agricultural innovations: cultivation techniques and irrigation technology and the horticultural arts. Natural river irrigation and its fertile soil shaped the early landscape of ancient Egypt agriculture.

The ancient Egyptians were cultivating grains of wheat, lentils, barley, beans, peas, chickpeas and the arena is to summarize the vegetables, balls, onions, garlic, and Agathe castor, flax was the division of fields into ponds and Breha Bahadov. This included the work on the cultivation of many kinds of fruit trees and wood and under. The fruits of all kinds of famous Sycamore, figs, olives, grapes, pomegranate were cultivated and the transfer to Egypt of different types of trees from Asia and Africa was done.

Horticulture in Ancient Egypt

Gardening in ancient Egypt was much more labor intensive than agriculture. Gardens, orchards, and vineyards were often situated on high grounds. They were quite a distance from the Nile river. They had to be irrigated by hand with the water drawn from wells or the river. Due to these high grounds, drainage was not required to become livable.

In ancient Egypt, most villagers were farmers. But there were farmers who lived in towns too, along with craft workers, artisans, traders and other workers and their families. The pharaoh got the rich peasants to work as farmers on the rich lands.

Agricultural tools and techniques

The main farming seasons in ancient Egypt were the growing and harvesting season. As the Nile river soil was very fertile, it was ideal to grow many healthy crops. In most of the countries, heavy plows have to be used to turn over the soil, to get enough nutrients for the growing plants. But in Egypt, the Nile flood deposited the nutrients on the top, and the plowing that served was just to break up the top soil before sowing or covering the seed afterward. In the special days of harvest, not only men worked in the field but women also participated side by side their husbands and members of the family. Boys and Girls also took part in the harvesting.

The fertile soil was easy to dig with your tools. Farmers in ancient Egypt used the same soil for every field. They also reused the soil. Every year floods made the water that went over the fields saturate the soil. And after the floods went down, the fresh bunch of mud left was the excellent soil to plant seeds in after it had been plowed by the farmers.

The simple farming tools such as winnowing scoops, Mattocks, flint-bladed sickles, and plows were used in ancient Egypt agriculture practices. The Egyptian plow had a small blade on it and as the soil was fertile, that didn’t cut very deep which was fine.

Agriculture and its development also had a role in the formation of ethics for the ancient Egyptians. The breach of these ethics is one of the major sins in ancient Egypt. Agriculture thus played a key role in the establishment of this great Egyptian civilization and the stability of its people.

The Nile valley

In ancient Egypt, agricultural exploitation apparently did not intensify until domesticated animals from Southwest Asia were introduced. By the first quarter of the 7th millennium bp in Al-Fayyūm, some villages were keeping sheep, goats, and swine and cultivating emmer, barley, cotton, and flax, which was woven into linen. In this dry climate, village silos consisted of pits lined with coiled basketry crops were harvested with reaping knives slotted with sharp flints. Elsewhere, at Al-Badarī in Upper Egypt, animals were also kept the fact that dead domesticated animals were wrapped in linen and then buried close to villages may indicate that agriculture was closely associated with some form of religious belief.

By the time of the predynastic Amratian culture, about 5550 bp , agriculture appears to have begun in the valley alluviums of the Nile. By late predynastic times, about 5050 bp , there is evidence of a considerable growth in wealth deriving from agricultural development and accompanied by a more hierarchical social system.

Depictions on tombs and artifacts from the dynastic periods indicate that, in addition to present-day domesticates, animals such as the gazelle, deer (Cervidae species), hyena (Hyaenidae species), and aoudad, or Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia), were kept either in captivity or under some form of control. Whether this can be regarded as domestication is unclear, but certainly some aspects of animal husbandry were practiced with these unusual animals. Some early villages in Egypt relied heavily on gazelles as a food source. Some scholars have suggested that incipient gazelle domestication may have been under way during the predynastic period, but this hypothesis has been challenged by other researchers. It has also been suggested that millet was a staple crop in ancient Egypt.

By the beginning of Egypt’s 4th dynasty, about 4525 bp , agriculture had become a sophisticated enterprise. In contrast to Mesopotamia, where the tendency had been to develop urbanized communities, Egypt had cities that tended to be no more than market towns to serve the surrounding countryside. A whole bureaucracy dealt with agriculture. The grand vizier, second only to the pharaoh, stood at its head, and the ministry of agriculture stood under him. There was a chief of the fields and a master of largesse, who looked after the livestock. There were royal domains and temple estates. Between landlord and tenant there was a patriarchal relationship, which, although despotic, was underlain by a strong sense of responsibility to the land. Rent was three and a half bushels of grain to the acre.

Irrigation and the waters of the Nile were carefully controlled. Records show that King Menes, who lived about 4875 bp , had a large masonry dam built to control the Nile River and provide water for irrigation. A millennium later the Nile at flood was diverted through a channel 12 miles (19 km) long into Lake Moeris so that, after the flood, water in the lake could be released for irrigation. Seed grain was lent to tenants, and teams of oxen were lent or hired to them. The land was tilled with a wooden plow drawn by an ox or an ass. The land was plowed twice, once to break the ground, after which the clods were broken up by heavy hoes, and a second time to cover the seed. Six-rowed barley and emmer wheat were the main crops. The seed was sown by a funnel on the plow or, alternatively, was trodden in by sheep. The crops were cut with sickles, which had been improved by the introduction of a curved blade. The harvest produced 11 times the sowing, but it is not known whether or not two crops were grown within the year. The grain was threshed by asses or cattle treading on it on the threshing floor. It was winnowed by tossing in the wind, which caused the chaff to blow away and the grain to fall back into the basket, and was then stored in great silos. Lentils, beans, flax, and onions (Allium species) were other important Egyptian field crops.

The production of animals for food was also important, and records indicate that people raised cattle (black, piebald, and white), sheep with kempy (coarse) coats, goats, pigs, and domesticated ducks and geese. One wealthy landlord in the 6th dynasty owned 1,000 cattle, 760 asses, 2,200 goats, and 1,000 sheep. Animal breeding for specialized purposes was also developed: one breed of cattle was kept for meat and another for milk a Saluki-like hunting dog was bred and a type of fat-tailed sheep was developed for meat and milk.

History of Agriculture

Agriculture in Rome

Rome was an important reference not only for their form of government, social, and economic structure, and the application of law, but also for their understanding of the agricultural issues and their application of architecture to those activities. It is estimated that the Roman Empire began exactly with a rural society of farmers as a base without any cooperative relationships. This reached its maximum development during the Christian era in order to convert from a rural society to a fundamentally urban society. Roman norms and law, very precise as far as rural estates, boundaries, water communities, etc., were applicable to all citizens and would reach many peoples who constituted an empire spread throughout the West.

Roman agriculture also had its religious referent. There were a number of protective deities who took care that the lands were fertile and the crops plentiful. Some small gods had specific missions, such as caring for planting, seed, spike, etc.

Social organization

The social organization of Rome was based on economic power and divided into classes. The first great division comprised two groups: the slaves and the free men.


The slaves were people without rights in Rome. They were used for the most painful work, such as agricultural work or work in mines and quarries. They could be sold, ceded, or bequeathed in inheritance, and could only acquire freedom with permission of their owners. With Christianity, this situation was alleviated by laws prohibiting barbaric acts, such as being thrown to wild beasts without solving a judge.


The freemen were the citizens, who were themselves divided into two classes, the patricians, and the plebeians. The patricians were the first to enjoy all the rights and hold public office To this class belonged the noble and wealthy landowners, who reserved the most important positions of the army and the administration And the knights or equites, who were merchants of fortune or financiers, also held positions in the administration or the army but those with less responsibility.

For their part, the plebeians were aristocrats who, from the earliest times, confronted the patricians for legal and political equality. This was not achieved in its entirety but with some significant triumphs, such as the right to marry between both classes or hold public office, and that later would give place to a form of cooperation between the patricians and the richer plebeians for the distribution of the power.

Other poor commoners, the proletarians, had as their only wealth their children (hence the offspring). Between the 2nd and 1st century BC, these proletarians constituted an important population, motivated by the growth of large estates and the impoverishment of the farmers who did not own land as property they survived by selling the vote they were entitled to and free food allowances.

The economy of Rome was based on the exploitation of the natural resources and the work of the slaves, which was centered in the agriculture and the cattle ranch.

The Romans were innovative in the development of techniques applied to agriculture, such as irrigation, drainage of land, fertilizer, fallow, crop rotation, etc. The main crops were grains such as wheat, olive trees, and one of the most prized, the vine.

The arable land, forests, and pastures, which belonged to the state, were at first exploited by slaves, prisoners of war, and supervised by foremen. Subsequently, as the captive labor was scarce, the lands were leased to private farmers, who paid the owners with a part of the production. This feudal system was already firmly established in the Roman villa by 400 AD. The economic model was centralized in Rome, and from there it was imposed on the whole empire.

The practice of renting land established large estates and the impoverishment of small proprietary farmers (not slaves). Most of the lands were owned by senators Around 218 BC. Lex Claudia forbade them to engage in any activity other than the exploitation of their lands.

The revenues of the State had several sources: taxes of the provinces that the tax collectors received Sale or lease to individuals of lands annexed during the conquests (ager publicus) And private leasing of mining operations with certain resources, such as salt. The whole estate was managed by the Senate, which made a budget, and whose income and distribution controlled the censors and quaestors.


The Romans also distinguished themselves by their public works Causeways, bridges, amphitheaters, thermal baths, aqueducts, etc., proliferated throughout Rome and in general by all the cities of the empire.

It should be noted that some bridges and causeways are still standing today and can even be used safely. As far as agriculture was concerned, they made robust architectural works One of the most significant examples is the aqueduct of Segovia, Spain, which now suffers from the abrasion of pollution, and paradoxically has stoically endured all kinds of inclemencies throughout the centuries.

Agricultural literature

Aulus Terentius Varro (116-27 BC)

After retiring from public life, Caesar sent for him with the commission to reform public libraries. He devoted the rest of his days to literature. Seventy-four works of art are preserved, constituting a veritable encyclopedia of the knowledge of his time, among which is the work De re rustica, dedicated to agricultural subjects.

The most illustrious of the Latin poets.

Virgil is the author of the Bucolic (where imitating Theocritus develops various aspects of pastoral life), and the Georgicas (composed of four books dealing with agricultural issues). Virgil believed in an agricultural Italy and loved the peasant life.

Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella

Latin writer born in Cadiz. His most important work is the Treaty of agriculture, which deals with the cultivation of orchards, harvesting of fruits and their conservation. He also wrote a treatise on trees.

Rome’s importance in terms of agricultural knowledge has been remarkable, and the important literature on agricultural issues has been borne out by various authors Among them are:

Marcus Portius Cato (234-149 BC)

Politician and Roman orator, called the Old or the Censor. He wrote, among other subjects, the Treatise Of Agriculture, a collection of advice directed to the farmers.

Agriculture in Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia, which meant to the Greeks “country between rivers,” was a region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The river lands of the valley, surrounded by mountains and deserts, enjoyed a fertility and characteristics unbeatable for the development of a rich agriculture. This was precisely the basis of the Mesopotamian economy, favored by the construction of permanent irrigation channels originating mainly in the Euphrates river, with an ingenious disposition that also allowed the avoidance of flooding.

Social organization

Mesopotamia was composed of civilizations organized into city-states, some of them authentic empires that fought for the hegemony over the others, where invasions, conquests, destructions or decadences were manifested, and later, the founding of new empires.

In Upper Mesopotamia or Assyria (to the north), the Assyrians lived, a people of warriors that founded cities like Nineveh and Assur. In Lower Mesopotamia or Caldea (to the south, in what is now Iraq), the Akkadians and Sumerians lived These were peaceful groups of farmers who founded towns like Ur, Lagash, Larsa, Uruk, Eridú and Babylon, approximately between 5,000 and 2,000 BC.

Some of these cities were splendorous centers of Sumer culture. The Sumerians developed irrigation and agriculture, as well as other cultural manifestations such as sculpture, metal arts, and the invention of cuneiform writing It should be noted that the Sumerian written language is the oldest of all known.


The main Mesopotamian crops were cereals, mainly wheat and barley, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables (beans and lentils), and also the palm and olive trees.

To prepare the land, at first the wood plow was used by the farmers themselves, but around the year 3000 BC. (Also in Egypt) animal traction was introduced by oxen, allowing the conditioning and cultivation of great extensions of land. By this same time, metal sickles also began to be used. They replaced the rough clay sickles.

Many domestic animals became part of the Mesopotamian farms, especially in the upper region A variety of species were raised: sheep (their fur was used to make clothes), goats, pigs, ducks, and especially cattle, which became the domestic fauna most valued for their use in agricultural tasks and as well as their use as a food source.

A key point in the booming Mesopotamian trade was agricultural surpluses such as cereals and oil, fruit of the richness of their farmland that produced more than what was needed for basic food.

Urban markets were always well supplied, and surplus harvests could be exchanged with other peoples, for goods or materials that were scarce or that they could not produce by themselves, like metals. They all benefited from the communication routes of Caravans from the east and the west that united other towns like the Indus or Egypt The sea and river routes with sailing ships and barges were also complementary forms for trade.

Agriculture in Egypt

Egypt was a great empire from the year 3,100 BC, when Pharaoh Menes unified the territory of the two great kingdoms of Lower and Upper Egypt, establishing the capital in Tinis and founding the dynasty of the pharaohs (up to thirty dynasties), passing by the period of decadence that began with the disappearance of King Ramses III in 1616 BC, until finally it was conquered by the king of Macedonia, Alexander the Great, in 332 BC. He was a brilliant strategist and politician who won the greatest empire of antiquity.

Agriculture in ancient Egypt

Egypt was a valley that ran from north to south bounded by the desert to the east and west, and where every year the flood of the river Nile irrigated and turned into rich and fertile lands. They were conveniently saved from excessive flooding by means of important dams and channels. King Menes lead their construction during its dynastic period.


Egypt had valuable natural resources, such as quarries and mines of gold, copper, and precious stones, but because of the difficulty of extracting them, the main tangible wealth laid with their agriculture. The preferred crops were wheat and barley, but olive, vine, and flax were also common.

The land belonged to Pharaoh, and the peasants, who, like the craftsmen, were considered their servants (not slaves), worked the land and gave their king most of the crops A small part remained in their power as a salary. The peasants had their own homes but they belonged to the land, that meant that if the land changed ownership, so did they.

The taxes that the farmers (like the craftsmen) had to satisfy the pharaoh, the priests or officials with high economic power, were very severe, and they even had to work for them without compensation for certain days a year.

It is curious that during a great part of the dynasties (until the XVII dynasty) Egypt did not have an army formed as such, since the great part of the population was dedicated to the agriculture When it was necessary, a recruitment could only be done after the harvest. From the XVIII dynasty formed a permanent but integrated army that included Asians and blondes.

Egypt’s prosperity, as with Mesopotamia, was due to a flourishing agriculture-based economy, which allowed agricultural surpluses to trade with other peoples, such as cereals, oil, wine, fruits, etc. The pharaohs had created a powerful economic structure to supply the entire country. Trade with the other peoples of the Mediterranean was very active, both by land and by sea.

The articles most imported to Egypt were mainly those necessary for the construction of ships, like certain hardwoods, and also everything related to the cult (silver, ivory, incense …). The slave market was also very important, but with little economic value, since the captives belonged to the pharaoh and were rarely owned by individuals They were supplied by Nubia, between the Red Sea and the desert of Libya.

Agriculture in India

As was the case with Mesopotamia, in Egypt and other regions of the Middle East, in the year 3,000 BC. A civilization was created around the valley of the Indus, with the appearance and development of large cities, very heterogeneous, as they distinguished varied cultures, climates, and geographical forms.

Agriculture in ancient times

Castes or classes

One characteristic of this civilization, whose major religions were Buddhism and Brahmanism, consisted of the strong division of the population into castes or classes imposed by the Brahmins, which still stand today. The main ones are:


Brahmins are the possessors of Brahman or sacred knowledge. It is the first of the castes in which the population of India is divided. They are the priests and doctors, who according to the sacred books or Vedas came from the mouth of Brahma. The ruling classes belonged to this caste and to the Shatrias.


Shatrias are noble warriors. According to the Vedas they came from the arms of Brahma. The ruling classes belonged to this caste and to that of the Brahmins.


The Vaisias are free peasants, merchants and artisans. According to the Vedas they came from the thighs of Brahma.


The sudras are peasants, workers, hunters or fishermen in semi-slavery, and constitute the inferior caste. According to the Vedas they came from the feet of Brahma.


Pariahs did not constitute a caste as such, but formed a group of beings considered impure, “out of caste” or “untouchable”, since it was forbidden to approach them and of course touch an unclean, because it would be contaminated. The abhicastras or curses were distinguished Vratyas or excommunicated And imprisoned or small class, rejected for having been the result of illicit or criminal unions.

All pariahs were excluded from society, and their way of life was limited to the exercise of trades considered to be ignoble.
Historical periods

At the death of the emperor Asoka (Maurya dynasty) in 236 BC, which unified India, several periods took place:

Culture of the Indus

Between 3,000 and 1,400 BC: several agricultural tribes from Persia (Iran) settled in the Indus Valley, which created an urban culture (the Dravidians) by mixing with the inhabitants of the Upper Indus Valley and the Ganges. The most important cities were Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.

Vedic age

Between 1400 and 500 BC, with demonstrations of invasions of the region of the Indus and Ganges by Indo-Aryan tribes (Arya or Aryans), which implanted the division of caste that still survives today. The Aryans introduced bronze agricultural implements and horse-drawn carriages.
The Vedic period is named after the Vedas, religious hymns that the Brahmin priests wrote in Sanskrit. The importance of plant worship in this period is significant, the Vedas writings are full of references to rituals and divinities related to them.

Time of Buddha

Between 500 and 185 AD.: in this period Buddhism extended like religion, and numerous kingdoms were formed that fought by the hegemony on the Ganges The commerce was very flourishing, especially with the Persians, until the year 237 AD, in which the invasion of Alexander the Great ended this stage of splendor briefly, it was to resume in 321 AD. With the unification by prince Chandragupta, founder of the Maurya dynasty.


Indian agriculture was in the hands of the peasants themselves, who owned the land, yet some land, like pastures, was owned by the whole community. In state farms, as well as in mines, slaves were mostly employed. The most prominent crops were wheat, rice, barley, vegetables, coconuts, sugarcane, and spices. Horses were important, introduced by the Aryans, and elephants as well, they were used like animals of shot and load. In general, the cattle ranch was in the service of agriculture.
India’s agriculture and trade were important, but its export (which was greater than import) was not based on agricultural products, but on manufactured materials such as silk and cotton fabrics, perfumes and jewelry They also exported elephants. The importance of trade was evidenced by the rigid legislation that was imposed in the time of Asoka, with the creation of an economic ministry and the establishment of customs duties, which were important revenues for the State.

The members of the royal family, the Brahmins, and the noble warriors or shatrias, were exempt from paying taxes, which consisted of the sixteenth part of the harvests, earned, or a percentage of their sales. The sudras (peasants, hunters, or semi-clan fishermen) and the (impure) pariahs did not pay them for lack of goods, and then the entire tax burden on the Vaisias (free peasants, merchants and craftsmen) fell.

Agriculture in China

The civilizations developed in China were, from the beginning, little influenced from the outside, given the geographic isolation by means of powerful natural accidents that hindered the communication. The few contacts kept with the outside came from India, from where they received Buddhism.

They were repeatedly invaded by the Mongols from the north, for that reason the Great Wall was built. The first societies emerged around the Yellow River (Hoang-ho) and Blue (Yangtze), whose fertile plains favored a prosperous agriculture.

Historical periods

In the history of China, from its beginnings to the beginning of our era, several dynasties have come to pass. The first known, the Hsia, dates from 2,200 BC. Apparently, Prince Yu was its founder and had a special prominence in the defense of the country against a serious flood thanks to their understanding of hydraulics.

During the Shang Dynasty (1700-1050 BCE), the capital of the kingdom, Anyang, rested on a very fertile plain with rich agriculture, producing vegetables, fruits, and plants for the manufacture of textiles, such as hemp. By then the silkworm was already being bred.

During the Cheu dynasty (1050-221 BC) an extension of the kingdom was manifested with King Wu. In this period a feudal system very similar to the one existing in Europe during the Average Age was created Many states or dominions were governed by princes who were exclusive proprietors of those territories, and that maintained a pact of vassalage with the king in military, political and tributary matter.

This is the time of great thinkers and philosophers, such as Confucius and Lao Tzu, and also significant advances such as the introduction of iron replacing bronze and agricultural and irrigation.

With the Ts’in dynasty (231 BC) after the period of fighting that ended the Cheu dynasty, the true Chinese empire was born The name of “China” was born in this dynasty. The construction of the Great Wall continues, an impressive construction that reaches 2,500 km. in length Weights, measures, and currency are regulated, writing is simplified, and trade and political expansion routes are sought to the south and west.

At this time, the despot Shi Huang-ti, the first emperor of China, unified the whole territory, but brutally combated all manifestation contrary to his absolutist philosophy, persecuting the philosophers and especially the followers of Confucius. He ordered all books to be burned except for those dealing with agriculture, medicine, and astrology.

Huang-ti improved the design of the Great Wall, which was built before his reign, and extended its construction along the northern border in order to protect themselves from the so-called “barbarian peoples.”

Finally, China prospered and modernized from the year 206 with the Han dynasty, becoming a great state Values such as education, writing and art were given importance they began to establish very important foreign relations, and the trade of silks and other articles of great value.


Former Chinese societies were basically rural, largely dependent on agriculture. The majority of the population was made up of peasants. Fertilizers and crop diversification were used in 500 BC. The lands already had channels to irrigate and to avoid the floods. All these techniques allowed them to obtain agricultural yields very important for the feeding, complemented by the fluvial and marine fishing, and by the cattle ranch, in which already included sheep and horses.

The success of agriculture was not enough throughout the first millennium BC. To cover the rapid increase in population, forcing the search for and exploiting other resources, such as copper, iron and salt mines.

It is curious that one of the first coins used by the Chinese in their commercial transactions after the caurí shells were agricultural tools of bronze or copper Later these pieces were reduced and coined with inscriptions, and in the year 500 AD. Had already been converted into coinage of general use.

The Chinese were the authors of numerous inventions, among which the paper and the weaving and spinning of the silk This, like that of porcelain, was a secret jealously.