How to build a Shaduf - Ancient Egypt Projects
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How to build a Shaduf

Egyptian shaduf
Egyptian shaduf

November 2016 - This is a project you should do outside on a nice warm day, because you are going to get wet!

A shaduf is a machine to move water from a lower place to a higher place. You will need two large basins (or a creek and a basin), a step or some cinderblocks or something to make one basin higher than the other, some water, a bucket, a long pole like a broomstick, and a strong bar you can lean your broomstick over, like the top of a swingset or monkey bars.

Put an empty basin up on the step, and the other basin near it, but lower down, and full of water. Hook your bucket over the end of your pole (or you may want to fasten it on). Put a weight on your end (the end without the bucket) so that your end is about as heavy as the bucket full of water. (You might use a rock tied on with rope, for instance). Balance the broomstick with the weight on one side and the bucket on the other side.


Here's a model of a shaduf explained by a kid:

Dip the bucket down into the basin full of water and get some water. Push down on your end of the broomstick, so that the bucket comes up in the air. Swing it over so it is on top of the empty basin, and pour the water into the new basin. Then swing your bucket back to the full basin and do it again.

Is this easier than just dipping the water in the bucket and pouring it into the empty basin? Why or why not? (Try both ways, to see - or have some people do it one way, and then other people do it the other way, and see who gets more water faster).

Some people in Egypt and other places in Africa (and India) still do this, to get water to the fields, all day long, every day.

Other activities:


* Making papyrus
* Hieroglyphics
* Imagining the Afterlife
* Making a Shaduf

Bibliography and further reading about ancient Egypt:

Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt, by George Hart. Easy reading.

Pyramids: 50 Hands-On Activities to Experience Ancient Egypt, by Avery Hart and others (1997).

Spend the Day in Ancient Egypt : Projects and Activities That Bring the Past to Life, by Linda Honan (1999).

Life in Ancient Egypt Coloring Book, by John Green (1989).

More ancient Egypt projects
More about ancient Egypt
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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