Farming in Ancient Egypt
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Farming in Ancient Egypt

egyptian farming model
(from the Louvre, Paris, France)

September 2016 - The Egyptians were one of the first groups on earth to begin farming, probably around 10,000 BC, but definitely by 5200 BC. At first people farmed by just digging a hole in the ground for each seed with a stick, as you do when you plant a vegetable garden in your back yard.

egyptian farming painting

But that's hard work, and slow. It is particularly hard in Egypt, because the heavy, clayey soil laid down by the Nile floods is hard to make furrows in. So by around 3000 BC people in Egypt had invented the animal-drawn plow, which made planting a lot easier. Here you can see a man plowing a furrow with an ox while a woman scatters the seeds behind him.

When the grain was ripe, in March (for barley) and April (for wheat), Egyptian men and women went out into the fields to cut the long stalks. Usually men cut the grain with a sickle, while women picked up the cut grain and tied it into bundles. The seeds of the wheat or barley were ground up to make flour for bread, or brewed into beer, while the stalks were useful as straw for making everything from sleeping mats to shoes and roofs.

Learn by doing: planting an herb garden
More about early farming

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian farming:

ancient agriculture everyday life in ancient egypt

Ancient Agriculture: From Foraging to Farming, by Michael and Mary Woods (2000). For middle schoolers, with plenty of information about how farming got started, and how it worked.

Farming & Food (The Ancient Egyptians), by Jane Shuter (1998). Easy reading.

Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt, by Lionel Casson (revised edition 2001). Not especially for kids, but pretty entertaining reading, and Casson knows what he's talking about

More about farming
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 or Twitter.
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