What plants grew in ancient Egypt?
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Ancient Egyptian Plants

lotus
Lotus flower

Ancient Egyptian plants included many which may not be familiar to you. The lotus and the papyrus plants, for instance, were (and are) very common in Egypt. Papyrus is a kind of reed which grows in marshy areas along the banks of the Nile River. Date palms grew all over Egypt, and other palms that people used to make palm oil.

There were not very many trees in ancient Egypt, because there isn't really enough water in that area to support big trees. When the Egyptians needed wood, they had to buy it from Lebanon, further north, and sail it south to Egypt on boats.

papyrus
Papyrus plant

There were also plants which are more familiar in the United States like wheat, barley, lentils, chickpeas, figs, and various vegetables. Egypt was famous for producing huge amounts of wheat especially; under Roman rule a lot of the wheat was sent to Rome, and then later to Constantinople.

Some of the wheat was made into beer; Egypt is the only Mediterranean country where people mainly drank beer instead of wine (though beer was also popular in Mesopotamia).

Learn by doing: eating dates and figs
More about the Egyptian environment

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian plants:

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.

Domestication of Plants in the Old World: The Origin and Spread of Cultivated Plants in West Asia, Europe, and the Nile Valley, by Daniel Zohary (2001).

More about the Egyptian environment
More about ancient Egypt
More about the African environment
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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For May Day, read about the history of working people all over the world, starting with ancient Egyptian farmers and wetnurses. How did farming push people into debt and slavery? Move on to ancient West Asian miners, Chinese silk-workers, and the Indian caste system. Read about African-American slavery, sugar plantations, and the Industrial Revolution. Then go march for May Day!