What plants grew in ancient Egypt?
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Ancient Egyptian Plants

lotus
Lotus flower

May 2016 - Ancient Egyptian plants were very different from plants that grow in America or Britain. 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, and figs. Egypt was especially famous for producing huge amounts of wheat, thanks to the Nile flood every year.

Egyptian people made some of their wheat 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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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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