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Ancient Egypt

Farming in ancient Egypt

The harvestThe harvest Each summer, rains further upstream caused the River Nile to overflow its banks in Egypt, laying down a fresh layer of rich, fertile earth across the floodplain on both banks of the river. To the ancient Egyptians this miraculous, yet predictable, event allowed them to grow crops and raise animals. Were it not for the River Nile, Egypt, a land where it very rarely rains, would be a parched, empty desert, with farming impossible. From about 5000 BC, farming villages sprang up along the Nile and, with such a bountiful food supply, the people prospered. Towns and cities were founded, some people became skilled craftworkers—and the great civilization of Egypt took hold.

Fertile, lush fields along the NileFertile, lush fields along the Nile

Fertile soils

The Nile flooded between July and October each year, spreading tons of mud and silt across its floodplain. A network of irrigation channels that farmers dug in the ground spread the floodwaters of the Nile across the fields of the valley. As soon as the floods retreated in October, farmers used their ploughs to turn the mud into the soil before sowing their seeds. The Egyptians called the floodplain the kemet, the "black land", after the dark colour of its fertile soil.

A farmer ploughs the newly-flooded soil.A farmer ploughs the newly-flooded soil.If the floods failed to occur, few crops grew, the animals died and many people starved. Farming was hard work, and not without its dangers. Crocodiles in the river often preyed on unwary cattle—and sometimes people too.


The Egyptians divided the year into three seasons: akhet (flooding), peret (planting) and shemu (harvesting).

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