Geography of Ancient Egypt

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Geography of Ancient Egypt

A combination of several favorable geographic features contributed to the success of ancient Egypt's civilization. The most important of these was the rich fertile soil resulting from annual flooding of the Nile River.

At the same time each year, the Nile River flooded for about six months. As the river receded, it deposited a rich, brown layer of silt that was suitable for growing wheat, beans, barley, and even cotton. The predictability of this flooding combined with the benefits to the soil allowed Egypt's farmers to grow an abundance of food to support a large population.

Farmers dug short canals from  their fields to the Nile. This providing fresh water for year-round irrigation. Planting immediately after a flood yielded harvests before the next year's flood.

The abundance of food allowed the population to devote more time and resources to cultural, technological, and artistic pursuits.

This resulted in the massive pyramids, architecture, and great temples that Ancient Egypt is famous for.

The Egyptians recognized three seasons: Akhet (flooding), Peret (planting), and Shemu (harvesting). The flooding season lasted from June to September, depositing on the river's banks the silt for growing crops.

After the flood waters had receded, the growing season lasted from October to February. Farmers plowed and planted seeds in the fields, which were irrigated with ditches and canals. Egypt received little rainfall, so farmers relied on the Nile to water their crops.

Geography of Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians cultivated emmer (a type of wheat) and barley, and several other cereal grains, all of which were used to make bread.

Flax plants, uprooted before they started flowering, were grown for the fibers of their stems.

Geography of Ancient Egypt

These fibers were split along their length and spun into thread, which was used to weave sheets of linen and to make clothing.

Papyrus growing on the banks of the Nile River was used to make paper.

Fruits and vegetables were grown in garden plots close to habitations on higher ground and had to be watered by hand.

Beyond the fertile lands that lie on each side of the Nile River are immense deserts. To the west is the Sahara Desert, the largest desert in the world. To the east of the Nile River is the Easten Desert and the Red Sea. These deserts provided a great natural barrier and protection against invaders.

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