Producing enough food for everyone was the most important job in ancient Egypt, and most ordinary people worked on the land for at leat part of the year. Much of the farmland belonged to the king and his noblemen, or to big insitutions such as temples, which employed stewards to look after their land.


The boundaries of fields were marked out with stones to make sure that nobody tried to take someone else’s land. Every few years officials measured the fields to make sure the stones had not been moved; this also enabled them to work out how much of the harvest the landowner would have to pay in taxes.

Wheat and barley, were the most important crops grown, which were used to make the basic diet of bread and beer. They also harvested flax for making linen, and papyrus for making writing sheets. Beans, lentils, onions, cucumbers, lettuces and many fruits were also grown.

Some year the crops failed, which left the community to experience and famine. Many people starved at these times. Often, the ancient Egyptians knew when they would experience a bad year, if the height of the Nile River was too low, there would not be enough water for the crops and if it was too high, everything would be washed away.

As soon as the flood waters went down, the farmers ploughed the fields and planted their crops. They irrigated the growing plants with water which had been held back from the flood or brought the the fields, from the river, by using water scoops or wheels.

They often used trained baboons to help pick the fruit but ripe grain was harvested with a sickle; flax and papyrus were pulled up by the roots; and the rest of the crop was gathered by hand.

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