|Life in Ancient Egypt
The Natural World
The most important
geographic feature in Egypt is the Nile River itself. It was the lifeblood
of ancient Egypt, and still makes life possible in the otherwise barren
desert. The longest river in the world (over 4,000 miles), the Nile is
formed by the union in Khartoum, Sudan, of the White Nile from Lake Victoria
in Uganda and the Blue Nile from the mountains of Ethiopia.
The Nile was the principal means of travel
for the people of ancient Egypt. They developed various types of boats, including cargo, passenger,
funerary, and naval vessels, to journey on the river.
This ancient boat, displayed in Walton
Hall of Ancient Egypt, dates to about 1859 B.C. It may have been used
in the funeral rituals of Senwosret III, a powerful Dynasty XII Pharaoh.
Study of the boat has yielded important information about boat building
in ancient Egypt.
The Nile also
served as a source of food for the people of ancient Egypt and was crucial
to agriculture in the region. The river teemed with fish, and the
ancient Egyptians consumed many different kinds, including catfish, mullet,
bolti, and perch. Because it left a layer of nutrient-bearing silt when
the waters of the annual inundation receded and provided water for irrigation,
the Nile made agriculture and, therefore,
life in ancient Egypt possible. The river was a regular and predictable
source of water in a desert environment. Because the annual
flood of the Nile revitalized the floodplain with water and new soil,
it symbolized rebirth for the ancient Egyptians.
The low strip
of fertile land located on either side of the Nile River is known as the
floodplain. Most ancient settlements were located on the highest ground
of this zone, and most of the farming occurred here. A strip of higher
land on either side of the floodplain, known as the low desert, was not
watered by the Nile. It was a zone of little vegetation where men hunted
and where the Egyptians located their cemeteries.
The high desert
was a barren area that was crossed only by trade caravans or organized
groups searching for stone and mineral resources. Several oases located
in the high desert were cultivated to grow valuable crops like grapes
and dates. These areas were important links in trade with more remote areas.