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which had been "brought home" from the field; and explains the apparent contradiction of the destruction of "all the cattle of Egypt" by the murrain, and the subsequent destruction of the cattle by the hail;* those which “ were in the field" alone having suffered from the previous plague, and those in the stalls or "houses" having been preserved.
An instance of stall-fed oxen from the sculptures has been given in the account of the farmyard† and villas of the Egyptians.
The first crop of wheat having been gathered, they prepared the land for whatever produce they next intended to rear; the field was ploughed and sowed, and, if necessary, the whole was inundated by artificial means, as often as the quality of the crop or other circumstances required. The same was repeated after the second and third harvest, for which the peasant was indebted to his own labours in raising water from the Nile,-an arduous task, and one from which no showers relieved him throughout the whole season. For in Upper Egypt rain may be said to be unknown: five or six slight showers, that annually fall there, scarcely deserving that name; and in no country is artificial irrigation so indispensable, as in the valley of the Nile.
In many instances, instead of corn they reared clover, or leguminous herbs, which were sown as soon as the water began to subside, generally about the commencement of October; and at the same time that corn, or other produce, was raised on the land just left by the water, another crop was procured by artificial irrigation. This, of course, depended on the choice of each individual, who consulted the advantages obtained from certain kinds of produce, the time required for their succession, or the benefit of the land: for though no soil recovers more readily from the bad effects arising from a repetition of similar crops, through the equalising influence of the alluvial deposit, it is at length found to impoverish the land; and the Egyptian peasant is careful not to neglect the universal principle in husbandry, of varying the produce on the same ground.
*Exod. ix. 6 and 19, &c.
+ Woodcut 31, vol. i. p. 27.
Besides wheat, other crops are represented in the paintings of the tombs; one of which, a tall grain, is introduced as a production both of Upper and Lower Egypt. From the colour, the height to which it grows, compared with the wheat, and the appearance of a round yellow head it bears on the top of its bright green stalk, it is evidently intended to represent the doora, or Holcus Sorghum. It was not reaped by a sickle, like the wheat and barley, but men, and sometimes women, were employed to pluck it up; which being done, they struck off the earth that adhered to the roots with their hands, and having bound it in sheaves, they carried it to what may be termed the threshing floor, where, being forcibly drawn through an instrument armed
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Gathering the doors and wheat.
Fig. 1. Plucking up the plant by the roots.
at the summit with metal spikes, the grain was stripped off, and fell the well-swept area below. This ancient contrivance is the more remarkable as something of the kind has lately been proposed in England, for a similar purpose.†
Much flax was cultivated in Egypt, and the various processes of watering it, beating the stalks when gathered, making it into twine, and lastly into a piece of cloth, are represented in the
*Woodcuts 374 and 375.
+ Woodcut 375, fig. 3.
Gathering the Doora, and stripping off the grain.
Fig. 1. Woman plucking up the plant by the roots.
2. Striking off the earth from the roots after he has plucked it up.
3. Binding it into a sheaf.
4. Carrying it to the area.
5. Stripping off the grain by drawing the head forcibly through an instrument
furnished with metal spikes for this purpose.
At the end of summer, the peasant looked anxiously for the
and manufactures of Ancient Egypt.
paintings. These will be mentioned in the account of the arts
return of the inundation, upon which all his hopes for the ensuing year depended. He watched with scrupulous attention the first rise of the river; the state of its daily increase was noted down and proclaimed by the curators of the Nilometers at Memphis and other places; and the same anxiety for the approaching inundation was felt on each succeeding year. But during this interval he was not idle, and the quantity of water required for artificial irrigation entailed on the peasant incessant labour, except when the Nile was at its highest; and even while watching his water-melons, and various cucurbitaceous plants (like the modern felláh, under the shade of a rude "lodge in a garden of cucumbers”), he occupied himself in preparing something that might be serviceable on a future occasion.
During the inundation, when the Nile had been admitted by the canals into the interior, and the fields were covered with water, the peasantry indulged in various amusements which this leisure period gave them time to enjoy. Their cattle were housed, and supplied with dry food, which had been previously prepared for the purpose; the tillage of the land and all agricultural occupations were suspended; and this season was celebrated as a harvest home, with recreations of every kind. They indulged in feasting, and in all the luxuries of the table that they could afford; they attended the public games held in some of the principal towns, where the competitors contended for prizes of cattle, skins, and other things well suited to the taste or wants of the peasant; and they amused themselves with wrestlingmatches, bull-fights, and various sports. Many a leisure hour was passed in singing and dancing; and among the songs of the Egyptian peasant, Julius Pollux mentions that of Maneros; who was even celebrated as the inventor of husbandry,—an honour generally given to the still more mysterious Osiris. But some songs and games were exclusively appropriated to certain festivals; and this adaptation of peculiar ceremonies to particular occasions, is quite consistent with the character of the Egyptians.
They had many festivals connected with agriculture and the produce of the soil, which happened at different periods of the
year. In the month Mesoré, they offered the firstfruits of their lentils to the God Harpocrates, "calling out at the same time, The tongue is Fortune, the tongue is God;" and the allegorical festival of "the delivery of Isis was celebrated immediately after the Vernal Equinox," to commemorate the beginning of harvest. Some," says Plutarch, " assimilate the history of those Gods to the various changes which happen in the air, during the several seasons of the year, or to those accidents which are observed in the production of corn, in its sowing and ripening; 'for,' they observe, 'what can the burial of Osiris more aptly signify, than the first covering the seed in the ground after it is sown? or his reviving and reappearing, than its first beginning to shoot up? and why is Isis said, upon perceiving herself to be with child, to have hung an amulet about her neck on the 6th of the month Phaophi, soon after sowing time, but in allusion to this allegory? and who is that Harpocrates, whom they tell us she brought forth about the time of the winter tropic, but those weak and slender shootings of the corn, which are yet feeble and imperfect?'-for which reason it is, that the firstfruits of their lentils are dedicated to this God, and they celebrate the feast of his mother's delivery just after the vernal equinox." From this it may be inferred that the festival of the lentils was instituted when the month Mesoré coincided with the end of March; for since they were sown at the end of November, and ripened in about 100 or 110 days, the firstfruits might be gathered in three months and a half, or, "just after the vernal equinox," or the last week in March: which would carry back the original institution of the festival to about 2650 years before our era, or some time after the reign of Menes.
"On the 19th day of the first month (Thoth), which was the feast of Hermes, they eat honey and figs, saying to each other, 'how sweet a thing is truth!'". -a satisfactory proof that the month itself, and not the first day alone, was called after and dedicated to Thoth, the Egyptian Hermes; and another festival, answering to the "Thesmophoria of the Athenians," was established to commemorate the period when "the husbandmen began to sow their corn, in the Egyptian month Athyr.