Images de page


Tritura, or threshing; and winnowing.

Fig. 1. Raking up the ears to the centre. 2. The driver.

3. Winnowing, with wooden shovels.


* Though the custom of treading out the grain was general, the expression "thresh" or "beat," in the song of the threshers. shows that the Egyptians originally threshed with the flail or stick.


people. Sometimes the cattle were bound together by a piece trituration, was generally adopted by ancient, as by some modern and so on till all the grain was trodden out. This process, neap, raised around, and forming the edge of, the threshing-floor;


[ocr errors]

of wood or a rope fastened to their horns or necks, in order to force them to go round the heap, and tread it regularly, the driver following behind them with a stick.*

[ocr errors]

After the grain had been trodden out, they winnowed it with wooden shovels; it was then carried to the granary in sacks, each containing a fixed quantity, which was determined by wooden measures; a scribe noting down the number, as called by the teller who superintended its removal. Sweepers with small hand-brooms were employed to collect the scattered grain that fell from the measure; and the "immense heaps of corn mentioned by Diodorus, collected from "the field which was round every city," † accord well with the representation of the paintings in the tombs, and with those seen at the present day in the villages of the Nile. Sometimes two scribes § were present; one to write down the number of measures taken from the heap of corn, and the other to check them by entering the quantity removed to the granary,|| as well as the number of sacks actually housed :—a precaution quite in character with the circumspect habits of the Egyptians.

Oxen, as Herodotus says, were generally used for treading out the grain; and sometimes, though rarely, asses were employed for that purpose.

The Jews had the same custom, and, like the Egyptians, they suffered the ox to tread out the corn unmuzzled, according to the express order of their lawgiver. In later times, however, it appears that the Jews used "threshing instruments;" though, from the offer made to David by Ornan, of "the oxen also,” and the use of the word dus, "treading," in the sentence, Ornan was threshing wheat," ** it is possible that the trituration is here alluded to, and that the threshing instruments only refer to the winnowing-shovels, or other implements used on those occasions : though the "new sharp threshing instrument having teeth,"

*Woodcuts 368, 373.
Woodcuts 367, 370.


Gen. xli. 48. Diodor. i. 36. § Woodcut 367.

Of the granary, see vol. i., woodcuts 11, 32, 33.

** 1 Chron. xi, 20, and 23.

Deut. xxv



Wheat bound in sheaves.





Fig. 1. Reaping. 2. Carrying the ears. 3. Binding them in sheaves put up at fig. 4. mentioned in Isaiah,* seems to be the noreg, or corn-drag, still employed in Egypt, which the Hebrew name moreg" so closely resembles; and this same word is applied to the " threshing instruments" of Ornan. The Jews, like the Greeks, bound up the wheat, when cut, into sheaves;† which was sometimes done by the Egyptians, though their usual custom was to put it into baskets or rope nets, and to carry it loose to the threshing-floor.

The modern Egyptians cut the wheat close to the ground,barley and doora being plucked up by the roots, and having bound it in sheaves, carry it to a level and cleanly swept area near the field, in the centre of which they collect it in a heap, and then taking a sufficient quantity, spread it upon the open area, and pass over it the noreg drawn by two oxen: the difference in the modern and ancient method being that in the former the noreg is used, and the oxen go round the heap, which is in the centre, and not at the circumference, of the threshing floor. Some instances, however, occur of the heap being in the centre, as at the present day.

The noreg is a machine consisting of a wooden frame, with three cross-bars or axles, on which are fixed circular iron plates, for the purpose of bruising the ears of corn and extracting the grain, at the same time that the straw is chopped up the first and last axles having each four plates, and the central one three : † Gen. xxxvii. 7. Levit. xxiii. 10. Deut. xxiv. 19, &c.

* Isaiah xli. 15.



The oxen driven round the heap; contrary to the usual custom. Thebes. and at the upper part is a seat on which the driver sits, his weight giving additional effect to the machine.* Indeed, the Roman tribulum, described by Varro, appears not tc have been unlike the noreg. It was very a frame made rough. by stones or pieces of iron, on which the driver, or a great weight, was placed; and this being drawn by beasts yoked to it, pressed out the grain from the ear.”


While some were employed in collecting the grain and depositing it in the granary, others gathered the long stubble from the field, and prepared it as provender to feed the horses and cattle; for which purpose it was used by them, as by the Romans, and the modern Egyptians. They probably preferred reaping the corn close to the ear, in order to facilitate the trituration; and afterwards cutting the straw close to the ground, or plucking it by the roots, they chopped it up for the cattle; and this, with dried clover (the drees of modern Egypt), was laid by for autumn, when the pastures being overflowed by the Nile, the flocks and herds were kept in sheds or pens on the higher grounds, or in the precincts of the villages.

This custom of feeding some of their herds in sheds accords with the Scriptural account of the preservation of the cattle,

* See Vignette at the end of this Chapter.

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.


« PrécédentContinuer »