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quality in the Thebaïd," this tree is now cultivated with more success in Lower Egypt than in former times, some of the best quality of dates being produced there, particularly at Korayn, to the E. of the Delta, where the kind called A'maree is superior to any produced to the N. of Nubia.
Few timber trees are reared in these days either in Upper or Lower Egypt. Some sycamores, whose wood is required for water wheels and other purposes; a few groups of Athuls, or Oriental tamarisks, used for tools and other implements requiring a compact wood; and two or three groves of Sont, or Mimosa Nilotica, valuable for its hard wood, and for its pods used in tanning, are nearly all that the modern inhabitants retain of the many trees grown by their predecessors. But their thriving condition, as that of the mulberry-trees (planted for the silkworms), which form, with the Mimosa Lebbek, some shady avenues in the vicinity of Cairo, and of the Cassia fistula (bearing its dense mass of blossoms in the gardens of the metropolis), shows that it is not the soil, but the industry of the people, which is wanting to encourage the growth of trees.
The Egleeg, or balanites, (the supposed Persea,) no longer thrives in the valley of the Nile; many other trees are rare, or altogether unknown; and the extensive groves of Acanthus, or Sont, are rather tolerated than encouraged, as the descendants of the trees planted in olden times near the edge of the cultivated land.
The thickets of Acanthus, alluded to by Strabo, still grow above Memphis, at the base of the low Libyan hills: in going from the Nile to Abydus, you ride through the grove of Acacia, once sacred to Apollo, and see the rising Nile traversing it by a canal, as when the geographer visited that city, even then reduced to the condition of a small village: and groves of the same tree may here and there be traced in other parts of the Thebaïd, from which it obtained the name of the Thebaïc thorn.
Above the cataracts, the Sont grew in profusion a few years ago upon the banks of the Nile, enabling the poor Nubians to
send abundance of charcoal for sale to Cairo; and its place is supplied in the desert by the Séáleh and other of the Mimosa tribe, which are indigenous to the soil.
The principal woods used by the Egyptians were the date, Dôm, sycamore, several acacias, the two tamarisks, the Egleeg or balanites, ebony, fir, and cedar. The various purposes, to which every part of the palm or date-tree was applied, have been already noticed, as well as of the Dôm, or Theban palm. Sycamore wood was employed for coffins, boxes, small idols, doors, window shutters, stools, chairs, and cramps for building; for handles of tools, wooden pegs or nails, cramps, idols, small boxes, and those parts of cabinet work requiring hard compact wood, the Sont (Acacia Nilotica) was usually preferred; and spears were frequently made of other acacias, which grew in the interior, or on the confines of the desert.
For cramps in walls, and tools of various kinds, the wood of the Tamarix orientalis was much used, and even occasionally for pieces of furniture, for which purpose the Egleeg was also employed; but the principal woods adopted by the cabinet-maker for fine work were ebony, fir, and cedar. Of these three the first came from Africa, and formed, with ivory, gold, ostrich feathers, dried fruits, and skins, the principal object of the annual tribute brought to Egypt by the conquered tribes of Ethiopia and the Soodán; but fir and cedar were imported from Syria; the two last being in great demand for common furniture, small boxes, coffins, and various objects connected with the dead.
Other woods of a rare and valuable kind were brought to Egypt by the people of Asia tributary to the Pharaohs; and the importance attached to them may be estimated by their being frequently imitated, for the satisfaction of those who could not afford to purchase furniture or trinkets of so expensive a material.
Egypt also produced some fungi useful for dyeing; the pods of the Acacia Nilotica, the bark of the séáleh acacia, and the wood and bark of the Errin, or Rhus oxyacanthoïdes, for tanning; and the Periploca Secamone for curing skins.
White crops were of course the principal cultivated produc
tions in the valley of the Nile, and wheat and barley were grown in every part of Egypt.
Like the Romans, they usually brought the seed in a basket, which the sower held in his left hand, or suspended on his arm (sometimes with a strap round his neck), while he scattered the seed with his right; and he sometimes followed the plough, in those fields which required no further preparation with the hoe, or were free from the roots of noxious weeds. The mode of sowing was what we term broadcast; the seed was scattered loosely over the surface, whether ploughed, or allowed to remain in its unbroken muddy state; and in no agricultural scene is there any evidence of drilling or dibbling.
Corn, and those productions which did not require constant irrigation, were sown in the open field, as in other countries; but for indigo, esculent vegetables, and herbs, the fields were portioned out into the usual square beds,* surrounded by a raised border of earth to keep in the water, which was conducted into them by channels from the shadóof, or poured in with buckets.†
Wheat was cut in about five, barley in four months; the best quality, according to Pliny, being grown in the Thebaïd. The wheat, as at the present day, was all bearded, and the same varieties, doubtless, existed in ancient as in modern times; among which may be mentioned the seven-eared quality described in Pharaoh's dream. This is the kind which has been lately grown in England, and which is said to have been raised from grains found in the tombs of Thebes. It is no longer cultivated in Upper Egypt, being only grown in small quantities in the Delta; and this is the more remarkable as it renders the substitution of modern for ancient wheat at Thebes very improbable.
The wheat was cropped a little below the ear § with a toothed sickle, and carried to the threshing-floor in wicker paniers upon asses, or in rope ¶ nets, the gleaners following to collect the
* See these square beds in woodcut 39, fig. c., vol. i. p. 35.
§ Comp. Job xxiv. 24, "Cut off as the tops of the ears of corn."
Fig. 1 puts the seed into the basket.
2 sowing the land after the plough has passed. The handle of the plough has a peg at the side like the modern Egyptian plough, which may be seen in the Vignette.
Ploughing, sowing, and reaping.
Fig. 1. Plucking up the doora by the roots. 2. Reaping wheat.
Tombs of the Kings-Thebes.
Fig. 1. The reapers. 2. A reaper drinking from a cup. 3, 4. Gleaners: the first of these asks the 5. Carrying the ears in a rope basket: the length of the stubble showing the ears alone are cut off. 10. The tritura, answering to our threshing. 12 drinks from a water-skin suspended in a tree. the number of bushels measured from the heap. 16 Checks the account by noting those taken
reaper to allow him to drink. 8. Winnowing.
14. Scribe who notes down away to the granary.