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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 nóreg 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 : Isaiah xli. 15. † Gen. xxxvii. 7. Levit. xxiii. 10. Deut. xxiv. 19, &c.
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 to 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. VOL. II.
+ 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
at the summit with metal spikes, the grain was stripped off, and fell upon 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