Main menu

Pages

To make the best use of the waters of the Nile river, the Egyptians developed systems of irrigation. Irrigation allowed the Egyptians to use the Nile's waters for a variety of purposes. Notably, irrigation granted them greater control over their agricultural practices.

Floodwaters were diverted away from certain areas, such as cities and gardens, to keep them from flooding. Irrigation was also used to provide drinking water to Egyptians.

Ancient Egyptians Irrigation Tools

Ancient Egyptians Irrigation Tools


Despite the fact that irrigation was crucial to their agricultural success, there were no statewide regulations on water control. Rather, irrigation was the responsibility of local farmers.

However, the earliest and most famous reference to irrigation in Egyptian archaeology has been found on the mace head of the Scorpion King, which has been roughly dated to about 3100 BC.

The mace head depicts the king cutting into a ditch that is part of a grid of basin irrigation. The association of the high ranking king with irrigation highlights the importance of irrigation and agriculture to their society.

Ancient Egypt Basin irrigation


Egyptians developed and utilized a form of water management known as basin irrigation. This practice allowed them to control the rise and fall of the river to best suit their agricultural needs.

A crisscross network of earthen walls was formed in a field of crops that would be flooded by the river. When the floods came, the water would be trapped in the basins formed by the walls.

This grid would hold water longer than it would have naturally stayed, allowing the earth to become fully saturated for later planting.

 Once the soil was fully watered, the floodwater that remained in the basin would simply be drained to another basin that was in need of more water.

 

Ancient Egypt Basin irrigation

 Ancient Egypt Shadoofs

 The ancient Egyptians also used water wheels. The water wheels worked the shadoofs. A shadoof was simply a counterweight system, a long pole with a bucket on one end and a weight on the other.

Ancient Egypt Shadoofs

Buckets were dropped into the Nile, filled with water, and raised with water wheels. Then oxen swung the pole so that the water could be emptied into narrow canals or waterways that were used to irrigate the crops. It was a clever system, and it worked very well.

Ancient Egypt Nilometers

They also invented what is called a nilometer. A nilometer was used to predict flood levels. This instrument was a method of marking the height of the Nile over the years.

Ancient Egypt Nilometers

Nilometers were spaced along the Nile River. They acted as an early warning system, alerting these early people that waters were not as high as usual, so they could prepare for a drought or for unusually high flood waters.

 

reactions