The civilization of ancient Egypt was indebted to the Nile River and its dependable seasonable flooding. The river’s predictability and the fertile soils it provided allowed the Egyptians to build an empire on the basis of great agricultural wealth. Egyptians are credited as being one of the first groups to practice agriculture on a large scale. This was possible because of the ingenuity of the Egyptians as they developed basin irrigation. Their farming practices allowed them to grow staple food crops, especially grains such as wheat and barley and industrial crops, such as flax and papyrus.
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The river travels through a total of 9 countries and a variety of different environments, including deserts, swamps, rainforestsand mountains. The Nile has two main tributaries: the Blue Nile which originates in Ethiopia, and the White Nile that flows from Rwanda. While the White Nile is considered to be longer and easier to traverse, the Blue Nile actually carries about two thirds of the water volume of the river. The names of the tributaries derive from the colour of the water that they carry. The tributaries come together in Khartoum and branches again when it reaches Egypt, forming the Nile delta.
The Egyptians took advantage of the natural cyclical flooding pattern of the Nile. Because this flooding happened fairly predictably, the Egyptians were able to develop their agricultural practices around it. The water levels of the river would rise in August and September, leaving the floodplain and delta submerged by 1.5 meters of water at thepeak of flooding.This yearly flooding of the river was known as inundation. As the floodwaters receded in October, farmers were left with well watered and fertile soil in which to plant their crops. The soil left behind by the flooding was known as silt and was brought from Ethiopian Highlands by the Nile. Planting took place in October oncethe flooding was over, and crops were left to grow with minimal care until they ripened between the months of March and May. While the flooding of the Nile was much more predictable and calm than other rivers, such as the Tigris and Euphrates, it was not always perfect. High floodwaters were destructive and could destroy canals that were made for irrigation. Lack of flooding created a potentially greater issue because it left Egyptians suffering from famine.
In order to fully utilize 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. Flood waters 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. Despite the fact that irrigation was crucial to their agricultural success, there were no state-wide 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.
Egyptians developed and utilized a form of water management known as basin irrigation. This practice allowed them to control the rise...