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The Gift of the Nile. The gift of the Nile. The Nile Flood.

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the nile flood
The Nile Flood
  • In ancient times, the Nile River flooded every year. This flood resulted from the torrential rains that came in late spring to the mountains of Ethiopia in east Africa. The rainwater then flowed into the rivers of Egypt until it reached Egypt’s first cataract,that marked the beginning of the Nile River valley in Upper Egypt.
  • The Nile valley flooded and the river rose as much as ten metres. The people who lived in the Nile valley took refuge in their mud huts on the ‘tortoise backs’ — mounds of earth that had built up from centuries of these floods. As well as protecting people, they trapped the floodwaters for many kilometres.
a farmers delight
A farmers delight
  • The floodwaters left behind thick layers of mud that created fertile farming lands for planting grain. These were the ‘Black Lands’.
  • Officials organised farmers and other workers into work parties to dig shallow ditches to use as irrigation channels, which would bring water to dry land.
  • They also built dykes and repaired sluices so that workers could direct water to irrigate crops grown further inland.
  • A dyke is a wall or mound of earth that people build to hold back the waters of the river.
  • A sluice is a channel in which people use a gate or some other device to control the flow of water.
the seasons of the nile
The seasons of the Nile

The rise and fall of the Nile River created three distinct seasons:

  • Akhet,
  • Peret
  • Shemu.

These seasons became the basis of the farmer’s calendar

a true gift
A true gift

The extent of the flood was important because:

  • an 8-metre flood would produce the black mud needed to create fertile, crop-growing soils.
  • a flood greater than this would destroy property
  • a flood less than this would be too poor to produce enough food.

Each year in late May or

Early June, officials used

a series of staircases

called nilometers to

begin checking the level

of the river.

sailing the nile
Sailing the Nile

The Nile was the main transport route in ancient Egypt. Sailing down the Nile towards Giza was much easier than sailing up the Nile to Aswan. This was because:

  • anyone sailing down the Nile was moving in the direction of the current
  • anyone sailing up the Nile had to rely on the wind (which blew from the north) or take on the difficult task of sailing against the current.
varying transport
Varying Transport

The Nile carried many different forms of river transport for a range of purposes:

  • Wealthy Egyptians could cruise the Nile at a leisurely pace in their wooden ships.
  • Pyramid and temple builders would send huge flat barges to transport stone from quarries to building sites. These barges were pulled along slowly by work teams located on the river banks.
  • Cargo boats carried grain and other supplies. Ordinary people fished from small rowing boats near the shoreline.
hymn to the nile written c 2040 c 1780 bc during the middle kingdom
Hymn to the Nile, written c.2040–c.1780 BC, during the Middle Kingdom

Hail to you beloved Nile who comes from the earth

to keep Egypt alive.

You make the barley grow

And bring the wheat to life so the temples can be

full of offerings.

When the Nile is very low then everyone is poor.

The food offerings to the gods are few in number.

A million people perish.

Greed is everywhere.

Even the rich man looks worried.

Everyone carries a weapon.

When you are flowing, offerings are made to you,

dear god.

Oxen are sacrificed for you,

Birds are fattened for you,

Lions are hunted for you,

Fire is provided for you.

Hail to you, beloved Nile,

You make Egypt green,

You make men and cattle live.