created by: lubiz (Aug 26, 2014)
last modified by: lubiz (Mar 19, 2015)
theme complex
Agricultural pursuits
Preparation of the ground, sowing, harvesting, transporting and processing
tomb owner
9th Dynasty
Pillar XIX, the entire central register. A second similar scene was most probably depicted in the bottom register of the pillar.
theme description
Agriculture is the key factor of every organised society and agricultural scenes belong to the most common in the ancient Egyptian tombs of officials. There are about 130 attestations illustrating agricultural pursuits dated to the Old Kingdom (OEE 3.1 and 3.2). Examples from the First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom are, however, not so numerous.
The paintings and reliefs reveal various work steps associated with the cultivation of the land. Firstly, the fields were ploughed to turn the earth and eventually worked by men with hoes (presumably to break the clods). Afterwards, the sowers issued the seed corn and scattered it by hand from seed bags onto the moist earth. The seed was then covered by ploughing, hoeing or by trampling in by the hooves of sheep flocks and occasionally donkeys. There is no artistic evidence for harrowing, levelling, watering, weeding, fertilising or other activities related to crop care.
The principal tool used for the harvest was a sickle, blade of which was made of chipped stones that were set into a wooden handle or an animal jawbone. The cereals were either uprooted, cut low or high in the straw or harvested by hand. A characteristic feature of the Old Kingdom scenes is the representation of sheaves that indicate that in that period the cereal plants were cut relatively low in the straw, bundled and transported to the threshing floor. The method of cutting cereals high in the straw was apparently used since the Middle Kingdom at the latest. The scenes only show cereal ears being transported in baskets or woven carriers, piled and trampled by animals on the threshing floor. The remaining straw was most probably cut and bundled separately. Uprooting is only attested in scenes representing the flax harvest.
Threshing was done by hoofed animals that trampled over the cereals. After threshing, the grain was winnowed and sieved to remove any impurities. In the final stage, the grain was brought to granaries, measured, recorded and stored. It was most probably still in the spikelet form as scenes representing the dehusking process of grain consisting of pounding and further winnowing and sieving are associated with bread-making and brewing scenes.
See: Klebs, L., Die Reliefs des Alten Reiches, pp. 45 – 54; Klebs, L., Die Reliefs und Malereien des Mittleren Reiches, pp. 70 – 76; Vandier, J., Manuel d'archéologie égyptienne VI, pp. 209 – 288; Harpur, Y.M., Decoration, pp. 157 – 172, 350 – 354 (Table 6.26); Murray, M.A., Cereal production and processing, in: Nicholson and Shaw (eds.), Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, pp. 505 – 536; Hudáková, L., The Representations of Women in the Middle Kingdom Tombs of Officials, pp. 113 – 132.
Agricultural pursuits
Preparation of the ground, sowing, harvesting, transporting and processing (theme)
References to copyright protected images:
Vandier, J., Moalla. La Tombe d'Ankhtifi et la Tombe de Sébekhotep (pl. IX (top left)., pl. VIII., pl. XXXII.3.)
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