The Productivity of the Ancient Egyptian Economy

Once upon a time, approximately 7000 years ago, the Sahara was full of wildlife and had enough water to propagate life. The Nile during that period was a swamp: a place to be avoided. But when whether conditions changed, desert dwellers found in the river their salvation.

It was this very river–the fabled, mythical and tangible River Nile–that would serve as the inspiration not only for the mythology of many lands, but even the settled economy that would create one of the world’s earliest civilisations. In the mythology of the land, it was the tears of Isis for her husband Osiris that formed the flood that gave life to the River Nile.

The area known today as the Fertile Crescent includes a roughly crescent-shaped area of fertile land that had a more moderate and agriculturally productive climate in the past than it does today–especially in Mesopotamia and the Nile Valley.

The very first settlers along the River Nile transformed and unalterably changed the pre-existing culture of farming and hunting. It began with the invention of complex stone tools that made hunting more efficient. Mud shelters paved the way for storing an abundant harvest as well as rationing in times of need. Prior to these inventions, Ancient Egyptians had no means to which to preserve their perishable wealth.

With time, planning and trial-and-error, the ancient Egyptians constructed more durable settlements that led to a pastoral culture. The new presence of granaries and mitigation of river water around the territories eased agricultural burdens. The ancient Egyptians had succeeded in creating a surplus.

Due to these societal developments, less labour was required for agricultural purposes. This allowed ancient Egyptians to spend more time creating new industries such as: craftwork, construction, tools, stonework artefacts and so on.

In Ancient Egypt, the god Osiris was associated with the grain that is reborn after a period of burial underground. At other times, he was associated with the Moon that shines after a period of darkness. Osiris was also analogously seen as the Nile that brings forth a new inundation after a period of drought and famine.

Images of Osiris as a living god depict him as a handsome man in royal dress wearing the crown of Upper Egypt as a plumed headdress and carrying the crook and flail: symbols of kingship. He was also known as The Lord of Love, King of the Living and Eternal the Lord. After Isis, Osiris was the most popular and enduring of all the Egyptian gods.

The Egyptians yearned for regeneration and rejuvenation and to exist within a reality beyond the attribution of time. The life of Osiris–his murder and dismemberment by his brother Seth–as well as his subsequent resurrection; was interpreted as the embodiment of suffering and the vindication of the innocent.

To the Ancient Egyptians, what mattered was that nothing should happen that had no precedent in the past. Even during period of political and social upheaval, the general consensus was to look forward to a restoration of past order.


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