Forests in Ancient Egypt

Liliana Usvat

Egypt’s land before the dawn of history was teeming with trees. Of these trees are the petrified forests that are near the Giza pyramids and beside El Mokattam plateau. Egyptian Pharaohs planted trees and took care of them. They brought ebony wood from the Sudan, pine and cedar from Syria.

Also Egyptian Pharaohs planted sant tree, sycamore, lotus fruits and willow. At the time of the Crusades, Egypt had paid more attention to cultivating wood trees, to build marine fleet. There were 20,000 feddans of trees cultivated on both sides of Nile from Gerga to Aswan. The Ayobians planted forests in Upper Egypt from Beni Swif to Assuit. By the end of the Crusades, there were little attention paid for planting wood trees, until Mohamed Ali El Kabeer took the reign of Egypt. He was concerned about planting wood trees to build the Egyptian fleet.

The History of Sycamore in Egypt

Sycamore trees have been cultivated since a very long time. Pharaohs called them Nehet. The oldest sycamore tree in Egypt is in Matarria and is known as Virgin Mary Tree. Sycamore tree lives long and bears sun exposure and humidity. Ancient Egyptians used them in making the wood monuments, such as the statue of the chief of the village from the Fourth Dynasty. In the time of Mohamed Ali El Kabeer, sycamore tree was used in making the bases for artillery units.

sycamore-tree 1a

Sycamores exist in all Egyptian districts of Delta and Upper Egypt, also in the oases. It is considered a popular fruit in villages. Sycamore wood has special characteristics if immersed in water. It is used frequently in making water wheels, water wells and also agricultural tools. These trees are beautiful and shady, so they are cultivated on wide road sides.

Sycamore is an ever green large tree. Its height reaches 20 meters, when it is fully grown. Its branches spread horizontally over a diameter ranging 15-20 meters, therefore it is planted in 15-20 meters spacing. The fruit is carried on special branches that come from green branches. Flowers appear in sycamore when the age of the tree is ranging from 5 to 6 years old. Sycamore fruit is like fig in form and structure.

There are three main seasons for sycamore: the first season in the beginning of April, the second in the beginning of May and the third in the beginning of June. The fruit continues meagerly, especially in winter and autumn. An operation is usually run for fruits called circumcision in the early morning or afternoon when the age of the fruit ranges for 20 to 25. They make splits in the tops of fruit whose diameter extends from 1.5 to 2 cm2.

The world’s first Arboriculturist.

Hatshepsut is generally regarded by historians as one of the most successful pharaohs of Egypt. She lived in the 15th century B.C. and had a long and successful reign, marked by building projects and trading expeditions unrivalled by any other culture for a thousand years.

As well as being the first great woman in recorded history, inaugurating a long peaceful era and bringing great wealth to Egypt, she can also fairly lay claim to being the world’s first arboriculturist.

Historians agree that the highlight of her reign was an expedition to the fabled land of Punt, (considered by some scholars likely to have been what is today Somalia). For it’s time the expedition was enormous, consisting of five ships, each measuring seventy feet long and with several sails. Each ship accommodated 210 men, including sailors and thirty rowers; only returning after a two year long voyage along the African coast.

Yet the driving force for this expedition was not trade, slaves or war, but to acquire trees.Specifically the mission was to acquire frankincense and myrrh trees. Two of the rarest perfumes of the ancient world was made from the resin of the tree and small bush, and frankincense and myrrh played an important part in Egyptian religious ceremonies and in the role of embalming the ‘mummies’.

When her fleet of five ships returned after the two year voyage they brought back five shiploads of various goods, yet the most prized of all their cargo was 31 live frankincense trees. The trees had been carefully excavated and their roots bound in balls of their indigenous soil for the duration of the long voyage. Upon arrival Hatshepsut had the trees planted in the courts of her Deir el Bahari mortuary temple. When these exotic trees were planted it would become the first known transplanting and establishment of foreign trees.

egyptian_arboriculture

This expedition was the highlight of her reign and it was the sort of accomplishment she wanted memorialising on her temple walls. So she had the expedition commemorated in relief at Deir el-Bahri.

The achievement of this arboricultural challenge – to successfully transport, transplant and establish 31 trees in a tough climate over 3500 years ago, cannot be overstated.

To have been successful, Hatshepsut and her team must have had a good understanding of arboriculture. From the initial planning stages, to selecting the right trees, transporting, establishment and continued tree maintenance. The mission shows that full consideration was given to the complex interplay of tree ecophysiology, the rooting environment, plant quality, planting and post-planting practice.

Sacred Trees in Ancient Egypt

In Ancient Egypt, several types of trees appear in Egyptian mythology and art, although the hieroglyph written to signify tree appears to represent the sycamore (nehet) in particular.

The sycamore carried special mythical significance. According to the Book of Dead, twin sycamores stood at the eastern gate of heaven from which the sun god Re emerged each morning.

The sycamore was also regarded as a manifestation of the goddesses Nut, Isis, and especially of Hathor, who was given the epithet Lady of the Sycamore. Sycamores were often planted near tombs, and burial in coffins made of sycamore wood returned the dead person to the womb of the mother tree goddess.

Another tree, the willow (tcheret) was sacred to Osiris; it was the willow which sheltered his body after he was killed. Many towns in Egypt with tombs in which a part of the dismembered Osiris was believed to be buried had groves of willows associated with them.

The terraces of the Funerary Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-bahari (c. 1480 BCE) were planted with myrrh trees  the Temple of Hatshepsut]. While the inner sanctuary is located inside the cliff [cf. The Sacred Cave], the temple’s outer sanctuary of terraced gardens recreated the Paradise of Amon, an earthly palace for the Sun-god in imitation of the myrrh terraces of Punt, which was the legendary homeland of the gods.

In Egypt, the evergreen date palm was a sacred tree, and a palm branch was the symbol of the god Heh, the personification of eternity.

Forests in Ancient Egypt

In ancient ages, Egypt was considered as one of the forest zones, due to the dense tree-cover extended over most of the lands.

Also Sinai peninsula was very rich in its forest cover, and this is justified by the numerous names given to the dry valleys scattered on this desert.

Moreover, the historic records refer to the existence of a developed system for forest management in ancient Egypt, established during the 11th century A.D. to include the governorates of Beni-Swelf, Menya, Suhag and Asswan at the said era, where total area of the forest in the South of the valley exceeded 19 thousand feddans (8 Heetars).

Furthermore, the said records refer to the fact that the highest rate of forest tree-cutting in Egypt took place during the Ayobeed Era (where more than 12,000 trees were cut down in a rather short time span, of which 9,500 In Qualiobeya governorate alone).

This proves that forest eradication was done by man and not due to the climatic or environmental changes.

Egypt’s land before the dawn of history was teeming with trees. Of these trees are the petrified forests that are near the Giza pyramids and beside El Mokattam plateau. Egyptian Pharaohs planted trees and took care of them. They brought ebony wood from the Sudan, pine and cedar from Syria.

Also Egyptian Pharaohs planted sant tree, sycamore, lotus fruits and  . At the time of the Crusades, Egypt had paid more attention to cultivating wood trees, to build marine fleet. There were 20,000 feddans of trees cultivated on both sides of Nile from Gerga to Aswan. The Ayobians planted forests in Upper Egypt from Beni Swif to Assuit.

Blog 56-365

 

 

 

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About lilianausvat

My Websites: Books: http://www.ucbooksale.com/ Math Website: http://www.mathematicsmagazine.com Reforestation: http://lilianausvat.blogspot.ca/ Real Estate: http://www.lilianausvat.com/
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2 Responses to Forests in Ancient Egypt

  1. Pingback: Forests in Ancient Egypt | lilianausvat

  2. Pingback: Ancient Egypt, first domestic cats | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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