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Scenes from A Tomb
The country was about 550 miles long, but exceedingly narrow, only measuring from 4 to 16 miles in width, except in the Delta, which spreads out broad and low. In ancient times the arable area was probably smaller than now; certainly the Delta region was mainly devoted to pasturage. Communication and transportation was carried out mainly by means of reed boats that travelled the length of the Nile.
Ancient tomb-sculptures show considerable unavailable tracts where nobles hunted water-fowl. On the other hand the portions farthest from the river are now almost useless on account of the failure of high Nile to reach them even when artificially aided.
Herodotus called Egypt the "gift of the Nile," but it is more. It is the creation of the river, and the river is its preserver. The land occupies the carton which the water has made, and its annual renewal is due to the fertilizing matter which the inundation brings down. The valley is flanked not by mountains, but by bluffs, which mark the original level. The Delta has been raised above the sea-level in the course of ages by the same means, but it is still so low that the removal of a few inches of soil renders the land sterile. The only variety offered to the eye is that of ancient city mounds and the low embankments which serve as dams against the Nile floods. Toward the N. E. the level is said to be gradually sinking (see MENZALEH), while at Suez a rising has occurred within historic times. It is almost certain that the Red Sea has receded from its former limits, which must have included the Bitter Lakes and Lake Timsah. See EXODUS.
The Golden Age of the ancient Egyptian civilization was the era known as the Old Kingdom. This was a period of about five hundred years during which power became centralized and ancient Egyt became a true state, and the arts and sciences flourished. Read more about Ancient Egypt.
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