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Archaeology & History

Ancient 'nilometer' discovered in Egypt

By T.K. Randall
May 19, 2016 · Comment icon 1 comment

The ancient Egyptians relied heavily on the Nile. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Jerzy Strzelecki
Archaeologists have unearthed a rare structure used by the ancient Egyptians to predict their harvests.
Found within the ruins of the ancient city of Thmuis, the structure, which dates back to the third century BC, worked by calculating the water level of the River Nile during its annual flooding.

The people depended heavily on this event as it brought with it deposits of fertile silt that were invaluable for growing crops, but if the water level rose too little or too much during the floods, something that happened every five years or so, the results could be devastating.

The nilometer, which resembles a small well with stairs leading down in to it, helped to determine what type of harvest could be expected for any given year by monitoring the water level.
This same information would then also be used to calculate taxation.

"During the time of the pharaohs, the nilometer was used to compute the levy of taxes, and this was also likely the case during the Hellenistic period," said archaeologist Robert Littman.

"If the water level indicated there would be a strong harvest, taxes would be higher."

Source: National Geographic | Comments (1)

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Comment icon #1 Posted by ChrLzs 8 years ago
Interesting. I'm a little puzzled how they know the critical level (seven cubits or 3.04m, apparently..) and yet they *don't* know if what was being measured was the water table or the river's actual level... I would have thought if it was the river level, you would just get someone to walk to the river each day and well, measure it. The water table would be a better indicator for longer term forecasting.. ?

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