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Ancient Egyptian plants: Acacia
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Birds in acacia tree     The acacia, acanthus, covered with small leaves protected by thorns, is a savannah tree capable of existing on little water. In Egypt it often grew on the edge of the fertile land and in desert wadis. Despite its being indigenous it was on occasion also imported from Nubia. Its short trunk yields timber which is hard and durable, though of little length:
[2.96.1] The vessels used in Egypt for the transport of merchandise are made of the Acantha (Thorn), a tree which in its growth is very like the Cyrenaic lotus, and from which there exudes a gum. They cut a quantity of planks about two cubits in length from this tree, and then proceed to their ship-building, arranging the planks like bricks, and attaching them by ties to a number of long stakes or poles till the hull is complete, when they lay the cross-planks on the top from side to side. They give the boats no ribs, but caulk the seams with papyrus on the inside. Each has a single rudder, which is driven straight through the keel. The mast is a piece of acantha-wood, and the sails are made of papyrus.
Herodotus Histories II
    Pliny had this to report of the acacia tree:
No less esteemed, too, in the same country, is a certain kind of thorn, though only the black variety, its wood being imperishable, in water even, a quality which renders it particularly valuable for making the sides of ships: on the other hand, the white kinds will rot very rapidly. It has sharp, prickly thorns on the leaves even, and bears its seeds in pods; they are employed for the same purposes as galls in the preparation of leather. The flower, too, has a pretty effect when made into garlands, and is extremely useful in medicinal preparations. A gum, also, distils from this tree; but the principal merit that it possesses is, that when it is cut down, it will grow again within three years. It grows in the vicinity of Thebes...
Pliny, Natural History, Book XIII, chapter 19 - (eds. John Bostock, H.T. Riley)
    Acacia products were most useful to the physician. Its resin was collected and used for burn wounds [2] and setting broken bones (pHearst #221), acacia leaves were applied in treatments of eyes (cf. pEbers #415), wounds (pSmith #46) and skin diseases (pEbers #105), seeds were employed for treating fingers and toes (pHearst #191, #194 etc), for cooling the vessels (pHearst #238, #249) and for the mysterious aAa disease (pHearst #83).
    Leather was tanned with acacia pods [3] or bark [4]. Garlands often included acacia flowers [5]. Branches were hoped to prevent kites from robbing [6]

    In mythology, the first gods were born under the sacred acacia tree of the goddess Saosis [8], identified with Hathor, and Horus was also said to have emerged from it. The acacia of Heliopolis was a tree in which life and death was decided upon, similar to the ished tree [9]. Acacia and palm carried the sun god Re:

... the Boat of Ra arrived at the town of Het-Aha; its forepart was made of palm wood, and the hind part was made of acacia wood; thus the palm tree and the acacia tree have been sacred trees from that day to this.
From the Legend of Horus of Behutet and the winged disk [1]

James H. Breasted, The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, University of Chicago Press 1930
James H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, 1906
E. A. Wallis Budge, Legends of the Gods, 1912
Herodotus, Histories, Vol. II, translated by George Rawlinson
A. Lucas, Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries
Manfred Lurker, Lexikon de Götter und Symbole der alten Ägypter, Scherz 1998
Lise Manniche, An Ancient Egyptian Herbal, University of Texas Press 1989
Pliny, Natural History, (eds. John Bostock, H.T. Riley)
Walter Wreszinski ed., Der Londoner medizinische Papyrus und der Papyrus Hearst, Leipzig 1912

[3] Lucas, p.34
[4] Lucas, p.37
[5] Lucas, p.442
[6] Manniche, p. 33
[7] Breasted, ARE part 1, §324
[8] Lurker, p.39
[9] Lurker, p.52

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