|50||THE ANCIENT BOTANY|
found in Egypt growing in abundance. The sycamore fig (Ficus sycomorus, L.) is represented not only by a large number of its fruits, but also by its wood and fragments of its leaves. Nearly all the wooden boxes which Mr. Petrie found under the floors of the workmen's dwellings at Kahun were made of the wood of this tree. The fruits, though not much shrivelled, are very small, much smaller in fact than those found at Hawara (see "Hawara, &c.," § 66). The nebak (Zizyphus spina-Christi, L.), a tree now widely distributed in Egypt, was also to be met with in the Central Provinces in early times. Fruits of this tree are likewise in Mr. Petrie's collection, and, though they somewhat vary in size, they are not smaller than the fruits of the same species which are grown in Lower Egypt at the present day. The Nile acacia (Acacia arabica, Willd.), which is, next to the datepalm, the tree most frequently seen in the villages of the Egypt of to-day, must also have been very common in ancient times. Its wood was largely used, as is shown by the great number of wooden objects manufactured out of it, which have been found at Kahun. The pods were also collected, and were probably used for tanning purposes, as at the present day. Another tree represented in Mr. Petrie's Kahun collection by its pods, and which is still found in Egypt, is the carob (Ceratonia siliqua, L). Only one pod and six seeds of this tree were discovered. They are very much shrivelled with age, but do not appear to differ in any other respects from the pods of the same species collected in Egypt at the present day (see also § 90).
The Kahun plant-remains also throw some light on the vegetables cultivated in the kitchen-gardens of Egypt prior to the time of Abraham, for a number of peas and beans, fragments of leaves and stems of the cucumber (Cucumis sativus, L.), and two small radishes (Raphanus sativus, L.) have been identified. The peas belong to a small variety of the common garden pea (Pisum sativum, L.), and the beans to the ordinary form of (Faba vulgaris, L. The two radishes are extremely interesting, for, although Herodotus states ("Euterpe," ii, 125) that in his time a hieroglyphic inscription was extant recording that radishes (surmaia) were cultivated in the time of Cheops (IVth dynasty), it has been generally doubted that they were known in Egypt till a very much later period. Herodotus, too, mentions that this root, together with onions and garlic, was supplied by the State for the sustenance of the workmen who were engaged in building the Great Pyramid. It is interesting to note that the town of Kahun was built for the accommodation of the workmen employed in constructing the Kahun pyramid and temple: perhaps the XIIth dynasty monarchs, like the IVth dynasty ones, also allowed their workmen a certain quantity of radishes for their sustenance, and these two shriveled radishes may be the only relics to tell us of the old custom.
The only cereal grain that has been found at Kahun is a small variety of barley, and of this Mr. Petrie brought over to England a large quantity. The grains are smaller than those at present grown in Egypt, hardly any of them exceeding 1 cm, in length, whilst most of them are considerably smaller. Among the barley grains were found a large number of weed-seeds, and these show that the barley fields of XIIth dynasty times were infested with many of the same weeds which trouble the tillers of the soil at the present day. Among the weed-seeds I have succeeded in identifying the following: -
(1.) One hundred and sixty-seven seeds of the
Egyptian clover (Trifolium alexandrinum, L.).
In a few cases the calyx tubes were still remaining around the seeds. These tubes are
oblong in form, and strong 10-ribbed, with
triangular subulate and spinescent teeth, which
are about one-half the length of the calyx
1) Seeds of this species were also found among the Barley grains from Hawara, see "Hawara, Biahmu, and Arsinoë" § 60.
2) Compare ibid..
home - previous page - next page