Agriculture of the Mayas and the Ancient Egyptians Essay
Agriculture is in the heart of any great civilization, which in turn, erects great empires. The origins of empires all stem down to smaller pieces of civilizations. It is responsible for feeding and sustaining the vastness of great empires. Of course, one has to find a suitable place to harvest or hunt for food. Agriculture differs from one civilization to the next but it is all essentially important. Egyptians were actually a population consisting mainly of farmers. Mayans were no exception – they focused on agricultural needs and therefore developed advanced technology in that area.
Agriculture is made up of many factors like water, soil, or landscape. A civilization needs to know how to cultivate crops first off because there are many ways in which one can take a plant. Different tools can be used for different crops and that highlights the start of a civilization. Then comes hunting, which is unique to each culture since the land provides certain animals for food and it is up to the population to decide which animal is most preferred and should be hunted for the most. After farming and hunting animals, the civilization decides what foods are more preferable and next time they would go for those crops or animals. This brings the civilization to domesticate preferable animals and grow preferable crops. It is a mix of mother nature and the preference of the civilization.
The Egypt civilization developed in one of the largest dry desert areas in the world – larger than the whole of Europe. It would have been a miracle if people could settle there. People were able to inhabit it only possible because of the Nile River which crosses an almost rainless desert from south to north carrying the waters of Lake Victoria more than 3000 miles to the Mediterranean Sea. In ancient times, Egypt settled in the last 700 miles of this waterway.
The land of Egypt had a poor variety of plants – there were very few trees. The wild fig and the acacia was the only common forest trees and they grow in a isolated fashion. There are also fruit trees such as the date and dom palms and the fig tree. Less trees meant that wood was scarce as well. It was less convenient for Egypt. In the dry conditions of the desert, there was a barely any plants, herbs or vegetables. It is miraculous how the Egyptians formed a culture with this poor agriculture.
On the other hand, Mayans lived in the land of Mesoamerica, which had plentiful trees and resources. In their land, the animals were abundant and the climate was favorable. However, the Mayans had a great population of people and this meant that they would need a lot of food. Sustaining this large population meant that good farming methods would be necessary.
Farming methods play an important part in agriculture. Some civilizations are more complex than others. However, advanced technology does not always win in agriculture. Sometimes, the good old common sense method will bring more to the table than intense and vicious cultivation. The way people cultivate crops will also reflect in their tools and becomes part of their culture.
Agricultural technology depends on the land. The civilization can choose to be hostile or gentle depending on how much resources is available. The Mayans had a enormous amount of resources, therefore, Mayan farmers were aggressive on the land. They took on a method of swiden (shifting cultivation), which means they took what they needed and left the land to nature. However, this abandonment of corrupted land was not productive because they would run out of resources. The Mayans probably sensed this because they later evolved into a intensive multi-crop cultivation. They started to take care of the land. In this effort, much labor was needed to sustain the massive cultivation of crops. This concludes that most Mayans were farmers and were in the workforce of mass cultivation.
Egyptian farming methods were not very advanced. The Egyptians favored simplicity. The farmers would supply water to their crops by first making trenches on the Nile River, bringing it as close as possible to the fields and then establishing a draw-well. In the case of a perennial garden, water would be carried to the square growing-beds in pairs of pottery jars suspended on long wooden poles on the shoulders of men. Where there was fertile land, they grew cash-crops to be sold for profit abroad.
Egyptian farmers also utilized animals in their farming. For example, farmers would use sheep to help them grow corn. Farmers would start by filling a small bag with seed and scattering it across the field. After it is scattered, sheep would be driven over the freshly sowed fields. This helps pack the seeds in the soil. Using this method, farmers were able to handle large fields. This method saved the farmers a lot of time.
The Mayans and the Egyptians both had different farming method. Both methods were molded to provide goods to their civilizations. Neither method was more superior. Even though Mayans had more advanced methods, Egyptians had to use very primitive tools because of the land they lived in. This restriction probably caused Egyptians to go for more simple methods. However, one thing is clear – Mayans had a much more developed farming technology than the Egyptians.
A civilization will show its true colors when it comes to the hunting of animals. After an animal is captured, the people can choose to kill it or breed it. If a civilization is violent, they will hunt and kill animals to handle their hunger. However, a civilization which chooses to domesticate animals have a greater sense of respect and patience towards the animals. This will prove that the treatment of animals will reflect on the civilization.
Farming was not the only important factor in Mayan agriculture. In fact, Mayan agriculture started with the hunting of wild animals and the cultivation of wild crops. Hunting animals is important to agriculture because different tools were made to hunt different animals. The Mayans loved hunting. In a study, researchers found that over 8 months, peasant- hunters carried out a total of 175 hunting trips. Most hunting was done during the dry season (January-April). Mayans really depended on wild animals for food. Therefore, the violence was necessary for their survival.
Egyptians domesticated more animals than they hunted. They held animals as sacred and saw them as companions. Upon all animals, the Egyptians respected the ox the most. The Egyptians dressed them up and talked to them like humans. They even gave cattle as sacrifices to the gods. This meant that the Egyptians did not depend on the animals for food. This is a good example of how domestication of animals reflects the attitude of the civilization towards animals.
In comparison, Mayans were much more violent towards animals than the Egyptians were. The Mayans saw the animals as food while the Egyptians saw them as something holy. However, animals were more abundant in the Mayan world when compared to Egypt. It could very well be that since Egyptians realized that there was a scarce amount of animals, they should be held sacred. In the Mayan culture, since they saw so much animals and they were more violent than the Egyptians, they probably decided that it was a better idea to eat these animals than to take time domesticating them. Therefore, the Mayans incorporated more meat in their diet than the Egyptians.
The average diet of different civilizations will decide which foods were more popular in the culture and in turn what foods would be grown or hunted. This makes a difference in agriculture because not all foods are taken from the wild. If a certain food is liked more, the civilization will work to preserve it through farming or domestication. This is only in the case when that food is less abundant in the land and the civilization truly cannot live without the specific food.
The food that was gathered from farming and hunting made up the diet of the Mayans. The everyday diet of this civilization also resembled the type of agriculture they had. For Mayans, they were lovers of corn. Their diets consisted of mostly corn. This reflected in their agriculture because they cultivated mostly corn. On the other hand, Mayans ate other crops too but their diet remained intensively to corn, beans and squash. When it came to meat, Mayans favored turkey over everything else. Turkey was prized in the Mayan culture – they hunted wild turkey most of the time. Mayans also knew about spices because they used chili peppers to spice up their food. Chili peppers was prized almost as much as corn since it was the main spice the Mayan used. Chili peppers were mass cultivated just like corn. The Mayan diet would seem very close to a vegetarian diet. However, they were also intensive hunters and that meant their diets contained meat as well. All in all, the Mayans had a healthy and simple diet consisting mostly of vegetables.
The Egyptians held animals sacred and therefore, most Egyptians were vegetarians. In fact, the ox was seen as such a sacred animal that the Egyptians allowed the oxen to have meals with them. They fed the ox like how modern people would feed their dogs. They had a diet of mostly barley and wheat. The dependence on these foods meant that barley and wheat were extensively cultivated. There were also other foods such as corn and date fruits, but barley and wheat were favored among all else.
Mayans and Egyptians were very different when it came down to diets. They did not have much in common. However, their diets showed how it could change agriculture. The more they loved a certain food and depend on it, the more it was seen in the fields of the farmers. For Mayans it was corn and for Egyptians, it was wheat and barley. Because they favored it, it was grown more.
The farming of certain plants were questionable because it was not seen in the Mayan or Egyptian diet. However, further research shows that some plants were only cultivated for their medicinal purposes. Medicine plays an important part in agriculture because it comes from the land. As people learn to use the plant more for medical use, they are contributing to the growing agriculture.
Civilizations usually made medicine from their surroundings. It is interesting to discover how the surrounding land was used to provide medicine for the civilization. The useage of medicine has a large effect on what herbs or plants were grown because if it was essential to the civilization, there was a higher production of these plants. Mayan medicine contained food. Some were from odd sources. For example, chili peppers was not only a condiment for their food. It was actually used as one of the medicine. As mentioned before, chili peppers were one of the most cultivated plants along with corn. This is a perfect example of how medicine played a role in agriculture.
The Egyptians did not have much knowledge for medicine. They were naive enough to believe that the cure for all illnesses could be found on a particular plant they called Dgam, or the olive tree. The greater number of medicine were of vegetable origin. They depended very much on the land for medicine. However, in some cases, there were rare instances when animals were used for medicine – for example, pig teeth, lizard blood and putrid meat were among the favorites of the Egyptians for medicine use.
The Mayans and Egyptians needed medicine to take care of their inhabitants. However, the methods they used were both very simple. The Mayans and Egyptians used different plants since they had different needs. The Mayans relied on food sources like the chili for cures. The Egyptians relied on plants like the olive tree, which did not do much for medicine. The olive tree was more spiritually healing rather than physically helpful. In the scope of medicine, Mayans win over the Egyptians because their medicine was more powerful and scientific. Egyptians only based their medicine on spiritual beliefs of another power living inside their medicine.
Agriculture consists of many different factors but it has essentially the same idea – the gathering of people working together to keep each other alive. This collectiveness is the beginning of a civilization. The mass cultivation of crops needs storage places and tools for efficiency. People need to build homes to accommodate the storage of food. Settling down means relying on a certain area for food. Agriculture is always going to lead to the start of a civilization.
Mayan built their civilization somewhere where the food is accessible. The surplus of food happened to be corn – that became their main diet. Hunting turkeys was a preference because the agriculture of the land called for turkeys. They developed complex systems to tend to their farms. The Mayans were famous for their stone pyramids. They used the most abundant source of material they could find in the land and that is part of agriculture. The food, the land and the lifestyle that the Mayans had depended largely in part to their agriculture.
Egyptians built their civilization on the harshest of environments. However, they were able to use the Nile River to their advantage. The abundant amount of water in the Nile made it possible for Egyptians to build a truly exotic empire. The Egyptians were famous for their sandstone pyramids. Their pyramids consisted of the desert sand and it was made possible only because the abundance of agriculture was there. The Egyptians used the land to their advantage by incorporating the Nile River in their farming systems. They favored wheat and barley because there was a lot of it. The land gave them what they needed and they built upon that foundation.
The Mayans and the Egyptians were both very different in agriculture. The Mayans had the luxury of abundant food. Nature provided Mayans with trees, animals, crops and water. Nature was not so generous with the Egyptians. Their land is probably the direct opposite of the Mayan land. They did not have abundant food and they did not have much animals either. The climate zones were also completely different. The Mayans had warm temperatures and moist environments. The Egyptians had to go through harsh, hot sun and sand storms.
Although the Mayans and the Egyptians seemed like they had nothing in common, there was a few things that were similar in both civilizations. First off, the Mayans and the Egyptians both had pyramids. They built it with the most abundant source they could find. Another thing they had in common was the workforce. They both had farmers who worked together to mass cultivate crops. The Egyptian workforce and the Mayan workforce was pretty impressive due to the fact that it was all focused on farming. In both cases, they believed that agriculture was important to a civilization.
Agriculture can be many things. It can be the way people hunt for resources, grow resources and use resources. Agriculture can be summed down to the abundance of resources. Once a civilization has settled down, the most abundant resource will begin to show in their culture. The heart of civilization is agriculture and it is as important because it will build up a civilization.
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