Ancient Egypt Natural Resources
Ancient Egypt Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, manganese, limestone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, lead, rare earth elements, zinc
Egypt is rich in building and decorative stone, copper and lead ores,gold, and semiprecious stones. These natural resources allowed the ancient Egyptians to build monuments, sculpt statues, make tools, and fashion jewelry.
Definition: This entry lists a country’s mineral, petroleum, hydropower, and other resources of commercial importance, such as rare earth elements (REEs). In general, products appear only if they make a significant contribution to the economy, or are likely to do so in the future.
The Oil and Natural Gas of Ancient Egypt natural resources
The natural resources of Egypt mainly refer to the oil and gas of Egypt. The oil reserves of Egypt draw huge annual revenues from its export profits. The newly discovered oilfields in the Mediterranean seabed have opened up fresh opportunities for reviving the country’s oil export business. The 3.7 million barrel reserve that Egypt previously possessed, now have more than doubled the reserve figures. The markets of Turkey and Israel are the chief targets of Egypt.
Minerals and Other Natural Resources of Egypt
There are of course other natural resources as well. These include iron ore, phosphate, limestone, manganese,talc, zinc, asbestos and gypsum. However, the analysis of the Egyptian natural resources would remain incomplete without the consideration of those resources, which had been bringing prosperity to the land of Egypt in the ancient times of Pharoic domination.
- Honey : Bees have been cultivated in Egypt since ancient times for the production of wax and honey. Egyptian honey was used as a medicinal base, as a sweetener and as an offering to the Gods. Lotus honey was the most precious of them all.
- Papyris Plant : The Egyptians were the pioneers for making papers. Papers were first made from papyrus. They wished to keep the production method of papyrus paper a secret and hence, never left behind any record or hints of the same. They made huge profits from the papyrus papers that were exported.
- River Nile : The water of river Nile can be considered among the bestnatural resources of Egypt as the water can be used differently for cultivation of the land and production of hydroelectric power. The river Nile is the reason behind the flourishing civilization of the Nile valley.
Egypt is rich in building and decorative stone, copper and lead ores, gold, and semiprecious stones. These natural resources allowed the ancient Egyptians to build monuments, sculpt statues, make tools, and fashion jewelry. Embalmers used salts from the Wadi Natrun for mummification, which also provided the gypsum needed to make plaster.
Ore-bearing rock formations were found in distant, inhospitable wadis in the eastern desert and the Sinai, requiring large, state-controlled expeditions to obtain natural resources found there. There were extensive gold mines in Nubia, and one of the first maps known is of a gold mine in this region. The Wadi Hammamat was a notable source of granite, greywacke, and gold.
The Egyptians worked deposits of the lead ore galena at Gebel Rosas to make net sinkers, plumb bobs, and small figurines. Copper was the most important metal for toolmaking in ancient Egypt and was smelted in furnaces from malachite ore mined in the Sinai. Workers collected gold by washing the nuggets out of sediment in alluvial deposits, or by the more labor-intensive process of grinding and washing gold-bearing quartzite. Iron deposits found in upper Egypt were utilized in the Late Period.
King Tutankhamen’s Tomb
Flint was the first mineral collected and used to make tools, and flint handaxes are the earliest pieces of evidence of habitation in the Nile valley. Nodules of the mineral were carefully flaked to make blades and arrowheads of moderate hardness and durability even after copper was adopted for this purpose.Ancient Egyptians were among the first to use minerals such as sulfur as cosmetic substances.
High-quality building stones were abundant in Egypt; the ancient Egyptians quarried limestone all along the Nile valley, granite from Aswan, and basalt and sandstone from the wadis of the eastern desert. Deposits of decorative stones such as porphyry, greywacke, alabaster, and carnelian dotted the eastern desert and were collected even before the First Dynasty. In the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods, miners worked deposits of emeralds in Wadi Sikait and amethyst in Wadi el-Hudi.
The ancient Egyptians engaged in trade with their foreign neighbors to obtain rare, exotic goods not found in Egypt. In the Predynastic Period, they established trade with Nubia to obtain gold and incense. They also established trade with Palestine, as evidenced by Palestinian-style oil jugs found in the burials of the First Dynasty pharaohs. An Egyptian colony stationed in southern Canaan dates to slightly before the First Dynasty. Narmer had Egyptian pottery produced in Canaan and exported back to Egypt.
By the Second Dynasty at latest, ancient Egyptian trade with Byblos yielded a critical source of quality timber not found in Egypt. By the Fifth Dynasty, trade with Punt provided gold, aromatic resins, ebony, ivory, and wild animals such as monkeys and baboons. Egypt relied on trade with Anatolia for essential quantities of tin as well as supplementary supplies of copper, both metals being necessary for the manufacture of bronze. The ancient Egyptians prized the blue stone lapis lazuli, which had to be imported from far-away Afghanistan. Egypt’s Mediterranean trade partners also included Greece and Crete, which provided, among other goods, supplies of olive oil. In exchange for its luxury imports and raw materials, Egypt mainly exported grain, gold, linen, and papyrus, in addition to other finished goods including glass and stone objects.
Artists and craftsmen were of higher status than farmers, but they were also under state control, working in the shops attached to the temples and paid directly from the state treasury.
Natural Resources in Ancient Egypt
The greatest natural resource in Ancient Egypt was the Nile River. The river provided fish, transportation, and an annual flood that fertilized the land for growing good crops. Egypt also had other items of natural resources in rocks and metals.
Different types of rocks and minerals were quarried in Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians mined large blocks of rock by drilling holes in a line in a rock’s surface. The holes were filled with wedges of wood. Wetting the wooden wedges caused them to expand, and after a period of time, the rock split along the line of the drilled holes.
The Egyptians mined from various areas in Egypt. White limestone came from quarries near Memphis, quartzite from Gebel el-Ahmar, and sandstone from Gebel es-Silsila. Alabaster was quarried out of the eastern desert. Granite quarries were found around Aswan.
Copper was the main metal used in Ancient Egypt . Copper comes naturally mixed with other minerals in an ore form. The ore had to be heated to remove the copper from the other elements. The Egyptians used a heating process called smelting to remove any impurities from the copper. To do this, they placed the ore with charcoal into a pit located in a windy area. They lit the charcoal and the wind stoked the fire to nearly the thousand degrees centigrade needed to separate the copper from the ore. In later times, the Egyptians used a bellow system to get the needed oxygen to stoke the fire to the necessary temperature.
Flint was another important stone for Ancient Egyptians. It was used in making sickles for harvesting crops and in making weapons. Steatite, another type of stone, was used in making scarabs. Scarabs were inexpensive charms which held a religious meaning to the early Egyptians.
Egypt lacked good trees for wood due to the dryness of the climate. Cedar wood had to be imported from Lebanon to meet the Egyptians’ needs.
Flax was another natural resource that Egypt developed. Flax grew well in the fertile Nile Valley. It was pulled out by the roots and then dried. Seeds were removed, and the core of the plant was placed in water for a week or more. Then they beat and separated it into parts that were spun into linen cloth.
Another naturally grown crop in Egypt was papyrus. It was made into writing material, a predecessor to paper. The papyrus plant grew in several feet of water. It was pulled out, and the stem was cut into strips. The strips were overlaid in vertical and horizontal layers and put under pressure by pounding it together. The sap of the plant acted like a glue after it dried, holding the strips together in a white loose-textured paper.