National Geographic : 1926 Mar
THE LAND OF EGYPT of soil tillage is done by hand. Something like a double fixed labor charge rests upon the land through the necessity for irriga tion. A MASSIVE MONUMENT TO VEGE TARIANISM The Egyptian peasant lives very much after the manner of the old-fashioned Southern Negro of our cotton plantations. Two staple foods among the latter are corn and sweet potatoes. This is pre cisely true in the case of the Egyptian peasant, who can grow his corn the year around. The Egyptian sweet potato is a gross, insipid thing and, in the language of the tobacco trade, is good for filler rather than flavor. The modern Egyptian farmer displays a tireless capacity for muscular effort, but he hardly knows the taste of meat. He stands, in the matter of diet and agricul tural technique, just about where his an cestors were in the days of the Pharaohs. King Cheops is said to have expended 1,600 talents of silver (about $1,700,000) on radishes, onions, and garlic roots for the 100,000 men who labored for three months every summer for 30 years con structing the Great Pyramid, which, like other similar Egyptian stone piles, is veri tably the work of men's hands. This product of human brawn and mus cle, reared some 58 centuries ago, required about 2,300,000 separate blocks of stone averaging around 2/2 tons each in weight. The stones, therefore, in the Great Pyra mid would load 115,000 American steel gondola cars of Ioo,ooo pounds' capacity. In other words, the train make-up of the material in the Great Pyramid would re quire a solid freight train extending from Philadelphia to Chicago (see page 270). These heavy stones were quarried, transported across the Nile Valley, heaved up into place on the edge of the plateau marking the beginning of the Libyan Desert, and laid so true in the structure that the blade of a knife does not find its way into the crevices between the blocks. If this astonishing product of muscular effort was achieved by men whose diet was nothing more than radishes, onions, and garlic, the Great Pyramid is not only the most stupendous monument ever reared by man, but it is at once the most impressive tribute to the merits of vege tarianism that the world has ever seen. The meat-eaters, however, counter this argument by remarking that if the mod ern Egyptian wants to get anything done in the way of massive construction, such as the Aswan dam or the Nile Barrage, he must of necessity call on the meat eaters of western Europe to come down and perform this service for him. AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENTS HAVE NOT IMPROVED IN 4,600 YEARS The Egyptian farmer is a conservative of the conservatives, both in the matter of his foods and in the methods he em ploys for cultivating the soil. Egypt, de spite 6,ooo years of civilization, has not risen from the primitive agricultural stage of society. The age of industrialism is yet to be. Agricultural progress lags un believably. At Sakkara may be seen the excavated home of the wealthy farmer Ti, who flourished some 2,700 years before Christ. The home of Ti is embellished with mural decorations depicting his agricultural ac tivities. One of these pictures represents Ti bossing the threshing of his grain. The job was done on a threshing floor precisely the way the operation is carried out to-day. Another scene depicts the plowing of Ti's estates with bullock-drawn wooden implements. Here one marks a change in agricultural methods. Ti's plow has two handles; the operator, walking behind the implement, guides it true, much as a mod ern American steel plow is held to its course by the man who follows it in the furrow. The modern Egyptian plow is also of wood and is likewise drawn by bullocks or camels, but the implement is usually guided by a single wooden upright rather than by two handles, and the opera tor walks by the side of the plow rather than behind it. It is obvious that in the 46 centuries that have elapsed since the days of Ti the primary agricultural operation of plow ing has not only made no progress, but has actually suffered retrogression. If Ti could be restored to his estates to-dav, after the lapse of 4,600oo years, no one in Egypt could reproach him with being an old fogy; indeed, his two-handled plow 289.