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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Breaking of the Nile

Although the dates vary from place to place, and year to year, August 7 is often dedicated to Hathor. This ancient Egyptian goddess who possesses the head of a cow, was known as the mother of the pharaohs. She was worshiped each year with a festival called the Breaking of the Nile, a time when the Nile river would flood. This flood cycle was so consistent that the Egyptians timed its onset using the heliacal rising of Sirius, the key astronomical event used to set their sidereal calendar.

Were it not for the Nile River, Egyptian civilization could not have developed, as it is the only significant source of water in this desert region. Its other importance was the fact that it was their gateway to the unknown world. The Nile flows from south to north, to its delta on the Mediterranean Sea. It would flood each year, bringing in silt-laden waters; when the waters receded the silt would stay behind, fertilizing the land, the silt would be helpful for growing crops. If a flood was too large it would wash over mud dykes protecting a village. A small flood or no flood at all would mean famine. A flood must be of just the right intensity for a good season.

NOTE: In 1970, with the completion of the High Dam at Aswan, the annual flooding cycle in Egypt came to an end. Today, farmers must use fertilizers to keep their land productive, as the deposits of silt no longer occur each year. Flooding still occurs above the dam in modern-day Sudan.

Source: Wikipedia

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