The Development Of Agricultural Techniques

Essential Question

What agricultural inventions led to a surplus food supply in early civilizations?

The Development Of Agricultural Techniques


Mesopotamia developed between two rivers in the middle of a dry and arid desert. Ancient Egypt also developed along the Nile River in the middle of a dry and arid desert. Farming was difficult in the desert. If seeds did not receive enough water they would not grow. In order to bring more water to their fields and farm more land, the Mesopotamian and Egyptian people built irrigation canals to bring water to crops systems. This made irrigation extremely important. Canals would carry water to farms and fields further away from the rivers. This allowed people to grow even more surplus food.

Irrigation in Mesopotamia

Irrigation in Egypt


Because both civilizations were located in dry arid deserts, the soil, often dried up, hardened, and cracked. Farming in dried up, hardened, and cracked was very difficult and made it difficult to plant new seeds. In order to keep the soil healthy, the plow was invented. A plow is a large farming implement with one or more blades that is used for breaking up the soil and cutting furrows in the soil to prepare for the planting of seeds.

Hand plows were exhausting to use and required multiple laborers to break up soil before planting. To solve this problem, the Egyptians invented the ox-drawn plow. The ox-draw plow was a plow that was pulled by an ox. The ox-draw plow worked much faster than humans and required less work. Once a field was plowed, workers used hand plows to break up the remaining clumps of soil. This invention allowed farmers to grow crops faster with fewer workers.


Since all these agricultural developments allowed for an increase in farming surplus food, in a good season, Egypt and Mesopotamia's fertile fields produced enough food to feed every person in their region. Extra food was kept in granaries owned by the government. The extra food stored in the granaries could be traded away among cities or to other countries or it could be saved and stored in granaries for times when there was less food, like a drought.

Fun Fact: In the granaries, Mesopotamians used pest control. Cats and mongooses protected the stored grain from mice.

Activity 1: Finding Examples of Agricultural Developments in "Joseph King of Dreams"

Watch the following clip from "Joseph King of Dreams" and explain all the examples of agricultural developments you see in the video.

Discussion Questions

  • What is irrigation and why is it an important agricultural development?

  • What is the plow and why is it an important agricultural development?

  • What is the ox-driven plow and why is it an important agricultural development?

  • What are granaries and why are they an important agricultural development?

  • Of all the agricultural developments in today's lesson, which do you think is the most important? Why?

Activity 2: What were the agricultural developments of Egypt and Mesopotamia?

Using the information from this lesson, answer the questions in a thinking map. Complete this assignment digitally or on paper. It will be collected in your portfolio.

Extension Activities

NEWSELA: Agriculture in Ancient Egypt

NEWSELA: Agriculture in the Fertile Crescent