Wooden sickle with flint blades

From Thebes, Egypt
18th Dynasty, around 1300 BC

Jaw-like harvester

Cereal crops were harvested by gangs of men using curved sickles like this one to cut the stalks of corn. The reapers were accompanied by gleaners, women and children who picked up any stalks dropped by the men. The goddess of the harvest was Renenutet, represented as a cobra or cobra-headed woman as snakes liked to hide in ripe corn. Other visitors to the fields were birds, and these were chased away by boys or trapped with snares or nets to prevent them eating the grain.

The wooden sickles were shaped like the jaw bones of cattle, with flints set where the jaw bone would have teeth. Real jaws may sometimes have been used. The silica in the strong stems of the crop often wore down the flints, leaving behind a deposit or gloss. This can be analysed to determine the type of crop that the sickle was used to harvest. Similar analysis techniques can be used to examine pottery and stone storage vessels for deposits of oils, resins and other substances. These might include the remains of ointments and perfumes or traces of beer and other foodstuffs.

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More information

Bibliography

M. Stead, Egyptian life (London, The British Museum Press, 1986)

Dimensions

Length: 28.000 cm

Museum number

EA 52861

YCA61046

Gift of Lord Carnarvon

Location

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