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the ancient Egyptians were engaged in genetic engineering

Yuri Magarshak is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of New Concepts, New York.
Март 2023


history, ancient egypt, agriculture, climate, climate change, genetic engineering 

Ancient Egypt. Peasant couple on a papyrus blank. XIII-XI centuries BC. Deir el Medina. Photo from the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt

In the new reality that mankind, having believed in the omnipotence of technological progress, did not expect and did not prepare for it, it is appropriate and timely to take a closer look at how the great civilizations of the past lived and survived in extreme conditions. Among which, Ancient Egypt, which existed - with interruptions determined by climate change more than external enemies - for three thousand years, is the leader in survival.

Irrigation empire

The history of the relationship between mankind and the plague is rooted in the pre-civilization period. Bacteria extracted from the teeth and bones of ancient people who lived in the Bronze Age in Europe and the Mediterranean turned out to be a plague bacillus. DNA analysis showed that it was a plague bacterium of a currently non-existing strain. The first victims of epidemics of this deadly disease were the ancient Egyptians, as well as other peoples of the ancient world who lived in the 5th-4th millennium BC. in northern Africa and the Middle East.

During the era of the Old Kingdom (the one in which the Great Pyramids were built) there was a savannah in Egypt. Images of zebras, antelopes and other animals that thrive in a paradise climate, realistic and artistically flawless, adorn the walls of temples and tombs in a multitude. However, by the end of the Old Kingdom, which existed for 700 years - from the middle of the 28th century BC, the climate began to change. The catastrophic result for the Egyptians of this change was the transformation of the savanna, in which they enjoyed paradise weather, into a desert.

The Egyptians worshiped the pharaoh, who was revered as a god - the creator of order, who defeated chaos, the enemy of mankind. Note that the Egyptians considered the enemy of mankind not the devil and not Satan, but chaos. What, from a natural-scientific point of view, in the 21st century A.D. definitely makes sense. Therefore, even a bad pharaoh was considered better than the lack of power, which breeds chaos. For the Egyptians, the personification of chaos was the god Nun, who created all the other gods. And the ancient Egyptians feared chaos the most. However, with the transformation of the savannah into a desert, along with the famine that came with the desert, even the pharaoh, the god - the creator of order, could not do anything.

After on the scale of three thousand years of Egyptian history - a short transitional period that lasted about a century - a new flourishing began. The Middle Kingdom - the era of the history of Ancient Egypt between 2040 and 1783 (or 1640) BC, during which the reign of the XI-XII dynasties of pharaohs originating from Thebes - was based on the creation of a powerful irrigation system. She was able to feed about 2 million people in the desert surrounding the Nile. Efforts to create a system of channels were required no less than to create the pyramid of Cheops. But much longer and more persistent. The result is impressive: after 2 thousand years, Egypt, which turned into a province of Rome, became the breadbasket of the entire empire. Grain arrived from Egypt to the European continent.

At the same time, the channels that irrigated the desert were not just ditches dug in the sand. These were structures that through the centuries and even a thousand years later, in the time of Cleopatra, successfully functioned! That is, they were no less durable than the Roman aqueducts.

It is said that the floods of the Nile provided the fields with water. The presentation is absolutely ridiculous. Spills of water cannot irrigate, they can only flood. The system of canals with locks and mechanisms for raising water was supposed to provide fields both during the flood of the Nile and in years of drought. To determine the depth of the Nile in the season of its flood, the priests used a melometer discovered during excavations. A depth of 16 divisions was ideal, 14 divisions was normal, 12 divisions meant the onset of hunger. For each of the possible situations that determined the life of the people, the irrigation system was ready.

Between 3000-2500 B.C. there were several irrigation civilizations: the Sumerian in Mesopotamia, the Indian along the banks of the Indus and the Chinese on the banks of the Yellow River. However, irrigation as a system capable of feeding the entire population living in the desert originated precisely in the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. Thus, Egypt defeated the catastrophic climate change from savannah to desert. Which seemed impossible to win.

Egyptian breeders

Another 800 years passed. In the era of the XIX dynasty, a disaster came, commensurate with the crushing of the Old Kingdom, the transformation of the savannah into a desert: a drought that lasted about 150 years. Of all the states of the Middle East, only Egypt was ready for it. Moreover, the readiness for a drought that lasted five generations of people was amazing - even from the point of view of our time.

Professor Salima Ikram of American University Cairo, who and colleagues analyzed the bones of livestock from the time of Ramesses the Great, studied the diet of Egyptians of different periods on the carbon footprint of food preserved in mummies. Carbon isotopic analysis has shown that during the 150-year drought that began under Ramesses the Great, the Egyptians, led by priests and the pharaoh, fought climate change scientifically and effectively.

It turned out that ordinary people almost did not eat meat and fish, but were vegetarians. And it gave a huge advantage! To get meat, you need to spend many times more water and grass than to get the same mass of plant food. But the Egyptians went much further than following a vegetarian diet.

In 2013, scientists working in the Sea of ​​Galilee (which was part of Egypt during the time of Ramses the Great) discovered the remains of fossilized pollen. It turned out that the ancient Egyptians were engaged in genetic engineering! They grew drought-tolerant crops through selective breeding. Starting this work not with the onset of a century of drought, as the scientists who made this discovery suggest, but for many centuries after the transformation of the savannah into a desert, preparing for the next cataclysms!

However, the cultivation of cereals requires cattle, without which plowing is impossible. Many times fewer animals are needed for plowing than if meat is the main part of the diet. But nevertheless, the bulls that are plowed, and the cows, without which the bulls are not born, need to be watered. It turned out that the Egyptians crossed their cows with a wild zebu bull that lived in the desert, able to endure heat, making do with a minimum amount of liquid drunk. This is the first known example of genetic engineering in human history, scientists say. It, along with the irrigation system, allowed Egypt not only to survive in the catastrophic conditions of climate change, but also to spread its influence throughout the Middle East.

That Egypt exported cereals during the Great Drought era is proven by a clay tablet dating back to around 1250 BC, examined by Manchester museum researcher Campbell Price and Professor Alan Maka of Colgate University. The queen of the Hittites, the enemies of the Egyptians, soon after conquered by Ramesses, turns to the pharaoh with a prayer: "There is no more grain in my country, we are starving." Scientists believe that the reason for the successful conquests of Ramesses the Great was not only the talent of the commander, but also the far-sighted scientific and technological policy implemented by the priests for centuries.

Iron falls from the sky

It is hard to disagree with the statement, which changes the idea of ​​a civilization that existed for 3 thousand years in the most difficult conditions.

However, the Egyptians not only introduced technological innovations and conducted biological experiments, but peered closely into the world around them in order to achieve success not immediately, but in the future. It is customary to speak of the advent of the Age of Iron. But the age of iron, which came centuries after the Great Drought, did not come by itself.

The Egyptians thought about how to get iron and what iron products could be made during the Great Drought era and before it. In the tomb of Akhenaten, who ruled half a century before Ramses the Great, an iron dagger was found next to the sarcophagus. Meanwhile, at that time the Egyptians could not produce iron. When the composition was analyzed in the 21st century, it turned out that the dagger was made of meteoric iron. The answer to a seemingly insoluble riddle was found in one of the hieroglyphic texts, in which there was a phrase - "Iron from heaven."

However, Egyptologists have long doubted the correct translation of the word. The dagger from the tomb was examined using X-ray fluorescence photometry. The mixture, which is almost impossible to make even after four thousand years, turned out to be characteristic of meteoric iron. That is, the Egyptians studied meteorites that fell in the deserts located 1000 km from the Nile, and found that a weapon of extraordinary hardness for their time, and therefore striking power, could be made from meteorite substance!

Realizing the extraterrestrial nature of the dagger, Egyptologists began to look for other items of unearthly origin in the tomb of Tutankhamen. And found! The pharaoh's breast decoration in the form of a scarab is made of glass, the transparency of which was unattainable at that time. Using oxygen isotope analysis, it turned out that the composition of the glass also corresponded to a meteorite that fell in the same desert area, called the Great Sand Sea, as the meteorite that was the basis for the iron dagger.

The Egypt of Ramesses II defeated all enemies and captured the maximum territory in the entire three thousand-year history of the Nile civilization, not only thanks to the military genius of the pharaoh. First of all, the Egyptian civilization most harmoniously adapted to climate change. Crushed, or at least caused serious damage, all the other states of the drought-stricken Middle East region.

We have to admit with regret that the humanity of our time is incomparably worse adapted to resisting cataclysms than ancient civilizations. Ancient Egypt, having existed for three thousand years thanks to its stamina, flexibility and wisdom, was the first among equals. And this example should be a model for the people of the technological era, full (without any reason) of faith that technologies are able to cope with all problems, without requiring the slightest effort from the peoples and all of humanity.

Civilizations fall not only when they are conquered or when absolutely deadly cataclysms occur. They fall when they lose the will to keep themselves. This should not be forgotten. 


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