Icestech.info – Since the ancient times, the Egyptians depended on the Nile’s flood and its regular return for their sustenance. But the flood was unpredictable. Therefore, the ancient Egyptians during Pharaonic Period, began to measure the Nile’s water level in order to better predict the harvest.
This tradition can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago.
The simplest design was a vertical column submerged in the river with marked intervals indicating the depth of the river. Another design was a flight of stairs leading into the river.
Nilometer on Elephantine Island, Egypt
The nilometer data was then used by the ancient Egyptian priesthood who ‘mysteriously’ predicted when the flood would occur.
One such unique and historical structure is located on Rhoda Island, in central Cairo. It was constructed in 861AD, on a site, which is thee xact location of much older structure of this kind.
These water measurement structures continued to be useful up until the modern era when the Nile’s natural flows were disrupted by large water storage reservoirs.
Another historically important nilometer is located on the island of Elephantine in Aswan.
Measuring shaft of the Nilometer on Rhoda Island, Cairo. Photo: Wikipedia
This is probably one of the most interesting structures on the island and one of the earliest known nilometers that was used by the ancient. 90 steps lead steeply down to the river from the entrance, with depth markings along the walls. Elephantine marked Egypt’s southern border and was therefore the first place where the onset of the annual flood was detected.
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The most elaborate design involved a channel or culvert that led from the riverbank, often running for a considerable distance, and then fed a well, tank, or cistern.
These nilometer wells were most frequently located within the confines of temples, where only the priests and rulers were allowed access.
Egypt’s ancient nilometers have served people very long time and continued to be used by later civilizations until the 20th century.
Today they are considered rather obsolete. The Aswan dam has the primary goal to regulate the flow of the River Nile, which serves as a lifeline to almost the whole of Egypt.
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