Wall scenes from tombs in ancient Egypt show the four stages of the harvest once the crops had ripened in the fields. The first of these was the reaping of the crop, cut with sickles and put in large nets and then carried between two poles to the threshing floor. Cattle were then allowed to trample the stalks, to help separate the ears from the straw. The workers then picked up the grains in scoops, threw them into the air, and the husks would be blown away by the wind generated by the winnowing fans.The final stage was to record the amount of grain yielded by the harvest. This was done by government officials, to check that the rent and tax, assessed while the crop was standing in the field, was correct before it was taken away. These officials had the power to administer a beating to any farmer who could not or would not pay what he owed. The grain was then taken for storage in granaries. Most of the grain was to be used in the production of bread and beer, the staple diet of the ancient Egyptians.


  • Title: Winnowing fan
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 48.30cm; Width: 15.30cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: 1887,0402.86
  • Place: Found/Acquired Thebes
  • Period/culture: New Kingdom
  • Material: wood
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Smith, Charles Holled

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