Flowing north through its cliff-lined valley, the river was the country’s natural highway and chief source of water. Each year in July. the waters rose to cover the land deposited a layer of rich silt, ensuring the fertility of the coming year. when the inundation receded. crops were grown-emmer wheat, badly, beans, and other pulses–which needed no further watering. The harvest was gathered in the spring; by the early summer, the land was dry and parched, waiting for the next flood. low or high inundation could mean disaster, but usually the land produce more then enough to feed the population, and surpluses were stored for the future and for trade.
The deserts that bordered Egypt on both sides were also a source of wealth. As early as 4,000 B.C., gold and copper were mined in the Eastern Desert, as well as semiprecious stones, including carnelian and amethyst. A variety of good building stones were quarried, such as alabaster, granite, schist, diorite, and basalt, as well as the ubiquitous limestone, Egyptian craftsmen were soon producing many different artifacts, both for the home market and for export.
In return, imports included timb
r from ebanon, Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan, and even a few Sumerian artefacts, Settlements grew up along the Nile, and on the desert fringes. Towns and villages were soon grouped into districts, called nomes, governed by a nomarch, an office which, by the end of the Old Kingdom, had become hereditary. The nomarch was responsible for his district, collecting the taxes for the government, administering justice, and supervising work on canals, dykes, and property boundaries.
The basic unit of Egyptian society was the family, based on marriage.