« PreviousContinue »
called the "shadouf." I have not been fortunate in securing photographs of shadoufs in operation, but one will be seen sharply outlined against the sky in one of the illustrations of the pyramids. The system, however, is very simple. The machine consists of a short and stubby well-sweep, one end of which is weighted with a great lump of dried mud, while the other end bears a long pole to which is affixed a leathern bucket. The operator draws the bucket down, fills it in the river, and allows the weight of the mud-balance to raise the water to a depression in the earth above, forming a little pool from which the next shadouf higher up the face of the bank may pass it on to still another and so on until it reaches the top. In the lower stages of the river, four or even five shadoufs may be necessary to complete the lifting.
These continue to be very common despite the invasion of steam pumps, which has dotted the landscape with incongruous chimneys here and there along the Nile. Their operation is laborious, but doubtless very cheap; and the ancient sculptures reveal little or no change in the process since the days of Abraham. The erection of the barrages has not operated to reduce their numbers, although it has enabled the more equal distribution of the water to be lifted.
It is true that a price must be paid in something besides money for the present increase in Egypt's prosperity. The erection of the dam at Assuan, for example, while it has already added to the productive territory of Egypt an area not far from the size of Rhode Island, has seriously impaired the store of priceless antiquities that form a most important asset of the country. It is now proposed to add fifteen feet more to the height of this barrage, which will probably mean the final destruction of the temples at Philæ, already sadly damaged and flooded, to say nothing of other classic soil which as yet has been imperfectly or not at all explored.
Against this, much as one may regret the fact, it is useless to inveigh. Able critics have roundly berated the commercial spirit which has laid such a violent hand on the choicest of all the Nile treasures, but it is all to no purpose. The modern world simply cannot be asked to halt for the world of the long ago. And while the further inundation of Upper Egypt doubtless shuts in our faces a door that was just giving a glimpse of much that was unknown of the remote past, the demands of living humanity must inevitably outweigh every such consideration. The task of reclaiming deserts seems to appeal with uncommon insistence to our present generation – far more so than the task of unraveling tangled threads
of ancient history, especially in any case where the latter labor would exclude or long delay the former.
Meantime the work of excavating in the regions soon to become untenable goes on with almost feverish vigor, as fast as funds can be secured to prosecute it. The need of haste tinctures every appeal for aid, and it is fitting that it should.
It remains to say a word of the Egyptian people themselves. I have already mentioned the two main divisions of the population into the Copts and Moslems-which simply means the Christian Egyptians and the followers of Mohammed. These are likely to be spoken of as two distinct races, whereas they are actually one. The Copts early embraced Christianity under the preaching of St. Mark at Alexandria and their present name is merely a corruption of the Greek word for Egyptian. Racially they are blood-brothers of the Mohammedan so far as the latter is Egyptian at all. One must bear in mind, however, that the Moslem population has been recruited by additions from the direction of Nubia and beyond, and at the present time contains a considerable admixture of what is loosely called “Arab,” or “Berber" stock. Berber, by the way, and more especially the plural, Berberin, may be recognized as another name derived from the Greek oi Bápßapoi — i.e., “Barbarians," or Uitlanders.