Friday, 2 March 2012

Magon's 28 Books of Agriculture

Magon was a Qart-Hadashtite writer who wrote 28 books on agriculture.  These books were a guide to farming, and they were vital as they allowed Qart-Hadasht to keep a steady food supply even in times of war.  These farming traditions probably were common among many Canaanite kingdoms.

Qart-Hadasht owned land in the fertile Magardah River Valley, where many villages were located for farming.  The whole area surrounding the city was covered in gardens watered by irrigation canals coming from the river.  There were green pastures for the shepherds and their grazing flocks. 

There were two agricultural 'rings' surrounding the city: an inner ring for fruit trees, olives, vegetables, grapes; and an outer ring for a vast irrigated wheat field.  Domestication of animals, particularly cattle and sheep, was important as a source of meat and for temple sacrifices.  There were many deities worshiped by farmers in the villages, the most common being Da'mat and Allani, though Dagon and Ashtar might also have been common.  Beekeeping was common as fig juice was the only other sweetener besides it, and it was used in art and household work.

These are some of the fragments of Magon's works that survive today, giving us an insight into ancient agriculture:

- "One who has bought land should sell his town house so that he will have no desire to worship the household gods of the city rather than those of the country; the man who takes greater delight in his city residence will have no need of a country estate."

- The most productive vineyards face north

- How to plant vines

- How to prune vines

- How to plant olives

- How to plant fruit trees

- How to harvest marsh plants

- Preparing various grains and pulses for grinding

- "Soak the wheat in plenty of water and then pound it with a pestle, dry it in the sun and put it back under the pestle.  The procedure for barley is the same.  For 20 parts of barley you need two parts of water."

- "They (bullocks/oxen) must be young, stocky, sturdy of limb with long horns, darkish and healthy, a wide and wrinkled forhead, hairy ears and black eyes and chops, the nostrils well-opened and turned back, the neck long and muscular, and dewlap full and descending to the knees, the chest well-developed, broad shoulders, the belly big like that of a cow in calf, the flanks long, the loins broad, the back straight and flat or a little depressed in the middle, the buttocks rounded, the legs thick and straight, the hooves large, the tail long and hairy and the hair on the body thick and short, red-brown in colour and very soft to the touch."

- Notes on the health of cattle

- Mules and mares foal in the twelfth month of conception

-  Notes on farmyard animals

- Getting bees from the carcass of a bullock or ox

- The beekeeper should not kill drones

- How to preserve pomegranates

- "Harvest well-ripened very early bunches of grapes; reject any mildewed or damaged grapes. Fix in the ground forked branches or stakes not over four feet apart, linking them with poles. Lay reeds across them and spread the grapes on these in the sun, covering them at night to keep dew off. When they have dried, pick the grapes, put them in a fermenting vat or jar and add the best possible must (grape juice) so that they are just covered. When the grapes have absorbed it all and have swelled in six days, put them in a basket, press them and collect the passum (raisin wine).  Next, tread the pressed grapes, adding very fresh must made from other grapes that have been sun-dried for three days. Mix all this and put the mixed mass through the press. Put this passum secundarium into sealed vessels immediately so that it will not become too austerum. After twenty or thirty days, when fermentation has ceased, rack into other vessels, seal the lids with plaster and cover them with skins."

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