A Taste of the Ancient World:
Farming at Karanis



Broken Iron Blade 
KM 86.7.1
Karanis, Egypt
This 'pruning hook' would have been used to cut grape clusters clinging to the vine, or to remove brush and reeds. The wooden handle is made from acacia (a native tree); the blade is fastened to it by iron rivets wrapped in a palm fiber. The rarity of iron and wood in the Fayoum region suggests that its owner valued it highly.


Olive Oil Production



 Olive pressing room
Archive Photo 5-4219

 Piles of olive residue in warehouse
Archive Photo 5-1576

As can be seen in the background of the archive photo illustrating the threshing process, olive trees thrive in the area of Karanis. Although olive oil is very perishable, its production leaves many traces. These two photos suggest that olive oil production was carried out on a large scale at Karanis. The residue from olive pressing could be used for animal feed or fuel. For many years, this olive residue was thought to be bread, until scientific analysis determined its true nature.


Olive processing residue
KM 4797
Karanis, Egypt





Archive Photo 5-3489

Pigeon Pot
KM 20666
Karanis, Egypt

Individual pigeon pots would have been placed within larger structures, or dovecotes, to serve as nests. It has been estimated that as many as 4000 pigeons might have been kept at one time in Karanis. This pigeon pot was essentially a house for domestic pigeons. Pigeons were bred primarily for food, but their droppings were also extremely valuable as fertilizer. Pigeons were also occasionally used in sacrificial rites.




Bronze Fishhook
KM 21409
1st c BC - 4th c AD
Karanis, Egypt
Karanis was only about five miles from Lake Qarun. This proximity would suggest that fishing was a common way to supplement the usual cereal-based diet. Few fishhooks, however, were found at Karanis. Perhaps others were removed when the site was abandoned, or their valuable metal melted down and reused for other purposes.


Go on to Storage and Cooking.

Exhibit Index

More Food for Thought

Exhibit Acknowledgements


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