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Nilometer Discovered in Ancient Egyptian City

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

MANOA, HAWAII—Workmen building a water pumping station in the ancient Egyptian city of Thmuis uncovered a nilometer that was probably constructed in the third century B.C., during the reign of the Ptolemies. A nilometer was a device used by the ancient Egyptians to calculate the water level of the Nile River during its annual flood, and therefore predict the success of the harvest and compute the tax rate for the year. Rising water from the river may have flowed through a channel, or from the rising water table, into the nilometer’s circular well, which was accessed by a staircase. One of the large limestone blocks in the nilometer bears a list of Greek names followed by numbers, which suggests that these people may have contributed funds to build it. “We suspect it was originally located within a temple complex. They would’ve thought of the Nile River as a god, and the nilometer was this point of interface between the spiritual and the pragmatic,” archaeologist Jay Silverstein of the University of Hawaii said in a National Geographic report. To read about another recent discovery on the banks of the Nile, go to "Cult of Amun."

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