The ancients attributed the invention of geometry to the Egyptians. Dating from the Old Kingdom of 2780 - 2100 B.C., properties were measured in arouras, the standard Egyptian surveying unit of measurement, by the royal administration of the pharaoh, and then taxes were issued based on the measurements. The precise and habitual practice of measuring and recording properties illustrates the advanced state of the Egyptian civilization.
Importance of Land Surveys
In Egypt, a need for the exact measurement of property arose as a result of the fluctuations of the Nile river, which often encroached upon people’s land. Lands belonging to each town and individual were frequently surveyed by the pharaoh’s royal administration such that he could establish the areas of his estates. The universally used unit of land measurement in ancient Egypt, the aroura, is equivalent to .68 acres. Along with the dimensions of properties, the pharaoh’s scribes recorded the nature of the soil and any unique characteristics of the land. This information was then assessed to determine a land tax.
Rachel Alexander is a cultural and political area specialist of South Asia and the Middle East. She received the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship in 2011, and again in 2012, to live in northern India and study advanced Hindi. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from Loyola University of Chicago.