Agriculture in the Holy Land: Harvest

Barley and wheat are winter crops in Palestine. They are sown in November to January and grow in the moist winter soil. As the days get drier the grain ripens in early summer. Barley is harvested in late May to June. The wheat harvest follows in June to July.

In Palestine the sickle was the most common harvesting tool, either serrated or sharp. The harvesters bend low, holding the stalks in their left hand and cutting them with the sickle in their right hand. The stalks are usually cut quite high, so that straw of about 20–30 cm remains in the ground. The harvester collects several stalks in his left hand into a bundle. Gustaf Dalman observed that most harvesters collected about three cuts in their left hand before they lay down the bundle. Women followed the harvesters and gather these bundles into sheaves. As they have to bend down lower, it was often regarded as more tiresome work. The sheaves were carried to the side of the field where they were loaded onto a donkey and brought to the threshing floor.

Harvesting was hard work in the hot sun. Gustaf Dalman recounts that many harvesters did not wash during that time. The sweat and grime formed a good sun block. It can’t have been nice being round them.

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