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126  Mechanical and Technical Processes.   Materials
at Saqqara   in  large  mastalas with  elaborate  brick  super-
Although there is little mention of agriculture on the Palermo
Stone, the immense importance attached to it from the Old
Kingdom onwards leads us to suppose that the cultivation of
food was one of the chief concerns of the dynastic race,
while the predynastic race had only cultivated enough for
their needs, or so it appears. In the protodynastic period and
throughout the Old Kingdom there seems to have been a com-
paratively small ruling class, holding in subjection a relatively
enormous artisan and serf class. The effect of intensive cultiva-
tion in a fertile country like Egypt must have been to increase
the population very greatly. Where currency did not exist, nor a
system of export, a time would come when the population
would exceed the maximum that could be employed for the
growing of cereals, their transport, distribution, and storage,
the digging and maintenance of canals, the breeding of domestic
animals, in fact the needs of subsistence. Later still the
population would be in excess of the number that could be
employed to gratify every whim of the kings and ruling
classes, even after they had sent parties, with reckless disregard
for human life, to distant mines and quarries to obtain
precious materials. By the Third Dynasty matters seem to
have reached such a pass that the nobles, rather than have
about the country a huge population unemployable for any
useful purpose, had to put its vast numbers to work on large
monuments of benefit only to the souls of the kings and their
relatives; and it is a surprising fact that the relatively small
aristocracy could keep in subjection hundreds of thousands
of serfs for upwards of 500 years, until the end of the Sixth
Dynasty, when there appears to have been a revolt and the
Memphite dynasty fell.
After a few small stone buildings the Step Pyramid, with its
extraordinary dependencies and full-blown architecture, springs