Bread and Beer in Ancient Egypt

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Drinking beer in ancient Egypt

Bread and beer were the staples of the Ancient Egyptian diet. This article discusses the importance of bread in the Ancient Egyptian life.

Bread in Ancient Egypt came in a variety of shapes and sizes and texture. Emmer wheat was the main ingredient used though other ingredients like fruit or spices were sometimes used to add flavour. Archaeologists know about the Ancient Egyptian bread baking methods through wall paintings and various bread making implements found at several Ancient Egyptian sites.

The Importance of Bread in Ancient Egypt

Bread was one of the staple foods in Ancient Egypt, for the rich and the poor alike.

It was also a popular food of the Egyptian Gods and was frequently given as an offering in ritual worship. Bread was so important that it was the symbol for life. The preparation of the bread was an important part of the daily routine in Ancient Egyptian life, in the home and in the religious complexes. The Egyptian economy was even based around it. The value of an object was based on how many grains or loaves of bread it was worth. It was also used for payment for labour.

Bread Used in the Making of Beer

Bread also was used in the process of making the other staple in the diet of the Ancient Egyptians. Beer was drunk by both the young and the old and its intoxicating properties were highly valued for various religious festivals. Beer was made from crusty bread laden with yeast. After the bread was torn into tiny pieces it was strained through a sieve with water into large vats. The Ancient Egyptians then sometimes added dates for flavour and then left the beer to ferment.

Preparation of Bread by the Ancient Egyptians

How Ancient Egyptians prepared the bread depended on social status. Some people may have only been able to get bread and the ingredients for bread through labour while others would have been able to buy readily made loaves or afford slaves to make the bread for them. The job of baking bread was women’s work and was a long and difficult process. To make the bread the wheat was dampened and then dehusked by being ground up with a mortar and pestle. Chaff was then taken from the grain and made into flour by milling it through a quern. The flour was then mixed with water and the dough formed into the shape desired. It was then baked in an oven either at the back of the house or placed on the roof.

References:

  1. Robins.G, 1993, Women in Ancient Egypt, Harvard University Press
  2. Bread Making and Social Interactions at the Amarna Workmen’s Village, Egypt
  3. Delwen Samuel, World Archaeology, Vol. 31, No. 1, Food Technology in Its Social Context: Production, Processing and… more
  4. Investigation of Ancient Egyptian Baking and Brewing Methods by Correlative Microscopy Delwen Samuel,Science, New Series, Vol. 273, No. 5274 (Jul. 26, 1996), pp. 488-490
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