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t hekeep.org http://www.thekeep.org/~kunoichi/kunoichi/themestream/egypt_alcohol.html
Ancient Egyptian Alcohol: Beer, Wine...
A f ew years ago, two unlikely partners got together, the Scottish and Newcastle
Breweries and the Egyptian Exploration So...
and 'butler'. The importance of beer in ancient Egypt can not be overlooked.
9 February 1996, the Herald-Sun reported that...
Wine, known as yrp (irep) to the Egyptians, was very expensive. It was drunk by hose who could afford it,
used as of f eri...
Egypt had vineyards all over the country, though most of them were in the Nile
delta. Grapes were hand picked, then placed...
Come, oh Golden One, who eats of praise,
because the f ood of her desire is dancing,
who shines on the f estival at the ti...
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Ancient Egyptian Alcohol: Beer, Wine and the Festival of Drunkenness

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Alcohol was prevalent in ancient Egypt, especially in the form of beer. Beer was made from barley, honey, herbs and spices, and was drunk in preference to water. This was likely due to the bacteria in the Nile water, which required boiling to purify it; part of the brewing process involved boiling, along side the fermentation process, served to kill off such bacteria and provide a safe beverage for daily consumption. Wine was the drink of the wealthy, as it was an exotic commodity in ancient times. Alcohol was part of ancient Egyptian culture from the earliest times: fragments of numerous ceramic beer and wine jars were found at subsidiary burials, all labelled with the name of King Aha I of the First Dynasty. According to John F. Nunn (2002) in Ancient Egyptian Medicine, beer and wine were both used as carriers for medicines. Drunkenness was not generally considered to be virtue, yet Carolyn Graves-Brown (2010) in her book Dancing for Hathor notes that "...'holy intoxication' was encouraged, possibly as a link to the world of the gods, an alternative state of being". As such, the 'Festival of Drunkenness' (tekhi) was celebrated during the first month of the ancient Egyptian year, in honour of the goddess Sekhmet. Alcohol was therefore not only a daily necessity of life in ancient Egypt, but was also a link to the gods.

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Ancient Egyptian Alcohol: Beer, Wine and the Festival of Drunkenness

  1. 1. t hekeep.org http://www.thekeep.org/~kunoichi/kunoichi/themestream/egypt_alcohol.html Ancient Egyptian Alcohol: Beer, Wine and the Festival of Drunkenness by Caroline Seawright March 12, 2001 Updated: January 2, 2013 Alcohol was prevalent in ancient Egypt, especially in the f orm of beer. Beer was made f rom barley, honey, herbs and spices, and was drunk in pref erence to water. This was likely due to the bacteria in the Nile water, which required boiling to purif y it; part of the brewing process involved boiling, along side the f ermentation process, served to kill of f such bacteria and provide a saf e beverage f or daily consumption. Wine was the drink of the wealthy, as it was an exotic commodity in ancient times.Alcohol was part of ancient Egyptian culture f rom the earliest times: f ragments of numerous ceramic beer and wine jars were f ound at subsidiary burials, all labelled with the name of King Aha I of the First Dynasty.According to John F. Nunn (2002) in Ancient Egyptian Medicine, beer and wine were both used as carriers f or medicines. Drunkenness was not generally considered to be virtue, yet Carolyn Graves-Brown (2010) in her book Dancing for Hathor notes that "...'holy intoxication' was encouraged, possibly as a link to the world of the gods, an alternative state of being".As such, the 'Festival of Drunkenness' (tekhi) was celebrated during the f irst month of the ancient Egyptian year, in honour of the goddess Sekhmet.Alcohol was theref ore not only a daily necessity of lif e in ancient Egypt, but was also a link to the gods. Beer I gave thee to thy mother who carried thee ... When thou wast sent to school to be taught, day by day unf ailingly she came to thy teacher, bringing bread and beer f or thee f rom her house. -- Wallis Budge, E.A. 2003, The Book of the Dead: The Hieroglyphic Transcript of the Papyrus of Ani, p. 104 Beer, called hqt (heqet) by the ancients and zythus or curmi by the Greeks, was a very important Egyptian drink. It was a drink f or adults and children alike. It was the staple drink of the poor (wages were sometimes paid in beer), it was a drink of the rich and wealthy, and a drink of f ered to the gods and placed in the tombs of the dead. Beer in the morning, beer in the af ternoon and beer at night. A little wine thrown in f or good measure. And af ter a hard day of cutting stones f or the pharaoh, time and energy lef t f or a bit of hanky-panky. -- Melbourne Herald-Sun, Out on the Tiles with Pyramid Workers, 7th June 1993 Workmen at the pyramids of the Giza Plateau were given beer, thrice daily - f ive kinds of beer and f our kinds of wine were f ound by archaeologists "poking through dumps, examining skeletons, probing texts and studying remains of beer jars, and wine vats" at Giza. Image © Bridgemanart
  2. 2. A f ew years ago, two unlikely partners got together, the Scottish and Newcastle Breweries and the Egyptian Exploration Society, to try to recreate the process that ancient Egyptians used to make beer. It's commonly known that the Egyptians, all the way back to the time of Moses, drank beer. But no one was quite sure what it looked like or how it was made. That was, until Egyptologists started f inding beer recipes amongst the hieroglyphics. The brewers worked at it, and though it's not the beer we're used to, they managed to create a concoction that the ancient pharaohs would probably recognize. -- Kerr, D.S., Antique Recipe Comes to Life, 2nd January 2008 Beer was depicted on the walls of the tombs, as were scenes of the ancient Egyptian brewery. It was probably very similar to the way beer is still produced in Sudan today. Traditionally, beer was regarded as a f emale activity as it was an of f -shoot of bread making - the basis of the beer were loaves of specially made bread. Most likely, the beer was not very intoxicating, nutritious, sweet, without bubbles, and thick (the beer had to be strained with wooden syphons, used as a straw, because it was f illed with impurities). Though the later Greek accounts suggest that the beer, instead, was as intoxicating as the strongest wine, and it is clear that the worshipers of Bast, Sekhmet and Hathor got drunk on beer as part of their worship of these goddesses, because of their aspect of the Eye of Ra. Tekhi (Tekhit) ( , ) was another ancient Egyptian goddess of beer, whose name can mean 'massacre, slaughter' and 'to drink' or 'to become drunk', and was thus linked to the stories of Sekhmet, Hathor and Tef nut and the inundation of the Nile. She was linked to the god Thoth as she was the goddess of the month of Thoth, as her name could also mean 'ibis'. She was depicted as a woman wearing twin tall f eathers, like the headdress of the god Amen. Based on drawings f ound in ancient Egyptian tomb scenes, it is believed that Egyptian "beer loaves" were made f rom a richly yeasted dough. It is uncertain whether or not malt was used. This dough was lightly baked and the resulting bread was crumbled and strained through a sieve with water. ... Ingredients like dates or extra yeast might have been added. The dissolved mixture was f ermented in large vats and then the liquid was decanted into jars which were sealed f or storage or transport. However, Delwen Samuel of Cambridge University surmised f rom hieroglyphs and analysis of residues f ound in ancient drinking jars that the Egyptians seem to have used barley to make malt and a type of wheat called emmer rather than hops. -- NagmaSite 2011, Ancient Egyptian Beer There is a lot missing, but an important question is what did the beer taste like? Thanks to the work done by the Egyptian Exploration Society and the Scottish and Newcastle Breweries, the ancient beer was probably "strongly inf luenced by the addition of f ruit or spices as f lavouring." The word 'bnr' causes some problem - it is usually translated as 'date', but it may have ref erred to a different (or to any other) sweet-tasting f ood the Egyptians used in their beer.Although the dregs f rom ancient beer jars do show what ingredients were used, f urther work is needed bef ore the exact f lavour of the dif f erent beers can be established. In hieroglyphs, the determinative of the beer jug ( ) were used in words associated with beer - short f or 'beer', 'tribute', 'to be drunk', 'f ood and drink' Image © Richard Karl Lepsius
  3. 3. and 'butler'. The importance of beer in ancient Egypt can not be overlooked. 9 February 1996, the Herald-Sun reported that 'Tutankhamon Ale' will be based on sediment f rom jars f ound in a brewery housed in the Sun Temple of Nef ertiti, and the team involved has gathered enough of the correct raw materials to produce "just 1000 bottles of the ale". "We are about to unveil a great Tutankhamen secret," said Jim Merrington, commercial director at Newcastle Breweries, "The liquid gold of the pharaohs. It's a really amazing inheritance they have lef t us, the origins of beer itself ." -- Pharaoh's Beer a Shout from the Grave, Melbourne Herald-Sun, 9th February 1996 The beer was reported to have an alcoholic content of between 5 and 6 percent and was to be produced in April, 1996. They were sold at Harrods f or £50 per bottle, the proceeds going towards f urther research into Egyptian beer making. Want to try brewing your own Ancient Egyptian inspired beer? Have a look at The Egyptian Beer Experiment f or some recipes! The Japan Times article - Kirin to Replicate Ancient Egyptian Brew - talks about Kirin Brewry Co's project to create ancient Egyptian-style beer. It has no f roth, is the colour of dark tea and carries an alcohol content of 10% - about double most contemporary beers. Sakuji Yoshimura, an Egyptologist at Waseda University in Tokyo, helped transcribe the recipe f rom Egyptian wall paintings. Kirin spokesman Takaomi Ishii said: "It has a taste very dif f erent f rom today's beer. It tastes a little like white wine." -- BBC News, Brewers Concoct Ancient Egyptian Ale , 3rd August 2002 Although the word f or beer was written with the hieroglyphs - hqt with the determinative f or a beer jar - another way of writing the word is hnqt due to 'def ective writing' by the ancient Egyptians, mentioned in Die Defektivschreibungen in den Pyramidentexten, Lingua Aegyptia 2 by Jochem Kahl: Image © Guardian's Egypt Af ter def ining what is understood here as a def ective writing and how to recognize them, the author lists the evidence in the P.T. f or unwritten consonants, either in initial, middle of f inal position... the def ectively written consonant must belong to the group of i, w, a, m, n, r, and then only in certain word f orms... Two f actors of importance f or def ective writing are calligraphy, such as with hnqt, "beer" and lack of room.At the end the author remarks that the hieroglyphic writings are strongly inf luenced by the pronunciation. -- Hovestreydt, W. 1992, Annual Egyptological Bibliography Wine Giving praise to Osiris, kissing the earth to the ruler of eternity f orever. May he give water, a cool breeze, and wine to the spirit of the doorkeeper of the inundation Thutmose, deceased, his sister (i.e., wif e) the housemistress Rai, (and) [his] mother the housemistress Taka... -- Allen, T.G. 1936, Egyptian stelae in Field Museum of Natural History - Volume 24, pp. 29-30
  4. 4. Wine, known as yrp (irep) to the Egyptians, was very expensive. It was drunk by hose who could afford it, used as of f erings to the gods and to the dead. The resurrected pharaoh was known as one "one of the f our gods ... who live on f igs and who drink wine". Günter Dreyer of the University of Chicago notes that wine, beer and f ood were important resources for the afterlife during Predynastic times. In a video interview Dreyer says that, "this started already in the Predynastic when in Tomb U-j we f ound imported wine jars containing about 4,500 litres of wine, dividing them up". Even in much later times, the Greek tourists report that wine was conf ines to the wealthy. Though wine, too, was occasionally given out as pay - the workmen at the pyramids at Giza had f our kinds of wine to drink, along with f ive kinds of beer. In Egypt, the word wine, f unnily enough, predates the word f or vine, so it seems that the Egyptians imported wine long bef ore they imported grapes to the Nile valley. The Egyptians has several dif f erent kinds of wine, some of which have been commended by ancient authors f or their excellent qualities. That of Mareotis was the most esteemed, and in the greatest quantity. Its superiority over other Egyptian wines may be readily accounted f or, when we consider the nature of the soil in that district ; being principally composed of gravel, which, lying beyond the reach of the alluvial deposit, was f ree f rom the rich and tenacious mud usually met with in the valley of the Nile, so-little suited f or grapes of delicate quality ; and f rom the extensive remains of vineyards still f ound on the western borders of the Arsinoite nome, or Fyoom, we may conclude that the ancient Egyptians were f ully aware of the advantages of land, situated beyond the limits of the inundation, f or planting the vine. -- Wilkinson, J.G. 1854, A Popular Account of the Ancient Egyptians - Volume 1 , p. 49 Image © Metropolitan Museum of Art Athenæus tells us that the Mareotic wine was "white, its quality excellent, and it is sweet and light with a f ragrant bouquet; it is by no means astringent, nor does it af f ect the head." Strabo wrote that the wine was also known f or its long shelf -lif e. Other wines of note to the Greeks were Teniotic, Thebiad, Sebennytic, Thasian, Manf esian, Ecbolada (f orbidden to newly married brides!) This was only a small sample of wines made throughout Egypt. It seems, though, that the f avourite wine f rom the Old Kingdom onwards was red wine. The white wine that the Greeks f avoured was only produced f rom the Middle Kingdom onwards. In ancient party scenes on the tomb walls, wine is seen of f ered to the guests. It seems that a lot of wine was consumed at the banquets, because there are a number of images depicting the guests throwing up or being carried home because of their drunken state - drunkenness was seen as an amusement to the ancient Egyptians! At celebrations of drunkenness to the Eye of Ra, wine was also drunk by those who could af f ord it. The temples associated with the goddesses had their own vineyards to make sure that the celebrants had enough wine f or the rituals. Wine was also an acceptable of f ering to the gods. The search f or the recipes and wine types of the Egyptians have yielded mixed results within the delta region of the Nile. Due to the climatic changes since the time of ancient Egypt, quests f or the right vine, the right mixture of materials, and other f actors, have lef t the modern renditions of ancient Egyptian wine with something to be desired ... It was not until 1931 that the f irst modern rendition of ancient Egyptian wine was produced. This rendition of the ancient wine continues to be made in the present day, however, many wine connoisseurs consider it of poor taste. Regardless, the taste of the ancients is still present 3,500 yearslater. -- Taylor, J., Egyptian Wine
  5. 5. Egypt had vineyards all over the country, though most of them were in the Nile delta. Grapes were hand picked, then placed in a vat f or traditional treading on the grapes, or in special wine presses. The resultant juice was captured in open jars, where the f ermentation process took place. When ready, these jugs were sealed and marked with the date, name of the vineyard and the person in charge of the wine.Aged in these earthenware jars, they had to be broken when it was time to decant the wine, and then poured into yet another earthen jar. When the wine was ready to be served, it was poured into shallow vessels with a short stem. Image © Menna El-Dorry In the Pyramid Texts the god Shesmu brings the king grape juice f or wine production.Although he was a god of wine and of the wine press, he was also a vengef ul god - in a papyrus f rom the 21st Dynasty, Shesmu his cruel side was shown by two hawk deities twisting the net of the wine press which contains three human heads instead of grapes. Hathor, also a goddess of wine (and beer), was also both a goddess of love and a goddess of destruction. Festival of Drunkenness Betsy M. Bryan (2005), in Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh, discusses the recent excavation of the porch of drunkeness at the temple of Mut, built by pharaoh Hatshepsut. She describes one key text as a ref erence to the Festival of Drunkenness, "[She made it as a monument f or her mother Mut] Mistress of Isheru, making f or her a columned porch of drunkeness anew, so that she might do [as] one who is given lif e [f orever]". Whilst popular during the early New Kingdom, this f estival can be traced back to the Middle Kingdom. The next mention of the Festival of Drunkenness on temple walls occurs during the Late Period, with the last being during Roman times. However, Cynthia Sheikholeslami (2011), at the ARCE 62nd Annual Meeting, has shown that the f east of drunkenness is better represented in tomb paintings during the New Kingdom into the Third Intermediate Period. Belief s to which these f estivals are linked are expressed in the story of the Destruction of Mankind, incorporated in the Book of the Heavenly Cow, a New Kingdom composition. The recent discovery of a 'porch of drunkenness' f rom a Hathor chapel of Hatshepsut by the Johns Hopkins University expedition to the Mut complex in Thebes attests to these f estivals as early as the 18th Dynasty.Although scenes of banquets in 18th dynasty Theban tombs have been connected to the Beautif ul Feast of the Valley, recent studies suggest that not all are, and that some banquets are celebrations of these Hathor f easts, particularly when accompanied by musicians and dancers. This paper will discuss other evidence that these rites f or Hathor are commemorated in 18th dynasty tomb paintings, including representation of of f erings and ritual vessels related to them against a backdrop of activities in the marshes. -- Sheikholeslami, C. 2011, Hathor's Festival of Drunkenness: Evidence from the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period Image © The Johns Hopkins University Celebrated during the first month of the Egyptian year, it was closely tied with religion. It was a celebration in honour of the Eye of Ra and myth of the slaughter of mankind, principally held to appease the goddess Sekhmet, but it was also an important celebration of those goddesses who also held the title, such as Hathor, Tefnut and Mut. A hymn to the Eye of Ra at the temple of Madu (Medamud) asks the goddess tocome and attend her festival:
  6. 6. Come, oh Golden One, who eats of praise, because the f ood of her desire is dancing, who shines on the f estival at the time of lighting (the lamps), who is content with the dancing at night. Come! The procession is in the place of inebriation, the hall of travelling through the marshes. Its perf ormance is set, its order is in ef f ect, without anything lacking in it. -- Darnell, J.C. 1995, Hathor Returns to Medamûd, pp. 49-50 Image © Yvonne Buskens The hymn goes on to describe what happens at the f estival itself : When the royal children pacif y you with what is desired, the of f icials consecrate of f erings to you. When the lector exaults you in intoning a hymn, the magician reads the rituals. When the organiser praises you with his water lily blooms, the percussionists take up the tamborine. The virgins rejoice f or you with garlands, the women with the wreath-crown. The drunken celebrants drum f or you during the cool of the night, with the result that those who awaken bless you. -- Darnell, J.C. 1995, Hathor Returns to Medamûd, pp. 54 This was not really a social drinking session, it was instead a holy event. Festival goers would drink enough alcohol that they became well and truly drunk, so much so that they would f all asleep in the temple f orecourt.As part of the ritual, the sleeping celebrants would be awoken by the sound of drums and music, so the drinkers could commune with and worship the goddess. Dancing and the lighting of torches were all part of the ritual celebration, all in the hopes that worshipers would receive an epiphany f rom the goddess. Interestingly, the ref erence to 'traveling through the marshes' is, according to Bryan, an ancient Egyptian euphemism f or having sex. This theory is supported by graf f iti depicting men and women in dif f erent sexual positions. Thus the 'hall of travelling through the marshes' was possibly a place where the worshipers would be involved in more intimate encounters during the Festival of Drunkenness. When linking this to the goddess Hathor, this aspect of the f estival is unsurprising, as she was also the goddess of love. Thus alcohol was not only central to the daily lives of the ancient Egyptians, but it was also one of the ways in which they could worship their gods, and maybe experience f or themselves what it meant, to them, to be divine. © Caroline 'Kunoichi' Seawright 2001 - present

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