National Geographic : 1941 Oct
An Ancient Egyptian Brewery THE Middle Kingdom has been characterized truly as Egypt's "feudal age", and, if under the XIIth Dynasty the country rose to new heights of greatness, it was because the kings of this dynasty were strong enough and wily enough to dominate the powerful nomarchs, to gain their loyalty, and to turn their vast resources to the uses of the crown and of the nation. Beer was the ancient Egyptian's favorite beverage, and on the estates of the great lords of the Middle Kingdom the brewery ranked next in importance to the granary and the bakery, on both of which it was dependent. The brewery of page 455 is taken from a wooden funerary model found at Thebes in the tomb of the Chancellor Meket Re, a wealthy official of the XIth Dynasty. In it we see the complete process of brewing the simplest and apparently the most common of the several types of beer consumed in ancient Egypt. Barley or wheat, brought in baskets from the granary, is first cracked in a stone mortar, then ground to coarse flour on the limestone mill (left). This arduous task was regularly reserved for a woman. The flour scooped out of the catch-basin of the mill passes to the man in the left background, who works it into dough on his kneading tray, adding to the new dough the yeasty residue from the last baking of bread. The loaves of dough are placed on the low stove next tothe kneading table and heated until they have fullyrisen. They are then crumbled up and thoroughly mixed with a large quantity of water inthe great jars inthe right back ground. In the mixing process aman steps into thejarand treads the mash with his feet. After several days' fermentation the thick, lumpy liquid is strained through a sieveinto the specially designed brew er's vat in the foreground. The spout ofthis vat issoplaced that it allows the beer to bepoured off, leaving the barm at the top of the vat and thedregs initsbottom. The beer is "bottled" in pottery jarsstoppered with hemispheres or cones of Nile mud. The resulting beverage,except for the absence of malt, resembled the modern Egyptian wheat beer, or "booza", a liquid with the consistencyofthin gruel, averaging around 7 per cent in alcoholic content. The hard, greenish white pottery, of which the ancient beer jars were made, is still the favorite material ofthe potters of the modern province ofIKeneh (Qena) inUpper Egypt. Here are producedfrom the same pale desert clay the present-day "zir," "gulleh," and "ballas"-water jars par excellence-, the last much photographed on the heads of the slender daughters ofmodern Egypt.