What Did People Eat In Ancient Egypt – Evidence of some unique Egyptian foods still survives from the ancient world – records of diet and plans for the afterlife
Detail of the north side of the west wall of the Offering Chapel of Nakht, showing the picking of grapes for winemaking (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
What Did People Eat In Ancient Egypt
We may not know what was on the daily menu in a typical ancient Egyptian household, but there is no shortage of evidence of favorite foods.
Egypt Food, Egyptian Cuisine, Traditional Egyptian Food
Dr. Menat-Allah Al Dori, an archaeologist and archaeologist who specializes in the history of food, says that the dishes prepared for the afterlife of Egyptian rulers are well documented, and Egyptian There is a clue about what people ate in daily life.
“Things like how many meals they ate in a day weren’t important enough to document for all eternity, and it wasn’t going to help you have a good afterlife. What will help you have a good afterlife? Taking bread and beer,” says El Dory.
One of the main sources of what we know about ancient Egyptian cuisine is remains found in tombs, including many food items apparently left for afterlife servants to prepare and enjoy for the dead. have gone
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For example, the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy, displays two exquisitely undisturbed piles of 3,000-year-old fat found in Kha’s tomb at Karna, near Luxor.
In addition to food remains, and 3D sculptures of food staples, the walls of the tomb are filled with exquisite scenes of often mortals enjoying more appetizing meals in the afterlife.
The Pharaoh’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Enduring Food Traditions of Ancient Egypt was published in 2010 (AUC Press) and – while most of the recipes reflect more modern Egyptian cuisine – authors Amr Hussain and Magda Mehdavi point out that the tomb scenes are merely artistic. There are more than depictions.
In addition to food remains and 3D sculptures of food staples, the walls of the mausoleum are filled with spectacular views of the more appetizing meals that the dying would have enjoyed in the afterlife.
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“In the Old Kingdom, the deceased would be buried with a list of dishes in the hope that the carved foods would satisfy his hunger forever,” they write.
“The ancients also believed that the inscriptions contained a deep magic that would renew the supply of the deceased’s favorite foods endlessly and at will. Images of harvest, grape picking, hunting scenes and fish on tomb walls were believed to have similar powers.
Referring to the picture on the north side of the west wall of the Nachtz Offering Chapel, El Dory explains: “You have a fine example of an offering scene, and one of the most beautiful. It shows you the man who has this grave, his wife behind him, and his servants offering him various kinds of food for the afterlife.”
Bunch upon bunch of grapes and pomegranates all tied together; the so-called “snake cucumbers”; common fig; sycamore fig (gemmeiz) and the now-extinct Egyptian
Daily Life In Ancient Egypt
Fill the scene, as ducks, geese, eggs and fish dish out protein that the dead will enjoy forever.
In studying plant and food remains, El Dory’s research shows how people interacted with the world around them, their relationship with the environment, the technologies they employed, the economies they built, and the everyday life created by, which often bear a striking resemblance. Life today.
The Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy, displays the 3,000-year-old fat piles found in Kha’s tomb at Karna, near Luxor (Credit: Museo Aegisio Torino)
El Dory’s Instagram page – Eat Like a Misery, where she shares bite-sized insights into her research – is a testament to charming little continuities. His post for Coptic Easter, which is celebrated alongside the Sham al-Nessim national holiday, for example, describes the enduring popularity of spring onions.
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Come hell or high water, Egyptians have likely been punctuating their meals with giant bites of raw green onions for thousands of years.
Before listing some of her most beautiful, surprising, and unique Egyptian foods from the ancient world, El Dory offers an important disclaimer: What the ancient Egyptians ate—despite the wealth of sources—from the artistic representations on the walls to physical remains discovered in graves. Settlement – There are no complete recipes.
In 2019, El Dory, as part of the Ravi, undertook the monumental feat of recreating a tiger nut cake, a 3,000-year-old dessert, from a set of instructions found in the tomb of an 18th dynasty noble, Rekhmire. edition of the magazine on Egyptian culinary history, which he guest edited.
At first glance, the process depicted in the tomb seems quite robust: men pick the fruit, wipe it, mix it with water, and appear to fry it. Each scene is labeled with instructions in hieroglyphics, including “choosing good dates”, “pound it”, “mix it with water”, “fry it”.
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A scene in the tomb of Rekhmire in Thebes (modern Luxor) shows bakers stirring the mixture for tiger nut cakes, and shaping them into cones or flat triangles (The Metropolitan Museum of Art).
But because the scene doesn’t include measurements, an order, or a description for any of the steps, El Dory and his team had to rely on experimental archeology to recreate the recipe, the process resembling a never-ending jigsaw puzzle. describing in
“To figure things out, we try to recreate things as faithfully as possible, in different situations, and see how it works,” she explains. “
So, for example, we made them as cones and flat triangles, because the tomb view doesn’t tell you how to shape them. We experimented, and found that cones hold their shape much better than flats, which tend to break before we even try to fry them.”
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But why the secret? Why not record the recipe in detail? According to El Dory, there are two things to keep in mind about cooking in ancient Egypt: the point of writing down a recipe is to disseminate it, but in a mostly illiterate society like 18th Dynasty Egypt, word of mouth was the norm. Far more powerful tool.
And second, and important to remember: what was written on the walls was not for the living, it was for the dead.
“The point was to provide the deceased with everything they need for the afterlife,” she explains.
“You didn’t need to provide them with a recipe book; if you represented the steps symbolically, and left some ingredients in the grave, everything would magically be ready for them in the afterlife. .”
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Although methods and recipes varied across centuries and kingdoms, bread was always an important component. Records show about 40 different species, incl
Bread making and beer brewing scene on the north wall of the tomb chapel of Ramkai in Saqqara (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
On the chamber of the 4,400-year-old Ryamkai tomb at Saqqara (now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), a niche on the north wall depicts an out-of-order bread-making and beer-brewing. the view
Two women grind grain on hard millstones, while two others refine flour. One flips his plate to remove the remaining husk, while the other kneels to pounce. Two men knead the dough before placing it in the oven, in front of which a woman shields her face from the heat. A brewer passes bread through a sieve, while a seated man prepares jars for fermented beer.
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To the ancient Egyptians, beer was a food group, not a refreshment. Nothing like today’s brews, beer was a thick liquid food, containing lumps, herbs and calories.
“It was a very important source of nutrition,” explains El Dory. “It was available to everyone throughout the year, regardless of class. We also have evidence of laborers taking wages in bread, grain and beer. So it was an integral part of society. “
Beer, on the other hand, was so ubiquitous, and so uniquely Egyptian, that when the Greek historian Herodotus visited Egypt, he called it “wine made from grain,” because he had never encountered it before. Wine, on the other hand, was the drink of the elite.
Although it was served to the masses at festivals and special occasions, it mostly remained on the tables of the rich when kings and nobles distributed it widely.
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There is an appeal to looking at archaeological finds and seeing oneself in the past, such as with the iconic water jug (ola) that has remained largely unchanged, common fruits like figs and dum, or a spring onion. A permanent image of the herd.
El Dory nods at the continuity effect, but adds that we must remember that what we are seeing is not an accurate representation of everyday life. Although spring onions continue to appear in a variety of contexts—cultivation, daily food, offerings to the dead—it may be that, in addition to their culinary significance, their ubiquity is an artistic choice. “Spring onions are visually interesting, you can stack them easily – much easier than, say, a stack of lentils.”
Detail from the north side of the west wall of the Offering Chapel of Nakht shows food – including grapes, ‘snake cucumbers’, figs and the fruit Persiana – for feeding a deceased couple.
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