Ancient Egyptian Beer-Making: A Woman’s Job

 

The Ancient Egyptians (and most civilizations throughout history, frankly) are not known for being at the forefront of women’s rights. However, the art of brewing beer was almost exclusively a female activity. What’s the big deal, you may be wondering? Well, beer was the lifeblood of the civilization. It was a source of revelry, but also nutrition.

 

While the Sumerians had Ninkasi as the goddess of beer, the Egyptians had Tenenet to preside over beer-making. The earliest brewing would have been as simple as boiling down loaves of bread and letting them sit to ferment in large jars. The mixture was then strained and could be flavored with honey or herbs.

 

In just a few days, a clunky mess turned into drinkable beer which was consumed by the masses. It was drank before work to provide nutrients and energy, after work and at gatherings for relaxation and conversation, and sometimes used as money for bartering.

 

The drink would have been frothy and was drank with long straws out of bowls in order to avoid the grittiness that rose to the top. The Ancient Greeks marveled at the Egyptian women and their brewing abilities, though they were not a fan of the product themselves and preferred wine.

 

In an age when women had little rights, brewing was a way to learn income and achieve a level of power and influence. Without them, there would be no beer. Without beer, then what?

 

Greg Caggiano is an avid food/drink blogger and the founder of Eating New Jersey. He lectures at Brookdale Community College on various historical subjects including the history of liquor and the history of prohibition in New Jersey.

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