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An Egyptian Nile Clay Beer Jar, 18th Dynasty, ca.1550-1295 B.C.

the elegant form of fine, Nile silt clay, the piriform body with pointed base, it tapers to a softly rounded shoulder, the thin neck with everted rim.

It is no exaggeration to say that beer was of central importance to ancient Egyptian society. Beer was enjoyed by both adults and children, was the staple drink of poor Egyptians but was also essential to the diet of wealthy Egyptians. 

Background:  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.  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 "...'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.

According to legend, Osiris  taught ancient Egyptians the art of brewing beer, but the brewing of beer was traditionally but not exclusively a female activity through which women could earn a little extra money (or bartered goods) for themselves and their families. The main ingredient in the beer was bread made from a rich yeasty dough possibly including malt. The bread was lightly baked and crumbled into small pieces before being strained through a sieve with water. Flavour was added in the form of dates and the mixture was fermented in a large vat and then stored in large jars. However, there is also evidence that beer was brewed from barley and emmer which was heated and mixed with yeast and uncooked malt before being fermented to produce beer.

  Condition:  Small loss to rim and stable hairline crack to shoulder, traces of original blue and white pigment, intact and in very good condition overall.

Dimensions:   Height: 10.5 inches (26.67 cm), Diameter: 5 inches (12.7 cm)

Provenance: private Virginia collection, previously in the private collection of B. Ginther, PA acquired between 1979 - 1980.

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