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Food & Drink

Ancient Egyptian Year

Egyptians ate and drank well the majority of the time. Nature provided the Nile and its successful Flood to ensure this. The State was involved in the allocation of ingredients for food to all state workers and would aim to have surplus in case of need.

The Temples owned agricultural lands which had usually been donated to the Gods via offerings to the Temple. As such they employed farmers and stored their own grains for the use of their workforce and to issue in time of famine.

Their staple food and drink were Bread and Beer and were popular forms of payment. Famine happened but was rare because of the way the State organised its agriculture.



Ancient Egypt had 2 main types of Farmer

  • Private: who utilised their crops according to their own needs after paying the State tax in grain. For private farmers, any excess of grain they harvested could be deposited into a State-owned Grain Bank
  • State supported: farmers who worked on land owned by a Noble or the Temple. They would be allowed to keep crops for their own personal use while the rest was given to the landowner

The Grain Banks

1.) Deposit grain into the State-owned grain warehouses

2.) When you wanted to purchase an item, you removed the relevant Deben’s worth of your deposited grain after paying an administration fee to the State for the removal. Of course, this administration fee was paid in grain as well

3.) Buy the item you wished to purchase in exchange for the grain you had removed

 The Grain Banks used the Grain paid administration Fee to pay the State workers, such as the builders of the monuments or quarry workers. Their pay was made in food and drink. This allowed the State to ensure that no one went hungry in Egypt during a successful Flood year

Grain Payment System

Achieved with each shop or trader being issued with a standardised set of metal weights. Each product that Trader sold would have a specific Grain value which would be paid by the purchaser in grain, measured by the metal weights. For example, 1 Deben = 25 litres of Wheat = 1 pair of Sandals

This same system was used by the Administration to collect Taxes in all areas over Egypt

Informal Exchanges

Home-grown or home-made produce exchange was a common occurrence and could allow savvy Egyptians to add supplement to their daily intake. For example, exchanging excess homemade beer for an excess of fresh caught fish


The ingenuity of the farmer’s diverting of the Nile waters into their intricate irrigation canals made the very best use of the natural event of the Nile Flood. Religion insured that no one farmer would interfere with another’s water supply due to the penalty that the Gods would put on the cheater.

The responsibility of officials covered the following

  • to ensure that water was not wasted
  • the canals were kept in good working order
  • the building of state-sponsored canals
  • the maintenance of both public and private canals
  • fines were issued for improperly built or poorly maintained canals which wasted water
  • fines were issued for people who diverted water from others

The Food

Bread, garlic, green vegetables, geese, lentils, pigeons, ducks, beef, figs, dates, onions, fish, birds, eggs, cheese, cream and butter. Breads were sweetened with dates, honey, figs and dates


The Drink

Barley Beer was the most common drink as often the Nile River offered fresh but tainted water. This was thick, with a low alcohol percentage and was very nutritional. Red and White Grapes were used to make Wine, adding spices and honey. Fruit juice was also common.

Other Crops

Opium for medicine and recreation; Papyrus for paper, sandals, rope, material for dolls, boxes, baskets, mats, window shades, as a food source and some small boats; Castor oil plant for lamp oil and tonic; Flax for rope, clothing and footwear


The Banquets

Flower necklaces were handed out. Professional dancers were accompanied by musicians playing harps, lutes, drums, tambourines and clappers. Alcohol and large amounts of foods were consumed. The Goddess Hathor was invoked.


Excess goods were traded with Mesopotamia, the Levant, Nubia and Punt from the taxes earned by the Royal Granaries.


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