Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ancient Egyptian Beer Manufacture, The Tomb of Ty

I was watching Sam Calagione's foray into Celebrity Braumeister Stardom - "Brew Masters" and saw them exploring an Ancient Egyptian Tomb, the Tomb of Ty.

How about that an ancient egyptian brewer was called "Ty." I'm called "T." And we both make beer! Must be destiny. BTW, I used to drink Tea and Beer in Inner Mongolia, but that's another story.

So, I looked this guy up.

Turns out he had quite the wall of hieroglyphs.

Check it out... (source:

Brewing of beer : Registers 5 and 6 

An activity fundamental to the daily life, the manufacture of ancient Egyptian beer is however still not fully understood. No tomb includes a complete illustration of the - long - process, and the explanations proposed for it are from scenes coming from different places. Even a series of representations as outstanding as those found in Ty is no exception to the rule. 
"It is certain that ancient Egyptian beer was made using bread and a fragrant liquid; the mixture was brewed on a filter and the liquid collected was the one that was drunk under the name of beer (heneqet). P. Montet firstly assumed that this liquid was made from dates." (Vandier) 

Register 5 (Line drawing and photo : MO-R5

This is the first of the two registers dedicated to the manufacture of beer. The beginning of the scene is located on the right: a man stands withdrawing the contents from a very large jar, laying horizontally on several supports. It seems to contain something made with grain, probably cereals germinated under special conditions known as malting (see image opposite). Below, a kneeling man is in the process of (8) "spreading" this malted grain, which has the effect of stopping the germination. The scene is described thus: "kneading the uncooked bread". In front of him another person is occupied (6) "moulding the loaf" to form oblong lumps, which are transported on a tray. In front, is a man who, leaning forwards, stirs a mixture in a large container, which rests on a pedestal. The scene is described by the word (5) "dnt", which Montet has not included, but which according to Wörterbuch 5, 464-2 could mean "soaking", probably referring to the soaking in water of the previously moulded lumps of bread, and to mix it in the deep container to make a liquefied dough, later seen being poured from a jar. If this is the case, it seems difficult to see why the dough had to be moulded into the shape of bread. 
At the left end of the register, some moulds are heated, and the scene looks like the one of the manufacture of bread, but the vessels are not 'bedjas', as for the bakery: they represent beer vessels ("sSt" or setchet), these are wider and not as deep. It is a man who, this time, stirs the ashes, whilst protecting his face. The legend (1) specifies: "firing the beer vessel". In front of him another man takes a vessel, withdrawing it (presumably with hand protection), the legend above (2) states: "taking the bread-dough". Behind him, one of his companions pours the now fluid dough into one the moulds which has just left the oven. The legend (3) explains: "pouring the dough". The cooking could not be too intense, because of the risk of destroying the malt enzymes. The dough having been very fluid, the breads were more friable, which facilitated their subsequent crumbling. 

Register 6 (Line drawing and photo : MO-R6

The bread, having been manufactured, the actual brewing can begin. The loaves are crumbled and the fragments soaked in a large wicker container, with water and the rest of the uncooked bread, the mixture being stirred by two men. The basket sits on a large pot fitted with a flared spout in which the mixture flows when it is sufficiently fine. On the left, the mash is added from jar. The (4) "scribe of the warehouse", with his work instruments under his arm, stimulates the brewers with the words (5) "make it ready!" to the workers in front of him, and (3) "make it quickly!" to those behind him. This is to encourage them not to waste time because some of the ingredients were quite perishable. The first text (1) says: "straining" (or filtering the brew), the second (2) is "pouring the mash", ("sgnn" =mash).

A man seated on the right of the brewers adds a final touch to the jars which are going to receive the beer, whilst checking the coating inside one of them (see image opposite). The containers are then raised vertically (as seen to the right) in a support. In this next scene can be seen one of the brewers pouring the previous preparation in one them, using a vessel with a spout, text (7): "filling the jars". Immediately, another worker closes the container using a flat plug, which will be topped with a cone made of clay (both are black). The action is described (8) as: "closing the jars"
Above, to the left, a man sits in front of four closed jars; his is (6): "guaranteeing the authenticity" by labelling the jars, indicating the quality the beverage, place and date of manufacture.


How about that? Not a complete process by any means but interesting none the less. Well, that's all for now.

Until next time,

It's Your Shout, Mate!


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  2. Hey mate, not sure if you're still maintaining your website. You wouldn't happen to be an archaeologist by chance would you? Not many people know to call panels of hieroglyphics registers.