The technical organisation of the beer brewing workshops in Egypt.



These brewing workshops are a dynamic historical formula (meeting a variable social organisation), flexible (adaptable to local constraints), and innovative for the historical period under consideration.

There is indeed a technical leap between the brewing devices of Hierakonpolis (half burried jars for beer cooking and fermentation, sheltered in an open air facility) and the brewing workshops of the Old Kingdom, henceforth enclosed in technical structures, organised by workstation and producing larger volumes of different kinds of beer.

In the Egypt of the 3rd millennium, the widespread redistributive system of grains to make bread and beer had an major impact on the technical evolution of the brewery.

Another evolution stems from the introduction of brewery ratios: the central authority distributes grain, not finished beer. Each agricultural estate has to brew locally with the grains available. Each brewery must therefore be able to vary the quantities of grain or water for each brew depending on the quality of the beer expected. This conjunction of a social rule (each category has its own beer quality) and the technical device that carries it out (brewing workshop + beer ratios) brings the scribe inside the brewery.

It is indeed necessary to count and note on the spot how many grains will be used for such or such beer brew. Accounting and technical recording cannot be done remotely. This explains why the brewery representations of the Old Kingdom show, alongside the brewer-workers, another important figure: the scribe-bookkeeper handling his tablet or his writing plank and watching at the brewing work.

The case of an administrator who, in a private capacity, has a grave built. He says «  All the people who worked to build my tomb, they did it in exchange for bread, beer, cloth, oil, wheat in large quantities ».

Question: Where is this beer brewed in exchange for work? Does this administrator have the grains brought to a brewing workshop on the royal estate, or to some village or « "private » facility? Does the grain supplied for the beer brewing belong to this administrator or to the king?


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14/11/2020  Christian Berger