King of Beers or Beer of Kings? The Archaeology of Egypt's First Royal Brewery at Abydos

Matthew Douglas Adams

King of Beers or Beer of Kings? The Archaeology of Egypt's First Royal Brewery at Abydos

Beer is widely known to have been one of the most basic necessities of daily life in ancient Egypt. From pharaonic times, ample evidence survives that it was made by individual households, nobles’ estates, and large state institutions. In addition to its material value as a means of subsistence and in economic transactions, beer also held a fundamental position in Egyptian ritual practice.

The (re)discovery of an enormous, industrial-scale brewery at Abydos from around 3000 BCE provides fundamental new insights on both the socio-economic and cultural aspects of beer in ancient Egypt. The technology of beer production is similar to that seen at other early sites, but the scale of production at Abydos is completely unparalleled for its time. In this presentation, we will explore the nature of beer making in early Egypt and the question of why this industrial scale emerged when it did at the Abydos brewery — the ABInBev of the ancient world.