In today’s lecture, Ethan briefly mentioned the diet of ancient Egyptians consisted of three items: bread, beer, and onions. Bread and beer were the biggest staples in the Egyptian diet, as both the lower and higher class consumed each daily. The main grain grown in Egypt was emmer, also known as farro. Emmer was used to make both their bread and beer. Their beer was made from crumbling bread into vats and letting it naturally ferment in water. This process created a clouded and thick beer that was actually nutritious, and like Ethan mentioned, full of protein.
Looking further into their diet, I came across an article from Inside Science that explained how scientists used carbon dating to determine what food was consumed by ancient Egyptians. Scientists looked at isotopes in the hair, bones, and enamel of 45 mummies . They then compared the isotopes found to those present in vegetables and other food items to determine what food was eaten. Contradictory to what Ethan said about one room in the Wall of the Crow settlement containing an abundance of fish scales, bones, and fishing tools, isotopes show that fish was not regularly eaten. This is especially surprising since there was a large selection of fish in the nearby Nile River. There’s evidence however, that some fish were not eaten because they were believed to be sacred. When fish was prepared, it was typically roasted, boiled, or preserved by salting and drying it in the sun.
Onions were popular, as Ethan noted, and they were also used for medical purposes. Honey was used by the wealthy as a sweetener whereas the impoverished typically used dates as they were easier and cheaper to obtain. Dates and other fruits were dried or sometimes fermented to make wine.
One surprising finding from the carbon dating study was that for the most part, ancient Egyptians had a constant diet. The scientists conducting the study said that they had expected changes in their diets over time. The other finding was that ancient Egyptians kept relatively vegetarian diets. The mummies the scientists studied had little intake of meat and fish in their diets according to the carbon isotopes. There is contrasting evidence on this conclusion considering an abundance of animal bones found at sites and depictions of meat and fish in their artwork.
Much of what we know about the ancient Egyptian diet comes from what was illustrated in their artwork. Depictions of banquets, game, and food preparation allow archaeologists and anthropologists to draw conclusions about their diets and lifestyles. Other evidence, such as carbon dating and artifacts found at sites, can confirm these conclusions.