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  • Writer's pictureJiajing Wang

Predynastic beer production, distribution, and consumption at Hierakonpolis, Egypt

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Beer was a staple food, but also served a variety of social functions in the political economy of Ancient Egypt. Recent excavations at Hierakonpolis, a major site of Egypt’s Pre- and Early Dynastic period, have revealed large-scale brewery installations, suggesting that the beverage played a significant role in the development of complex society and the expression of power and status, with collateral impact on craft specialization. However, there is as yet no definite consensus on how beer was produced, distributed or consumed in Predynastic Egypt. To address this gap, this research applies microfossil residue analyses on pottery fragments recovered at two different areas at Hierakonpolis: from a midden near the Predynastic beer production site at Locality HK11C; and from the Second Dynasty ceremonial enclosure of King Khasekhemwy. The results provide the first scientific evidence for a long tradition of beer jars—pottery vessels specifically for and symbolic of beer—beginning in the early Naqada II phase of the Predynastic period. The results suggest that beer production contributed to the economic and ideological integration of society, the rise of the elite, and the cultural unification that took place leading up to the consolidation of the centralized political state.


•Residue analysis of pottery fragments from Hierakonpolis, Egypt.

•The first scientific confirmation of beer jars in Predynastic Egypt.

•A diversification of beer brewing ingredients from the Dynastic to Early Dynastic periods.

•New insights into beer distribution and the spread of beer technology in Predynastic Egypt.

•The relationship between beer production and state formation in Predynastic Egypt.

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