Posts Tagged ‘ancient Egypt’

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Dental Plaque Hints at Prehistoric Plant Knowledge.

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In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East | The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

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Topic Ancient lettuce

Below is an article on lettuce in Ancient Egypt with pictures of Min the Egyptian god of fertility( in all his glory as depicted on ancient reliefs and tombs). Min is most often seen with an erect phallus so be warned.
The article is good and I’ll. have more on lettuce and its uses as a medicine at another time.

From Smithsonian article

Lettuce has been harvested for millenia—it was depicted by ancient Egyptians on the walls of tombs dating back to at least 2,700 B.C. The earliest version of the greens resembled two modern lettuces: romaine, from the French word “romaine” (from Rome), and cos lettuce, believed to have been found on the island of Kos, located along the coast of modern day Turkey.

But in Ancient Egypt around 2,000 B.C., lettuce was not a popular appetizer, it was an aphrodisiac, a phallic symbol that represented the celebrated food of the Egyptian god of fertility, Min. (It is unclear whether the lettuce’s development in Egypt predates its appearance on the island of Kos.) The god, often pictured with an erect penis in wall paintings and reliefs was also known as the “great of love” as he is called in a text from Edfu Temple. The plant was believed to help the god “perform the sexual act untiringly.”

Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo who specializes in Ancient Egyptian food explains Min’s part in lettuce history. “Over 3,000 years, [Min’s] role did change, but he was constantly associated with lettuce,” she says.

The first of these depictions appeared around 1970-80 B.C. in the The White Chapel of Senusret I, though there may be earlier examples, Ikram says.

This relief, from the funerary temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu, for example, depicts Min’s harvest festival. At the center is a statue of Min. Behind him, a procession of priests holds a small garden of lettuce. Min is also sometimes depicted wearing a long, red ribbon around his forehead that some say represents sexual energy.

“One of the reasons why [the Egyptians] associated the lettuce with Min was because it grows straight and tall—an obvious phallic symbol,” Ikram says. “But if you broke off a leaf it oozed a sort of white-ish, milky substance—basically it looked like semen.”

When the butt of modern Romaine lettuce is cut off, a similar substance oozes from the plant and gives it a bitter flavor. Lettuce’s scientific classification lactuca sativa, is derived from the Latin word for milk and shares the same root as lactose, the sugar enzyme found in dairy products. (Ed. — corrected thanks to feedback from reader joelfinkle) (While we’re talking etymology, raw lettuce dishes known as herba salata (“salted greens”) gave rise to the English word “salad.”) Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book provides further options for what the lettuce milk of the “ithyphallic god of increase” may represent:

Lettuce was sacred to him because of the “straight vertical surge” of their growth, milky juice they exude which could be taken as a symbol of mothers milk or semen.

Ancient Egyptians used the lettuce differently than those who would come later. The leaves had a greenish blue color and were often removed from the plant due to their bitter taste. Instead of being part of a meal, the seeds from the bud of the flowers were harvested and pressed for their natural oils which were used for cooking, medication—even mummification. Lettuce oil was a standard in the Egyptian materia medica and even today is used as a traditional remedy for hair regrowth.

The Greeks and Romans later popularized the leafy veggie as an appetizer during the 81-96 A.D. reign of Domitian. When they first introduced a set order of courses, the meal included a salad at the beginning to stimulate the appetite and also at the end to encourage digestion, according to author Gil Marks. It was still considered a medicinal goldmine by the Greeks and Romans, but for a different reason than the Egyptians—they believed it helped people sleep. Under Domitian’s reign, as the story goes, the ruler would force his guests to eat lettuce before the meal so as to make them struggle to remain awake for the remainder of the visit.

Another interesting lettuce-related story in Ancient Egypt, not for the faint-of-stomach: In Egyptian history there are many battles between the Egyptian deity Horus and Set, the god of the desert. Though the argument was usually over which of the two had the rightful claim to rule Egypt, one rather odd battle involves lettuce. According to Papyrus Chester-Beatty I, as interpreted by Ikram, Set at one point tries to overpower Horus by seducing him and then having intercourse with him. Horus places his hand between his legs, catches Set’s semen and throws it into the river. “Horus [then] tricks Set by basically spurting his sperm and throwing it into a lettuce plant, ” Ikram says. Because Set eats the semen-covered lettuce, in the eyes of the gods, Horus was dominant—at least until the next battle.

Original article:
smithsonian magazine
July 16, 2013

This relief from the funerary temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu depicts the festival of Min. Image courtesy of Flickr user kairoinfor4u.

The Ptolemaic king stands before Min, the ithyphallic god of fertility, and offers him the eye of Horus. Image via wordpress.

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Topic: Ancient Drought

Ancient pollen and charcoal preserved in deeply buried sediments in Egypt’s Nile Delta document the region’s ancient droughts and fires, including a huge drought 4,200 years ago associated with the demise of Egypt’s Old Kingdom, the era known as the pyramid-building time.

“Humans have a long history of having to deal with climate change,” said Christopher Bernhardt, a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey. “Along with other research, this study geologically reveals that the evolution of societies is sometimes tied to climate variability at all scales — whether decadal or millennial.”

Bernhardt conducted this research as part of his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, along with Benjamin Horton, an associate professor in Penn’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science. Jean-Daniel Stanley at the Smithsonian Institution also participated in the study, published in July’s edition of Geology.

“Even the mighty builders of the ancient pyramids more than 4,000 years ago fell victim when they were unable to respond to a changing climate,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “This study illustrates that water availability was the climate-change Achilles Heel then for Egypt, as it may well be now, for a planet topping seven billion thirsty people.”

The researchers used pollen and charcoal preserved in a Nile Delta sediment core dating from 7,000 years ago to the present to help resolve the physical mechanisms underlying critical events in ancient Egyptian history.

They wanted to see if changes in pollen assemblages would reflect ancient Egyptian and Middle East droughts recorded in archaeological and historical records. The researchers also examined the presence and amount of charcoal because fire frequency often increases during times of drought, and fires are recorded as charcoal in the geological record. The scientists suspected that the proportion of wetland pollen would decline during times of drought and the amount of charcoal would increase.

And their suspicions were right.

Large decreases in the proportion of wetland pollen and increases in microscopic charcoal occurred in the core during four different times between 3,000 and 6,000 years ago. One of those events was the abrupt and global mega-drought of around 4,200 years ago, a drought that had serious societal repercussions, including famines, and which probably played a role in the end of Egypt’s Old Kingdom and affected other Mediterranean cultures as well.

“Our pollen record appears very sensitive to the decrease in precipitation that occurred in the mega-drought of 4,200 years ago,” Bernhardt said. “The vegetation response lasted much longer compared with other geologic proxy records of this drought, possibly indicating a sustained effect on delta and Nile basin vegetation.”

Similarly, pollen and charcoal evidence recorded two other large droughts: one that occurred some 5,000 to 5,500 years ago and another that occurred around 3,000 years ago.

These events are also recorded in human history — the first one started some 5,000 years ago when the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt occurred and the Uruk Kingdom in modern Iraq collapsed. The second event, some 3,000 years ago, took place in the eastern Mediterranean and is associated with the fall of the Ugarit Kingdom and famines in the Babylonian and Syrian Kingdoms.

“The study geologically demonstrates that when deciphering past climates, pollen and other micro-organisms, such as charcoal, can augment or verify written or archaeological records — or they can serve as the record itself if other information doesn’t exist or is not continuous,” said Horton.

This study, Nile delta response to Holocene climate variability, was published in the July edition of Geology, and was authored by Christopher Bernhardt, USGS; Benjamin Horton, Penn; and Jean-Daniel Stanley, Smithsonian Institution. Support for the work came from the University of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Original Article:


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Lí­mite Chile/Argentina en el paso del Bermejo...

Lí­mite Chile/Argentina en el paso del Bermejo - paso Iglesia (Photo credit: Flodigrip's world)

I have been so amazed at the views for this blog and the countries that are watching what I post so this morning when I recieved a post from

agroekonomija this morning I decided to do the same so everyone can see who else is taking a look at Ancient Foods.

By the way I love Google translate , it lets me view blogs I wouldn’t see otherwise.

Back to ancientfood on Wednesday



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Topic:  Part 2 The Kitchen and staff

Utensils:       Domed ovens

                     Box ovens –for bread baking

                     Hearth-dished pottery set in the floor

                     Pots- made of unglazed Nile clay                 

                     Frying Pans- wok shaped with handles                   

                     Large Stew Pans


       Small Utensils: 

                     Wooden Spoons



                     Mortar and Pestle

                     Spoons with holes



              Fuel used:

                     straw, palm leaves, dung, acacia, Tamarisk, charcoal,   



       The Personal:



                     Pastry Chef

                     Chef or cook.


The Chef’s Choices

      Pantry:     Oils, vinegars, mediums








                     Spices and herbs


       The medium of Cooking





                     Stir Fry




Initial Offering:  Bread and Salt

An act of hospitality, an offering of bread sprinkled with salt seals a guest friendship and its acceptance by a visitor              is a tacit promise to respect the host’s household.

The First known Gourmand:

 I t may be that the conception of fine wines and gourmet  Foods originated in ancient Egypt 4,500 years ago.

  In the  tomb of Sekem-Ka (4,340 years ago) in Mena, Egypt, is an inscription of a dinner given by him to 7 others consisting 0f seven sections.  The inscription is fairly complete, it describes the setting (with some illustrations of guests and  setting, including chefs preparing food), it also lists the menu and the wines served.


  The 1st course consisted of fruit (dates, figs, pomegranates, grapes, cherries (?) cheese and bread.  The 2nd course was prepared duck and goose eggs.  3rd course was fish and beef.  4th course was a lamb stew and pork.  5th course was stuffed geese, duck, pigeon and desert hare.  6th course was Oryx, antelope, gazelle.  7th course is missing.


Example of a gourmet recipe from ancient Egypt


       Quail roasted with cream, honey, crushed almonds and pomegranate seeds.

This list came to me author unknown but was drawn up by my husband who is an Egyptologist.

If I were to give credit it would be to Hilary Wilson and her book Egyptian Food and Drink. He got the majority of his material from this book but not all.

By Joanna Linsley-Poe

copyright 2012





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Topic: Part 1 The Pantry














        Chicken       (probably in Roman period) but could have been

                                    Introduced in New Kingdom and rare until the  

                     Roman period.



       Geese        (forced fed goose, mince cooked liver, type of

                     (Pate foie Gras)

                     (roast geese is considered one of the greatest       delicates)




              hard boiled, deviled eggs


Brewing and Baking-Meketre Tomb Thebes



Fishes:    ( Dried fish, fish cakes, various cooked fishes)












              Yellow Broad Beans  (Lupin seed)

              Common Broad Beans (used in Falafel or ta’amia, ful nabed)

              Smaller Brown Beans (ful medomes

              Black eyed Beans



       Chick peas  (also used as Hummus)


       Water Cress

       Garlic        (milder than usual, can use shallots)

       Leeks        (Egyptian word is lakt, meaning holy, sacred to Seker

       Lentils      ( 3,150 bce)

       Lettuce    ( sacred to Min and Amon) considered an aphrodisiac

                     (Cos lettuce especially)

       Onions       (sweeter than normal)






                     Asparagus beans

                     Grass peas






      Barley      (pre 4,000 bc?)   used for bread and beer

       Kamut              (used for bread)

       Emmer   (oldest)   (used for bread)


              In addition to bread and beer, grains were used for soups,

              Gruel, flapjacks or pancakes, pita bread, sweetened bread

              Flavored with nuts and spices, seeds and cumin.

              Bread dough can have fat, milk or eggs, sweetened with

              Honey or fruit.




      Avocado    (from Persea Tree) This is a conjecture but the genus name for this fruit is Persea! 

      Apricots    ( Roman )

       Apples      ( New Kingdom or Greek )

       Carob        (used in place of chocolate)

       Cherries    ( Greek )

       Citrus        (Ptolemaic, maybe lemons)

       Dates        (predynastic)


       Grapes     ( red, green )


       Lotus Seeds  ( Makes Lotus seed cakes ) (Nymphae Lotus were

              Collected and dried the seed vessels of the plant, which               were crushed and made into cakes and breads.)

       Melons             (including cucumis melo, citrullus vulgais)     

       Nebk Berries       (Christ thorn, may be confused with Cherries)

       Pomegranates  ( New Kingdom?)  ( Egyptian name is Saada )

              (used for wine, seeds, juice and syrup)

       Pears        ( Greek )

       Peaches    ( Roman )





      Almonds    ( Greek? )

       Dom Nuts   (made into Bread, with a gingerbread like taste)

              (Dom palm nut has a fibrous exterior envelope, sweet      

              flavor similar to Gingerbread)

       Walnuts     (rare)

       Tiger Nuts  (probably used ground)


Triangular Bread from Ancient Egypt



Spices and Herbs:


      Anise seed



       Celery Seed

       Chervil             (probably)

       Cinnamon          (called Ty-sheps, imported and important)

       Cumin               (used a lot)


       Dill                 (sacred to Amseth)


       Fennel              (probably)

       Fenugreek         (curry smell)








Oils and other Mediums:

      Butter             (clarified)







              Balsam            (III rd dynasty)

             Castor             (Egyptian name kiki)



              Safflower          (Egyptian name iol )

              Olive        ( New Kingdom? )

              Almond    (?)

              Sesame           (Shemshemet in Egyptian, Semsem=Arabic)


       Vinegars:   many used, sometimes flavored with herbs and garlic






       Butter       (clarified only, samna, sometimes mixed with aromatic   


       Cheese    (  goat and cow )

              Soft:  made with yogurt, spread able, can be mixed with oil     

                     And herbs, called Labna

              Firm:   called Gebna

       Milk       ( goat and cow)



Medicinal Plants:


      Water Lily












Initial Offerings of bread and salt:  An act of hospitality, an offering of bread sprinkled with salt seals a guest friendship and its acceptance by a visitor is a tact promise to respect the host’s household.


Bread:  The Egyptians made about 30 to 40 varieties of bread.  White, quick, flat, flavored, sweet.  Breads are flavored by spices, herbs, fruit, honey.

       One prime example is a flat bread with oil, garlic, onion and cheese (Neapolitan pizza for example).  Pita bread.


Menu Items:





       Hard boiled eggs

       Deviled eggs



      Crème of Onion









Salads and Side Dishes:

      Bean salad


Main Dishes:

      Lamb Stew

       Beef ribs


Types of Cooking:






       Stir fry


Types of Sauces:

      Wine and butter



       Beef broth       chicken based sauces

       Milk, crème



      Honey Cakes

       Cinnamon cakes

       Flavored and/or sweet cakes

       Fruited Yogurt


       Fruit with a sweet dessert style wine poured in

       Lotus cakes

       Flavored and/or sweet breads

This list came to me author unknown but was drawn up by my husband who is an Egyptologist.

If I were to give credit it would be to Hilary Wilson and her book Egyptian Food and Drink. He got the majority of his material from this book but not all.

By Joanna Linsley-Poe

copyright 2012

Part 2 on Wednesday



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EMS-89615 Egyptian wooden model of beer making...

Image via Wikipedia

Topic: Making beer like they did in Ancient Egypt

I forgot I even had this article. It was originally published in 2009

The picture to the left is of a model showing beer making in Ancient Egypt

If  you’re trying to be thrifty in the midst of this recession, try brewing your own beer in the style of the ancient Egyptians. Their yeast cells have been preserved for thousands of years.
While looking for recession-proof recipes to save money at the supermarket, I found a great resource for brewing your own recession-proof beer at home to save some money, it’s the article in Natural History magazine, the May 1996 issue, page 24, that describes how archaeologists brewed beer in the style of the ancient Egyptians, and in the 1990s even had it on sale at Harrod’s in London.
When archaeologists dug up King Tut’s and other ancients’ tombs in the 1920s and more recently, in the 1990s, they found starch granules in the ancient bread crumbs and beer dregs that revealed all the processes to which the bread was exposed during baking and brewing into beer.
All you have to do is back-engineer and reconstruct everything from scratch. So how do you brew your own beer the ancient Egyptian and Levantine way?
Instead of using your modern, cultured yeast, brew like an Egyptian and keep some yeasty residue from one brew to the next. The yeast sticks to the fabric of the brewing pots. Fermentation happens naturally from micro-flora.
All the former research showed barley and emmer wheat were grown in ancient Egypt. It was emmer wheat that the ancient Egyptians used to make beer at Tell el Amarna. Archaeologists saved the preserved emmer wheat on the temple kitchen floors. Here’ are the steps you can imitate the process at home to make ancient-style beer.
1. To make beer you buy some organic unhulled barley in a health food store. Moisten barley. Keep it moist until it germinates, then heat the barley to stop the germination (the result is called malt).
2. Add water and yeast so the malt sugars ferment.
3. Blend cooked and uncooked malt with water and produce a refined liquid free of husk by straining and mashing. For more information, go to my resource which is Natural History magazine, the May 1996 issue, page 24.
Here’s another ancient Egyptian way to brew beer. It’s going to taste like raspberries.

Boil barley and emmer wheat in a pot of water until it’s cooked and water is absorbed. Add cold water to make a brew. Fill the pot just before the rim.
Heat the mixture, adding more water and cooked malt. Add natural wild yeast and uncooked malt to the cooked malt. Health food stores have different types of natural yeast.
After adding the second batch of malt, cover, and allow the mixture to ferment.  Without adding any flavoring, the beer should be fruity and sweet and taste like raspberries. Try brewing your beer using the methods of a brewery so you don’t get a batch of bacteria in the brew to make you sick.
In fact, you can take your method to a brewery and ask whether you can brew your first batch at a brewery so you don’t make the mistake of letting it ferment at the wrong temperature and get yourself sick with a bunch of bacteria in the brew. Ancient Egyptian beer didn’t have the bitter hops flavor.
Here are the steps the archaeologists used to make ancient Egyptian beer. This information is in the article on making beer the ancient Egyptian way, published in Natural History magazine in the May 1996 issue, page 24. The article focused on the year 2050 BCE, the time of the XI Dynasty. So here are the steps the archaeologists used to make the ancient beer in the way the ancients would have brewed it.
First you have to grow the emmer wheat. But today emmer wheat is cultivated in Turkey. So if you live in England where the archaeologists were located, first you go to a health food store that imports Turkish emmer wheat. What the archaeologists actually did was to bring emmer wheat to England, about 850 pounds of it. And they grew that wheat at the at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge.
That’s all you need as far as raw material to brew beer the way the ancients made it, unless, of course, you must have water from ancient Egyptian wells. So that’s what the scientists did.
They analyzed old Egyptian desert wells to get the correct type of liquor. They had to do it because the old Egyptian well water is free from phospates and modern agricultural chemicals. So they had to add some gypsum to harden the water.
You at home can simply used distilled water.  Gypsum is calcium carbonate. Add a calcium carbonate tablet found in any health food store. Then flavor your ancient Egyptian beer brew with tiny amounts of juniper and coriander spices, obtainable in many herbal or health food stores. Or grow your own herbs from seeds in little pots or in your garden.
A modern yeast strain was used. It would have taken years of DNA research to reveal the exact nature of the yeast used in Ancient Egypt.  The experts chose a fast-fermenting strain from the National Yeast Collection in Norwich, also in eastern England, that works at a high temperature, as temperatures would have been hot in ancient Egypt, but not as hot as today.
No ancient Egyptian ever made beer with hops. They used malt. They never sweetened their beer with fruit or honey. If you want to make ancient Egyptian beer, you put coriander into the brew because it grew wild in the Nile Valley. Coriander in ancient Egypt was put into bread and other baked products. You can add juniper. That also was used in bread and beer. So put a pinch of juniper and coriander into your beer kettle.
Now comes mashing time.  Emmer wheat, unlike modern cereals, has a thick hull or husk. Emmer wheat can take up to 14 hours to grind into a grist suitable for mashing. The grinding was done with a pestle and mortar using dampened grain. This was the method used in Ancient Egypt and is still in use currently in Turkey. Emmer wheat is close to modern brewing grain.
If you want to find out what ancient Egyptian wheat used in brewing beer was like, look at how emmer wheat is ground into bread flower in Turkey today. This could be a great project for someone studying nutritional anthropology.
When you mash the emmer wheat, it produces a sugary solution. The archaeologists trying to make Egyptian beer did conventional mashing and boiling in modern pans, and the three-day fermentation took place in a gallon jar. Ancient peoples baked bread after they learned to brew beer.
First Neolithic peoples let raw mixed flour stand out in the air where the dough reacted with wild yeast and pollen blowing in the wind. As the dough dropped into water and fermented, it turned to a type of beer.
Then when people added more raw mixed flour to the beer and baked it, they produced a light, leavened bread. Since Nile water was muddy, beer was used instead of water in ceremonies and as the meal-time beverage of choice for ancient Egyptian workers.
In 1996, archaeologists from the University of Cambridge found no flavorings in the beer, only spices. The ancient Egyptians seemed to have used barley to make malt. Egyptians of four thousand years ago used emmer wheat instead of hops. They heated the mixture, and then added yeast and uncooked malt to the cooked malt. After adding the second batch of malt, the brew was allowed to ferment.
Drink the new beer a few days after fermentation. Ancient pharaohs got to wait a few more days for the beer to get stronger. Tutankhamun Ale was brewed at 6 per cent alcohol by volume/4.8 per cent by weight. One thousand bottles were once produced and sold only in London’s top department store, Harrods, which is owned by an Egyptian, Mohamad Al Fayed.
The ancient-style beer was opaque and gold-colored. It tasted like spiced, mulled fruit. Different strains of yeast give off a variety of tastes and aromas. “Brewing blended cooked and uncooked malt with water; the mixture was strained free of husk before inoculation with yeast,” according to Investigation of Ancient Egyptian Baking and Brewing Methods by Correlative Microscopy” Science July 1996, v273, n5274, p488, by Samuel, Delwen.
My references for this recipe were the articles titled, King Tut’s Tipple” Discover Jan.1997, v18, n1, p13, by Shanti Menon, and Investigation of Ancient Egyptian Baking and Brewing Methods by Correlative Microscopy” Science July 1996, v273, n5274, p488, by Samuel, Delwen. For more information, see the publications of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3ER, UK.
article from Examiner.com

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Topic Ancient Egyptian tombs

This is a very interesting article I thought you might like. No food finds yet but we can always hope there might with future excavations.



Discoveries at Mendes and Theban Tombs Opening More Windows on Ancient Egypt | Popular Archaeology – exploring the past.


Original Article:


Wed, Nov 09, 2011


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