Posted on Feb 27, 2011
Posted by Yukinori Kawae
We first saw the structural footprint of House Unit 1, the largest house in the Pyramid Town for now, during the large-scale Western Town ‘scrape and plan’ season in 2004. Team members call it “Yuki’s House” but the unit is actually much larger than my apartment: the extent is about 25.0 m E-W and 16.0 m N-S covering an area of 400 m2. To date, we ascertained that the unit consists of at least 21 rooms including a bedchamber in the center, storage for the distinctive beer jars and an L-shaped bench, a series of bins in the southwest corner, and industrial area for bread and/or beer production in the east.
In the 2011 season, we are focused on excavations at the eastern end of House Unit 1, the “industrial area,” which is markedly different in content, character and function to the rest of the building. We presume the area was either a bakery or brewery (or both functioning together) but the nature of this industrial area has yet to be determined.
Brewery in the Pyramid Town?
Bread and beer were the staples of the Ancient Egyptian diet. As bread/beer specialist Delwen Samuel states, “Both were consumed at every meal, by everyone, and no meal was considered complete without them.” The taste of ancient Egyptian beer, however, would have been quite different from modern beer. Our Japanese team member, Manami Yahata having drunk ancient Egyptian beer reproduced in Japan, commented that it is not fizzy but flat with a slightly bitter whole-wheat taste.
Ancient Egyptian baking and brewery are generally considered as functioning together in the same place. The investigation of ancient Egyptian baking and brewery heavily depends on graphical evidences. We have reliefs in the tomb of Ty of the Old Kingdom and a famous wooden model of Meketre of the Middle Kingdom where work in a bakery and brewery are vividly represented. However, curiously, breweries are almost unknown archaeologically. Breweries have been identified at Hierakonpolis and at Abydos. At Giza we have found many bakeries but no evidence breweries.
The recipe accepted by most Egyptologists is that lightly baked, richly yeasted dough was used to produce beer in ancient Egypt. But recent microscopic analyses indicate that sprouted grains were used for the production of enzymes. Then flour was mixed with water and heated. The two eventually mixed, strained and fermented. If beer was produced in Unit 1, we should find areas for sprouting grains, heating dough, and mixing the two.
In addition to the research on beer production in House Unit 1, we also have a plan to excavate a mastaba that sits directly on the ruins of the unit. The mastaba is located in the NE of the study area, which is presumably a part of the famous Workers’ Cemetery to the west of our site. I started drawing a plan at 1:20 of the mastaba. With Swedish osteologist Johnny Karlsson, we will excavate one of the shafts to get information on dating of the construction of the building and the process of site abandonment.