Ancient History

2134

BCE

The most important food of the Egyptians was bread made of various cereals, wheat, barley, and possibly, as well from lotus seeds and dum-palm dates. The fondness of Egyptians for bread was so well known that they were nicknamed 'artophagoi', or 'eaters of bread'.

Teeth and Bread in Ancient Egypt by F. Filce Leek

This choice was helped by a paragraph in Ruffer's book, Food in Egypt, which reads,

The most important food of the Egyptians was bread made of various cereals, wheat, barley, and possibly, as well from lotus seeds and dum-palm dates. The fondness of Egyptians for bread was so well known that they were nicknamed 'artophagoi', or 'eaters of bread'; it was the food par excellence, and the word was and has remained synonymous with food in this country. The most terrible curse was 'They shall hunger without bread and their bodies die.'

Later in the chapter, he wrote, 'Bread and oil formed the main food for the people. The troops and the King's messengers were given 20 deben (about 4 lbs.) of bread daily as rations, which was carried by numerous parties accompanying the march.'1

We were aided in this investigation, as indeed in many other inquiries that arise in Egyptology, by the scenes painted on the walls of a number of the tombs of the nobles at Thebes. Noteworthy examples are to be found in the tombs of Nakht, Menna, Sennedjem, and Rekhmirec, nobles who lived during the New Kingdom period c.

1567-1085 B.C. Methods of sowing the grain, and of reaping the corn with a sickle mounted with flint teeth are to be seen, as well as the subsequent beating, threshing, and winnowing of the harvested grain.

Examples of the ensuing processes in bread-making, that of grinding the corn, mixing the dough, and baking the bread, are even more realistically presented, by examples of three-dimensional sculpture and wooden models, showing precisely the methods used. These statuettes are to be seen in Cairo and other world museums. In the Louvre, Paris, and the Rijksmuseum, Leiden, are examples of Middle Kingdom (c. 2134-1786 B.C.) moveable wooden toys, illustrating actions involved in the preparation of dough. Only the string is not original, and this, when pulled, moves the hinged joints of the models. Garstang, who excavated at Beni Hasan in Middle Egypt for three

seasons from 1902, found a number of wooden models depicting methods of making bread and beer during the Twelfth Dynasty (c. 1991-1786 B . C . ) . 2 In the times of the earliest dynasties, ivory and clay were the materials used for the figurines, but by the time of the Fourth Dynasty these had been superseded by limestone, and many such figures are extant. During the First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom many realistic wooden models of corporate scenes were made. The earlier limestone statuettes usually depicted a servant, man or woman, kneeling behind a stone slab with a bowl containing the grain resting between the legs. The servant is leaning forward grasping a hand-stone, and at the lower end of the saddle-stone is a groove into which the cereal falls as it is ground. The pose is both purposeful and efficient.


Since bread was so popular as food for the living Egyptian, it is not surprising that it was a common practice to place some in the grave of the departed to support life during the hereafter. It has been found in the graves of the common people, in the tombs of the nobles, and even in the tomb of the Pharaoh himself.

Cairo, Cairo Governorate, Egypt

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