Food remains from domestic contexts indicate that beans, radishes, leeks, onions, garlic, lettuces and cucumber were among the most regular supplies of vegetables, but raw fish, either salted or sun-dried, also constituted an important element of the diet of the peasantry. Likewise, various fruits, such as dates, figs, grapes and pomegranates, were available to the population at large. Evidence from the Middle Kingdom pyramidtown of Kahun (el-Iahun) shows that pigs were raised for their meat, while hares, gazelle and other wild animals would have provided a supplement to the diet of the poorer populace. Apart from water, beer was the main drink for all Egyptians, civilian and soldier alike, and was brewed from barley or emmer wheat. The brewing process was short and went hand-in-hand with the baking of bread, and the final product seems to have been a thick, soupy liquid, which, although not always strongly alcoholic, was highly nutritious. The Egyptians began their brewing process, which was done in the household (or by brewers if the beer was for use in rations of state employees such as building labourers and soldiers) with the preparation of partially baked cakes of barley bread. These were placed on a screen over a vat or jar, and water was poured over them until they dissolved and drained into the vessel, whereupon the resultant mixture was left in a warm place to ferment. Often a variety of flavourings were added to the brew, including dates, honey and spices. The sugar from dates or honey would also have speeded up the fermentation. Honey was obtained from both wild and domesticated bees.
These well-preserved food remains (Edinburgh, Royal Museum) come from Egyptian funerary, religious and domestic contexts. They include bread cakes, honeycomb, dates, grapes, palm nut and pomegranate. Next to these 'edible' items are stone model eggs on a dish shaped like a goose. (Esther Carre)