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“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” It’s unclear who first said that—the quote is most often misattributed to Benjamin Franklin—but it conveys a kind of devotion to the drink that extends back through human history.
Thousands of years ago, beer was an important part of ancient Egyptian ceremonies and a staple of their diet—alcohol’s natural sanitizing properties made it safer than water. Some researchers have posited that beer was a key factor behind the development of agriculture, shaping early civilizations and even the geologic record. It was a different beverage than the India pale ales and pilsners we enjoy today—with a thicker consistency and lower alcohol content. And Egyptians brewed it abundantly. Some estimates have suggested that Egyptian brewers were able to produce volumes comparable to modern microbreweries.
“Beer was an important part of life in ancient Egypt and therefore was also essential to enjoying the Hereafter,” says Lisa Haney, assistant curator of Egypt on the Nile at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
The ceramic beer mug shown here was excavated in Cemetery W at the Upper Egyptian site of Hu and came into the care of Carnegie Museum of Natural History in 1900. It was made on a pottery wheel using alluvial clay between 1539 and 1425 BCE, during the early 18th Dynasty, and is roughly 6 inches tall–—the size and shape of typical Egyptian beer mugs during that period.
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