Beer as a signifier of social status in ancient Egypt with special emphasis on the New Kingdom period (ca. 1550-1069 BC) : the place of beer in Egyptian society compared to wine

Klop, Damian (2015-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Some academics are of the generalist opinion that ancient Egyptian beer was only consumed by the lower classes because of its low social status. This is based on the generalization that individuals only consume alcoholic beverages matching the status of their social class. Therefore the lower classes consumed beer while the upper classes consumed an alcoholic beverage of higher status, i.e. wine. However, other academics are of the universalist opinion that Egyptian beer was universally consumed by all Egyptian social classes irrespective of the status of beer. This study aims to test the validity of these opposing academic opinions and also strives to understand how statements of status in Egyptian society were devised, and what they were conveying. This was achieved by determining the status of Egyptian beer and wine and then comparing them to the respective status of beer and wine drinkers in the New Kingdom period (c. 1550-1069) according to the factors of production, consumption, health, economic exchange & distribution, and religion. Use is made of an anthropological approach which allows the researcher to limit social bias and understand ancient Egyptian society on its own terms. Results of this study indicate that Egyptian beer had a much lower status than Egyptian wine and all social classes consumed beer while only the upper classes consumed wine. The generalist opinion, therefore, is falsified and the universalist opinion validated. The results also indicate that the upper classes justified their beer consumption by producing, consuming and exchanging an elite beer of higher status in a manner reminiscent of wine so that it compared more favourably with the status of their social classes. This study, therefore, not only settles an old academic dispute but also provides new insight into Egyptian beer.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Sommige akademici huldig die algemene siening dat antieke Egyptiese bier uitsluitlik deur die laer klasse gebruik is, omdat bier ‘n laer status geniet het. Dit is gegrond op die veralgemening dat individue slegs alkoholiese drank gebruik het wat ooreenstem met hul eie sosiale klas. Die laer klasse het dus bier gedrink terwyl die hoër klasse alkoholiese drank van ‘n hoër status, naamlik wyn, gedrink het. Ander akademici is egter van mening dat Egiptiese bier deur alle Egiptiese sosiale klasse gebruik is, ongeag die status van bier. Hierdie studie poog om die geldigheid van hierdie teenstrydige akademiese menings te toets en poog ook om te verstaan hoe stellings oor status in die Egiptiese samelewing bedink is en wat hulle wou oordra. Dit is bereik deur die status van Egiptiese bier en wyn te bepaal en dit dan te vergelyk met die besondere status van bier en wyndrinkers in die Nuwe Koningkryk tydperk (c. 1550-1069) volgens die faktore van produksie, verbruik, gesondheid, ekonomiese uitruiling & verspreiding en godsdiens. ‘n Antropologiese benadering is gevolg omdat dit die navorser in staat stel om sosiale partydigheid te beperk en sodoende die Egiptiese samelewing in eie reg te kan verstaan. Resultate van hierdie studie dui aan dat alhoewel Egiptiese bier ‘n veel laer status as Egiptiese wyn geniet het, het alle sosiale klasse nietemin bier gedrink, terwyl net die hoër klasse wyn gedrink het. Die algemene mening is gefalsifiseer, terwyl die universele mening gestaaf word. Die resultate dui ook aan dat die hoër sosiale klasse hul bierverbruik geregverdig het deur ‘n elite bier van hoër status te produseer, uit te ruil en te gebruik op ‘n wyse soortgelyk aan diè van hul wynverbruik, sodat dit gunstig vergelyk met die status van hul sosiale klasse. Hierdie studie los dus nie net ‘n ou akademiese meningsverskil op nie, maar gee ook ‘n nuwe insig in Egiptiese bier en die gebruik daarvan deur die hoër klasse.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/96488
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