History Extra explains... What did people eat in Ancient Egypt?

As part of our new 'History Extra explains' series, leading historians answer the burning questions you were too afraid to ask...

An offering table piled with food (Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty)

What did people eat in Ancient Egypt?

The River Nile had a regular cycle that gave Egypt her three seasons: the time of inundation (when the land was covered with water), the time of coming forth (when the crops sprouted in the fertile fields), and the time of summer (when the harvested ground baked beneath the hot sun).

Most years saw a magnificent harvest of cereal (barley and emmer wheat, which could be used to make bread, cakes and beer); vegetables (beans, lentils, onions, garlic, leeks, lettuces and cucumbers), and fruits (including grapes, figs and dates). In addition there was abundant wild fowl and Nile fish, cattle farmed by the wealthy, and smaller animals (sheep, goats, pigs, geese) kept by the more humble households.

While the elite dined off meat, fruit, vegetables, and honey-sweetened cakes enhanced by the finest of wines, the poor were limited to a more monotonous diet of bread, fish, beans, onions and garlic washed down with a sweet, soupy beer.

Dr Joyce Tyldesley is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester, where she writes and teaches a number of Egyptology courses.

For more burning historical Q&As on the Tudors, ancient Rome, the First World War and ancient Egypt, click here.

 

You are currently reading: History Extra explains... What did people eat in Ancient Egypt?
We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here