History of the World in 6 Glasses

Chapter 2: Civilized Beer
1. The “Land between 2 rivers” is the Tigris and Euphrates rivers located in Mesopotamia (in the Fertile Crescent). “The World’s first cities arose in Mesopotamia, ‘the land between the streams,’ the name given to the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers… (24, Standage)”, which meant that around this area most of the people were hardworking. The problem about these two rivers though is that they had unexpected flooding and there was little rain. This is why at the time, goods, instead of being offerings to gods were, “compulsory taxes that were consumed by the temple bureaucracy or traded for other goods and services (40, Standage).” This only arose though because of the unpredictable weather and nature of the Mesopotamian environment.

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2. Mesopotamia and Egypt had many differences,, but they were both similar in one thing, “Both cultures were made possible by an agricultural surplus, in particular an access of grain (25, Standage).” It funded many a vast amount of public works/constructions to be possible such as canals, temples and pyramids and also freed a small elite of administrators and craftsmen from the need to produce their own food. Grain was the main national diet in both Mesopotamia and Egypt, refereed to as “edible money” because it was consumed in both liquid and solid form.

3. “… Grain was the basis of the national diet in both Egypt and Mesopotamia (26, Standage)”, it was consumed as not only beer, but bread too. Many people supplemented themselves with bread, beer, dates and onions (sometimes with meat and of course additional vegetables); Dates provided vitamin A, beer provided vitamin B and everything else added up to 3,5000 to 4,000 calories. They both had different ways of seeing how beer should actually be used sometimes but they both used it in the same way most of the time, for pleasure and to satisfy.

4. Gilgamesh was a Sumerian kind who ruled around 2700 BCE and tells s story that includes a wild man that becomes human by being introduced to beer and food by a woman, “He drank the veer-seven jugs! – and became expansive and sang with joy… He was elated and his face glowed… he splashed his shaggy body with water… and turned into human (27, Standage).” Sumerian myths affected people by depicting the gods as very fallible, human characters who enjoy eating and drinking, usually drinking too much; Sumerian writing might have also inspired how Egyptians starting writing.

5. “As in Mesopotamia, beer was thought to have ancient and mythological origins, and it appears in prayers, myths, and legends (28, Standage),” not only in Mesopotamia did they find beer to be “sacred” but in Egypt too, one tale even gives credits to beer with saving humankind from destruction, “Mesopotamians and Egyptians alike saw beer as an ancient, god given drink that underpinned their existence, formed part of their cultural and religious identity, and had great social importance (29, Standage).” In both cultures, without beer, the meal wouldn’t be complete. Beer is one of the reasons that led to the the arising of civilizations, mainly because it combined different social groups from high class to low class, from adults to children; it let people have something in common, something they could share, no matter how much money you had or even your age.

6. Originally, writing was invented to record the collection and distribution of grain, beer and other goods; it arose as a continuation of the Neolithic custom of, “using tokens to account for contributions to a communal storehouse (30, Standage).” Since there was s surplus of food, Sumerian cities collected it usually as offerings to gods, but in practice were consumed by the temple to help maintain public structures such as irrigation systems because of the unpredictable “Mesopotamian environment.” Later though, tokens were abandoned and pictograms came to represent numbers and even gods too, “Having started out as a means of recording tax receipts and ration payments, writing soon evolved into a more flexible, expressive, and abstract medium (34, Standage).”

7. Our modern Latin alphabet can be traced back to the Mesopotamians and Egyptians. After tokens were abandoned, pictograms came to place depicting gods and numbers. By around 3000 BCE writing had evolved a little bit more, “The end result was the first general-purpose form of writing, based on wedge-shaped, or “cuneiform”, indentations made in clay tablets using reeds (24, Standage).”

8. “Both civilizations barley and wheat, and their processed solid and liquid forms, bread and beer, became more than just staple foodstuffs; they were convenient and widespread forms or payments and currency (25, Standage)”, people were paid for their work in loaves of bread and jars of beer; even women and children were paid by this. The use of bread and beer as wages or currency mean that they became associated with prosperity and well-being, “The ancient Egyptians identified them so closely with the necessities of life that the phrase ‘bread and beer’ meant sustenance in general; their combined hieroglyphics formed the symbol for food (37, Standage).” Beer was also used medically for both Egyptians and Mesopotamians.

9. Since beer, being boiled, was less likely to be contaminated than water, it had the advantage of having ingredients dissolve easily in it. A cuneiform tablet from the Sumerian city of Nippur, contains a list of medical recipes based on beer, “In Egypt, beer’s use as a mild sedative was recognized, and it was also the bass for several medical concoctions of herbs and spices… Half an onion mixed with frothy beer was said to cure constipation, for example, while powdered olives mixed with beer cured indigestion; a mixture of saffron and beer massaged into a woman’s abdomen was prescribed for labor pains (38, Standage).”

10. Egyptians believed that their well-being in the afterlife depended on having a “satisfying” supply of breed and beer. A normal funerary offering consisted of bread, beer, oxen, geese, cloth, and natron, a purification agent, “Scenes and models of brewing and baking have been found in Egyptian tombs, along with jars of beer (long since evaporated) and beer-making equipment (38, Standage).” From emperors to ordinary citizens, they were all buried with a small or large jar of beer.

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