The last few works have been fairly recent and modern, so today’s work goes back pretty far into history, to the 17th Egyptian Dynasty, the New Kingdom period of time, around 1539-1425 BCE. It’s in the Brooklyn Museum, an excellent museum that I visited the last time I was in New York. The Brooklyn Museum is one of the largest Museums in the United States and is the second largest in New York State. Today’s piece is part of their world renowned Egyptian collection, considered by experts to be one of the finest in the world. The work, a stone table really, is known as Woman With Offerings, and is described as a “Fragment of a Tomb Painting with Seated Woman Holding a Lotus.” It was found in a tomb in Thebes, Egypt in an area known as the Valley of the Kings.
Click here to hear the Brooklyn Museum’s docent discuss the artwork.
The Brooklyn Museum’s website for this work also has the following about this tomb painting.
This fragment of wall painting from a tomb depicts a woman sitting on a green mat, inhaling the fragrance of a blue lotus. Sealed jars of beer and wine rest under a table loaded with other offerings of white and yellow loaves of bread and a dark red calf’s head. A grid of red lines that guided the draftsman in positioning the objects and proportioning the figures shows through where the paint has worn thin.
What’s important for our purposes, is the three jars below the table which more than likely contained beer, a veritable necessity when packing for the afterlife. To me, what this — and the countless others that are similar — point out is that while the Ninkasi tablet may be the most well-known, the ancient world is littered with references to beer and drinking. It was obviously a very ordinary part of daily life for ancient man, given its ubiquity in what they left behind. See, for example, an Egyptian Memorial Stone of a Syrian Soldier Drinking Beer, this one dating from the 18th Egyptian Dynasty; or this painted relief from ancient Memphis, from the 5th Dynasty, the Funerary mastaba of Ti that shows jars of beer.