Perhaps it’s why I became a writer, but I’ve always been fascinated by languages, and especially different alphabets. They always seemed like secret codes, and few more so than Egyptian hieroglyphics. Hieroglyphics are, of course, one of the earliest forms of written communication. They were once thought to be the oldest form, but more recent evidence seems to suggest that Sumerian writing most likely predates the Egyptian writing, and that they probably developed independently.
Not surprisingly, since beer was so important at the dawn of civilization, even though the number of individual hieroglyphics was limited (compared to modern vocabularies) there were several beer-specific hieroglyphics. How many there are is uncertain. E.A. Wallis Budge compiled a list of over 1,000 that was published in various forms between the late 1890s and 1920. But the standard reference is generally thought to be Gardiner’s Sign List, created by British Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner in the 1950s, containing around 750 common form hieroglyphics from the Middle Egyptian language.
Gardiner’s Sign List is organized into 26 categories that are assigned a letter and then a number to keep them straight. For example, “E” is for “mammals” and E6 is a “horse.”
So here are the Egyptian hieroglyphics that have to do with beer and brewing, at least from the Gardiner’s Sign List. I’ve also included different views of the same hieroglyphic, that is different ways that it was written or expressed. The Letter and Number is, of course, how each is classified in the Gardiner’s Sign List.