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4 Beer Jars, Standardization, and Economy

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Chapter Summary

Beer jars were a fundamental part of wage transactions across Egypt during the Old Kingdom, serving as both a container for beer and a measure of value. They provide us with a unit fundamental to Egypt's economic structure that is particularly crucial when discussing the non-elite classes. A high degree of standardization in volume of beer jars at the local level would be suggestive of local economic control and local or regional influences in ceramic production. Evidence for standardization of beer jar volumes across the country would imply that a centralizing force, in this case, the state, was directly involved with the distribution of goods and that potters producing this vessel were most likely attached specialists. Regionally-scaled standardization implies regionally-scaled economic authority. The volume of a beer jar determined the value of the contents and relates to commodities which, were the Egyptian economy centrally controlled.

Keywords: beer jars; ceramic production; Egypt's economic structure; non-elite classes; regionally-scaled standardization



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