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5 Bread Moulds: An Independent Economic Unit?

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Chapter Summary

Bread could have functioned as an independent value unit. Government regulation of bread, might be the antecedent of the Middle Kingdom base-wage, measured exclusively in bread. If this were the case in the Old Kingdom, central or regional authorities could have controlled bread payments while payments in beer operated within a different system, and relied more upon individual agency or at least responsive to multiple, extra-administrative pressures. Bread moulds have been coupled with beer jars in the assumption that they were built with standard volumetric measures in order to allow the government to control wage distribution. Unlike beer, bread may be easily removed from its ceramic container; it would have been simple for a baker to simply distribute finished loaves without the mould. It seems likely that bread would have moved as a whole loaf from baker to the individual responsible for dispersing wages, rather than as slices or fragments.

Keywords: bread moulds; ceramic container; Middle Kingdom base-wage; Old Kingdom; regional authorities



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