Today’s trendy cocktail makers are known for their creativity, but the ancient Egyptians were really ashamed of them.
Scientists have discovered the secret ingredients of an extraordinary liquid concoction used for rituals in Egypt more than 2,000 years ago.
They analyzed chemical traces in a Bes vase – a ceramic vessel shaped like the head of the dwarf or feline Egyptian deity Bes.
Traces of the presence of a fermented alcoholic liquid derived from fruits were found, as well as plant psychoactive compounds to induce “dream-like visions.”
For an extra kick, they added bodily fluids to the mix, such as human blood, breast milk, and even vaginal and oral mucus, the experts claimed.
The researchers studied residues in a Bes vase – a ceramic vessel decorated with the head of the Egyptian deity Bes. The dwarfish figure was believed to protect women and children, particularly during childbirth. On the left is the vase the team studied, while on the right are other very similar vases
It is thought that the drinkers worshiped the strange deity Bes, who was believed to protect women and children, particularly during childbirth.
It is unclear whether this bizarre drinking ritual associated with the cult of Bes was widespread in ancient Egypt, but this could be the subject of future research.
The research was conducted by an international team of academics led by Enrico Greco, an expert in environmental chemistry at the University of Trieste in Italy.
“We have successfully identified the presence of several nutraceutical, psychotropic, medicinal and biological substances, shedding light on the diverse components of a liquid concoction used for ritual practices in Ptolemaic Egypt,” say Greco and colleagues.
‘Since the Bes figure was revered as a protective genius, it may be assumed that the liquid drunk from these mugs was considered to be beneficial.
“These findings add to our understanding of ancient belief systems, cultural practices and natural resource use, ultimately increasing our knowledge of past societies and their connection to the natural world.”
The Bes vase analyzed for this study dates from the second century BC and is part of the collection of the Tampa Museum of Art in Florida.
It was said to be found in the Fayum District, a region south of Cairo known for its fertility and the abundance of plant and animal life in ancient Egypt.
Bes was a minor god in ancient Egyptian religion, depicted as a dwarf with a large head, bulging eyes, protruding tongue, crooked legs, bushy tail, and usually a crown of feathers (pictured here at left with smaller female counterpart Beset at right)
The team used multiple analytical methods, including spectroscopy, which studies the absorption and emission of light and other radiation by matter
The team used multiple analytical methods, including spectroscopy, genetic techniques and sampling of proteins and molecules to reveal more about what was once in the vase.
They identified “key proteins and metabolites” that enabled the identification of botanical sources, confirmed by genetic sequences.
One of the plants used as a cocktail ingredient was Peganum harmala, commonly known as Syrian rue, native to the Mediterranean basin.
The seeds of the plant produce large amounts of the alkaloids harmine and harmaline, which the team says induce “dream-like visions.”
These visions tend to be “oneirophrenic” – where a person becomes confused about the distinction between reality and dream.
The plant also contains the alkaloid vasicin in lower concentrations, which has ‘uterotonic’ properties at certain doses, the team says.
These can promote childbirth or cause abortion – referring to those concepts associated with Bes the deity.
Traces of the aquatic planet blue lotus flower (Nymphaea caerulea) were also found, which contains the psychoactive alkaloid aporphine.
The analysis also revealed the presence of fermented fruit-based liquid and other ingredients such as honey or royal jelly.
In the photo Peganum harmala, better known as Syrian rue. The seeds of the plant produce large amounts of the alkaloids harmine and harmaline, which induce dream-like visions
A compound was even found in the licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra), hinting at the cultivation of licorice in ancient Egypt.
But what was most surprising was the discovery of “a high presence of human proteins in the residue,” they say, suggesting “an intentional addition of human fluids to the drink prepared for ritual purposes.”
“This includes fluids such as breast milk, mucus fluids (oral or vaginal), and blood.”
In addition, traces of soft wheat and sesame seeds were found, along with yeasts from fermentation, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, still used to make beer and bread.
On the photo optical images of the sample collected from vessel residues at different magnifications. The sample usually consists of small granules of different size and color
Researchers conclude that this Bes vase was used for a kind of “ritual re-enactment of what happened during an important event in Egyptian myth.”
“Extending the sampling chemistry study to other examples of similar and contemporaneous Bes vases becomes critical at this point,” they say.
“(This will) establish whether the evidence discussed here was a rare or one-time event, or a widespread practice.”
The research has been published on the Research square server and has yet to be peer reviewed.
Archaeologists discover 12 severed HANDS in an Egyptian palace after 3500 years
Severed human hands found in Egypt may belong to enemy warriors captured some 3,500 years ago, a gruesome new study shows.
Twelve hands were found in the Hyksos Palace in the ancient city of Avaris in northern Egypt, the former territory of the ancient Hyksos people and now an archaeological site.
Researchers in Germany believe the appendages likely dissected from the right arms of 11 adult males and one female — possibly when they were alive.
They refer to a gruesome ceremony performed at the palace by order of the royal members of the dynasty.
It is possible that they belonged to enemy warriors who were captured before having their hands cut off and thrown into pits for public display.