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Learning about the past: Payment 101

Welcome back to the last post of learning about the past. *cues sad emo music* The links for the last two post have been attached to the end of the post. So let’s waste no time and examine the topic for today!

Have any of you history heroes out there ever wonder how trade or wages were paid within the ancient Egyptian times? Imagine a time where money wasn’t properly establish and you can get money simply by pressing a few buttons on the wall. How will you be paid for your work and effort? How will you buy things when you go shopping?

The ancient Egyptians have a few methods to make up their form of payment. They include grain banks, a barter system and bread and beer.

Grain Banks

Similar to the banks of today, people would deposit grains into a huge state grain warehouse. They would then draw grains from this grain banks whenever they wanted to purchase something. But there was definitely some charges that was also being charged in terms of grains. These charges were used by the state to give out as wages and payment to the pyramid builders. If all of you remember, in our first post there was mention of the Pharaoh paying those who help build the Pyramid of Giza in terms of food and clothing, this was where the grains came from. It really amazes us how the Egyptians use to have such an orderly manner of recording such that it allows them to have a similar concept to our modern day bank.

Bater System

The banter system is something that was common during the ancient times where there was no Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) around and no one was in charge of monetary affairs. As with many other civilisations, ancient Egyptians also do banter with their neighbours. They also do have marketplaces that allow bantering to not just take place among neighbours. These places were sometimes permanent but at times only exist from time to time.

Bread and beer

This is one of the most interesting form of payment in ancient Egypt and it was also one of the more widely use forms before the creation of coins. The units of measurement were often done in loafs of bread or amount of beer which forms the most basic diet of an Egyptian. Just as our coins are guaranteed to contain standard amounts of metal, each loaf of bread was baked from a standard recipe, using equal amounts of ingredients, and had a standard nutritional value based on the system called pfs, which is translated as "baking value.” This ensure uniformity within this system of payment.It also assures employer's that a predictable number of loaves would be baked from a known amount of grain and the amount of beer jars made from the specific amount of grain. Findings of ceramic tallies by archeologist in the shape of a standard loaf of bread also suggest that tally could be used to check whether a worker's wages in bread loaves were all the same size. Beer jars were also of a roughly standard size to ensure amount of beer being given out to each worker was uniform. Standard basic wage consisted of ten loaves of bread and one-third to two full jugs of beer per day, though this seems to have varied considerably based on the person’s post. An expedition leader received five hundred loaves of bread a day as his ration daily. Although this amount seem to be sky high for a single person’s consumption, it seem probable that this amount was only used as a form of measurement and approximation for the person’s service. He would not receive this amount of food as it was impossible for a person to finish this much food daily. 

Living in a modern times where money is the realistic form of payment, it is hard to imagine a world where everything was paid for with the exchange of other items. But it gives us and insight of how uniform and structured the Egyptian society was if they were able to have such a specific measurement of commodities.

We have come to the end of the last learning from the past. We hope that everyone have enjoyed this short time with us.

Signing off,

history heroes