Egyptian priests ate like gods – and paid by dying young

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The banquets offered by high priests to appease the gods of Ancient Egypt may have been welcomed as a perk of the job but they also increased their chances of cardiovascular disease and early death, research suggests.

The priests, a powerful bureaucracy under the pharaohs, would place vast plates of roast fowl and copious quantities of wine and beer before a god’s statue in a rite repeated three times each day. Then the food was divided up among the priesthood and taken home from the temple to be shared with their families.

Egyptologists and scientists at the University of Manchester have disclosed in The Lancet the cost of keeping the gods happy. By combining translations of hieroglyphic inscriptions on temple walls showing details of food offered to the gods with analysis of mummified remains, they have assessed their atherosclerosis, the build-up of fat and calcium in the arteries.

The findings show that cardiovascular disease affected the privileged of Ancient Egypt long before fried food and a sedentary life made heart attacks and strokes a modern killer. Rosalie David, of the university’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, said that it was a telling message: “Live like a god and you will pay with your health.”...

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