Archaeologists unearth 'world's oldest' beer brewery in Egypt

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Feb 14, 2021, 12:42 PM(IST)

A handout picture released by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities on February 13, 2021, shows the remains of what may be the world's "oldest" high-production beer brewery, uncovered in the Abydos archaeological site near Egypt's southern city of Sohag. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The brewery likely dates back to the era of King Narmer

Celebrations and drinking go hand-in-hand on many occasions and manufacture of alcoholic beverages is a millions-worth industry. Our ancestors loved to drink too. Our scriptures and folk tales are full of them. But definitive proof of industrial production of a chilled refreshment has (perhaps) been found for the first time. A high production brewery believed to be more than 5000 years old has been unearthed in Egypt by a team of archaeologists, said the tourism ministry on Sunday.

The brewery likely dates back to the era of King Narmer, it quoted the secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziry, as saying, adding it believed the find to "be the oldest high-production brewery in the world."

King Narmer ruled more than 5000 years ago and founded the First Dynasty and unified Upper and Lower Egypt. Existence of the brewery was known since the beginning of the 20-th century, but the exact location was never precisely determined.

The joint Egyptian-American team "was able to re-locate and uncover its contents", said the statement from the ministry.

According to Waziry, the brewery consisted of eight large areas which were used as "units for beer production".

Egypt beer brewery

Each sector contained about 40 earthenware pots arranged in two rows.

A mixture of grains and water used for beer production was heated in the vats, with each basin "held in place by levers made of clay placed vertically in the form of rings".

Brew for 'royal rituals'

Archaeologist Matthew Adams of New York University, who heads the joint mission with Deborah Vischak of Princeton University, said studies have shown that beer was produced at a large scale, with about 22,400 litres made at a time.

The brewery "may have been built in this place specifically to supply the royal rituals that were taking place inside the funeral facilities of the kings of Egypt", the statement quoted him as saying.

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"Evidence for the use of beer in sacrificial rites was found during excavations in these facilities," the statement said.

Evidence of beer-making in ancient Egypt is not new, and past discoveries have shed light on such production. 

Fragments of pottery used by Egyptians to make beer and dating back 5,000 years were discovered on a building site in Tel Aviv, the Israeli Antiquities Authority announced in 2015.

Abydos, where the latest discovery was unearthed, has yielded many treasures over the years and is famed for its temples, such as that of Seti I.

In 2000, a team of US archaeologists brought to light in Abydos the earliest known example of an ancient Egyptian solar barge, dating back to the first Pharaonic dynasty around 5,000 years ago.

Egypt has announced several major new discoveries which it hopes will spur tourism, a sector which has suffered multiple blows -- from a 2011 uprising to the coronavirus pandemic.

A mission working near Alexandria recently discovered several mummies from around 2,000 years ago bearing golden-tongued amulets -- thought to have been placed in the mouths of the dead to ensure they could speak in the afterlife.

Authorities had expected 15 million tourists to visit Egypt in 2020, compared to 13 million the previous year, but the virus has kept holidaymakers away.

(With AFP inputs)

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