Archaeologists Uncover Oldest Known Brewery in Egypt

With it comes a clearer view of the history of beer

Abydos, one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt.
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

There’s a place where archaeology buffs and beer drinkers can find common ground, and it’s situated in the part of archaeology that explores the consumption of alcohol in bygone times. Patrick E. McGovern’s book Ancient Brews: Rediscovered and Re-Created offers an invaluable look into how societies across the world cultivated the art of brewing — and how that helped shape the way beers are made now.

Now, a new discovery offers an invaluable glimpse into some of the oldest brewing techniques that have been unearthed. A team of archaeologists from Egypt and the United States recently found the oldest known brewery in the world, situated in the ancient Egyptian city of Abydos. There, beer was brewed around 5,000 years ago.

A new report from The Times of Israel provides more details about the find and its historical significance. The facility was built at the beginning of Egypt’s First Dynastic Period, during the reign of King Narmer. Within the brewery, archaeologists discovered objects 65 feet long and 8 feet wide which were designed to house pottery, which was in turn used to heat up the ingredients for beer.

Mass production of beer sounds very familiar to contemporary readers — though the ultimate destination for this beer differs somewhat from the beer brewed today. Archaeologists found evidence that the beer brewed in this facility was used for rituals for the royal family — specifically, those involving sacrificial rites.

The archaeological team’s discovery offers a window on both Egyptian history and beer history — a useful combination for better understanding the past in a visceral way.

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