Ancient Egyptian Brewery From The Time Of The First Dynasty Discovered

Ancient Egyptians were brewing beer for ceremonial purposes at least 5,000 years ago. Image: Love the wind/Shutterstock

Archaeologists have uncovered a 5,000-year-old beer factory at an ancient burial site in Egypt, with the discovery representing what may be the world’s oldest mass-producing brewery. Announcing the find on its Facebook page, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities explained that the facility was able to produce up to 22,400 liters (5,917 gallons) of beer at a time, and that this brew may have been used during sacrificial rites.

The facility was found in the ancient city of Abydos, an archaeological hotspot that is famed for its many cemeteries, temples and monuments to Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld. According to the statement, 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.”

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The recently-discovered brewery at Abydos, Egyot.
Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, has stated that the factory probably dates back to the reign of the pharaoh Narmer, who ruled around 3100 BCE and is generally credited with unifying Upper and Lower Egypt and founding the First Dynasty.

According to Waziri, the facility “consists of eight large sections,” each measuring 20 meters (65.6 feet) in length and 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in width, with a depth of 0.4 meters (1.3 feet). Each of these sectors was found to contain "about 40 earthenware ponds arranged in two rows,” and it was in these basins that water and grains would have been heated in order to produce beer.

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Water and grains would have been heated in these earthenware basins.

Excavations of the funeral facilities at Abydos have yielded evidence for the ceremonial use of beer, and British archaeologists were the first to propose the existence of a brewery at the site at the turn of the twentieth century. However, while those early explorers were unable to determine the exact location of the factory, “the current expedition was able to re-locate and uncover it and its contents.".

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Abydos is located some 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Cairo, and is home to a number of iconic monuments and funerary chambers, including the Temple of Seti I and the temple of Ramses II. It now seems highly possible that the city also boasted the world’s first mass-producing beer brewery, although this claim can’t be verified.

A number of smaller-scale beer-producing facilities that predate the Abydos factory have previously been discovered, including a 13,000-year-old site that was used by the prehistoric cave-dwellers of present-day Israel.

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