Did you know that before the ancient Egyptians started honoring the dead by building pyramids, they did so by brewing beer? In fact, archaeologists from Egypt and the United States recently discovered a 5,000-year-old large-scale brewery at a funerary site in North Abydos, making it the oldest known brewery in the world. The team at Cheers All brings you the story of what may be the oldest beer drinkers in the world.
Archeologists uncovered eight large areas for beer production, each containing about 40 earthenware pots arranged in rows, that they believe date back to the time of King Narmer, Egypt’s ruler around 3150 B.C. and founder of the First Dynasty that unified Egypt. They believe the pots were used to heat a mixture of grain and water, which were held in place by clay levers, to make beer.
The brewery was discovered in Abydos which is known to be an ancient burial ground in the desert. Experts say that evidence located at the site supports the idea that the beer was used in sacrificial rituals. In fact, the brewery “may have been built specifically to supply the royal rituals that were taking place inside the funeral facilities of the kings of Egypt,” says joint expedition leader Matthew Adams, an archaeologist at New York University.
The site was investigated more than a century ago by British archaeologist T. Eric Peet who uncovered what he thought were systems for drying grain to guard against rot. More recent exploration at other similar Egyptian sites suggested that these features were, in fact, used for beer-making. The site was lost after Peet’s initial discovery until it was rediscovered in 2018 using magnetic survey technology. The scale of the brewery made it unique, allowing the Egyptians to make 5,900 gallons of beer at a time. To put that in perspective, it is enough to give 40,000 people a pint of beer. Experts believe it may be the world’s earliest example of industrial-scale beer production.
Abydos, one of the oldest cities in Egypt, is known to be the location of tombs of kings dating back even before the start of the dynastic system, serving as the royal cemetery for the first and second dynasties. It was also a site dedicated to the dead once the pyramids began to be constructed, during the Old Kingdom period. Royal cultic enclosures were built at Abydos where people conducted rituals with offerings to the dead on a large scale. Among those offerings were thousands of pottery “beer jars” found at or near some of funerary temples.
If you are a craft beer drinker, visit the Cheers All website to purchase glassware and other merchandise geared toward beer lovers.