A high-production brewery believed to be more than 5,000 years old has been uncovered by a team of archaeologists in southern Egypt

A high shot of ancient-dig site shows hole in ground surrounded by modern buildings.

A high-production brewery believed to be more than 5,000 years old has been uncovered by a team of archaeologists in southern Egypt.

Key points:

  • About 40 ancient pots believed to have made beer were found at North Abydos in Sohag
  • The brewery dates back to the era of King Narmer in 3100 BC
  • Archaeologists believe beer may have been used in “sacrificial rites”

The site, containing about 40 earthenware pots arranged in two rows, was uncovered at North Abydos, Sohag, by a joint Egyptian-American team, the Egyptian tourism ministry said.

The brewery is believed to date back to the era of King Narmer, who founded the First Dynasty and unified Upper and Lower Egypt.

Mostafa Waziry, the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said it was “the oldest high-production brewery in the world”, created by a society that was ahead of its time.

British archaeologists first discovered the existence of the brewery at the beginning of the 20th century but its location was never precisely determined, Mr Waziry said.

The joint Egyptian-American team “was able to re-locate and uncover its contents”.

According to Mr Waziry, the brewery consisted of eight large areas that were used as “units for beer production”.

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

A brown hole in the ground looks like a tree trunk on parched ground surrounded by dirt.

The Egyptian site is believed to be the the world’s oldest high-production brewery.(AFP: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

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”.

Fresh brew for ‘royal rituals’

Archaeologist Matthew Adams of New York University, who headed 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.

Depiction of Ptolemy XIII and Isis from Kom Ombo

The ancient Egyptians may have enjoyed the occasional glass of amber fluid.(Wikimedia commons: Hedwig Storch)

“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,” Mr Adams said.

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

Seven holes on brown ancient ground, with narrow black and white marker.

The remains of a row of Egyptian beer vats were founds by researchers at the archaeological site.(AFP: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

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 famous for its temples

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

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