(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered the earliest known “beer megafactory” – an ancient brewery that produced intoxicating drinks at least 5,000 years ago – on an industrial scale.
This adds to a long line of ancient beer-related discoveries that have helped the archaeological community better understand the history of this ancient drink.
Ergo remains found on stone mortars found in the Rakefet cave in northern Israel were created earlier than 13,000 years ago, suggesting that even before the advent of agriculture, the Natufian civilization mastered the production of beer.
Beer troughs have been discovered at Göbekli Tepe in eastern Turkey, known as the so-called “earliest temple in the world”, dating back over 11,000 years.
In Mesopotamia, the oldest evidence of beer production is found on a 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet depicting Sumerian people drinking from a common bowl through a reed straw. While in Neolithic Europe and China as early as 5,000 years ago, beer was brewed using barley and other cereals.
Now, also 5,000 years ago, in the ancient city of Abydos, located along the Nile River, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Cairo, a huge ancient beer factory has been discovered. But in ancient Egypt, beer was not only an after-work drink, but for the elite, beer was a key part of the spiritual dynamic of life and death.
Mostafa Waziri, general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced on Saturday that evidence collected at the ancient brewery dates back to the reign of King Narmer.
Although Narmer is often credited with the unification of Egypt at the start of the First Dynastic Period (3150-2613 BC), “Menes” is considered the first king of ancient Egypt, and most modern Egyptologists identify Narmer as Menes.
A team of American and Egyptian Egyptologists unearthed “eight huge industrial buildings”, averaging about 20 meters (about 65 feet) long and 2.5 meters (16.4 feet) wide, but there are some that are over 35 meters long ( 114.8 ft) and which contain more than 80 individual ceramic vats used for boiling, or mashing, during the beer production stage.
In the latest field diary entry for the archeology of Abydos, the researchers write: “And since we have not yet reached the full volume of even the longest specimens, they will only become larger.”
Samples of remains were found in pottery basins, which were found to have been used to heat a mixture of grain and water to produce beer. Obviously, according to Vaziri, in one of the large early cities of ancient Egypt, “a huge amount of beer was produced.”
According to the Abydos archaeology, “if all eight brewery structures were of comparable size, the total production capacity of the brewery would approach 50,000 liters (or 100,000 pints) per batch. This is truly an industrial scale of production, even by modern standards.”
From the earliest times of ancient Egypt, Abydos was a vast collection of cemeteries and temples dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld, Osiris, who was responsible for the judgment of souls in the afterlife.
Dr. Matthew Adams of the New York University Institute of Fine Arts was the co-chair of the archaeological mission.
Adams suggests that beer in Egypt was produced “not only for simple drinking, but also for use in the rituals of the elite.” In reference to the 13,000-year-old beer production they explored in the Rakefet Cave in Israel, the 1956 team explained that “the ancients wanted beer to uplift them spiritually. Just like we do today.”
According to an article in Ha’aretz, one of the fragments of the “Book of Breath” written for Horus, the Theban priest of Amun-Ra, directly states the following: “Let your ba-spirit make libations for you, consisting of bread, “beer”, beef and birds, as well as cool water and incense during [every] day.” Now, in Abydos, a real beer factory is making all those otherworldly references in high definition.
After all, the ancient Egyptians believed that the afterlife included all the best things in this life: food, drinks, houses and pets, but without illness and debt. Beer, therefore, would probably be on the list of ideal eternity for most people, right above or below wine.
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