A high-production brewery believed to be the world’s “oldest” has been uncovered by a team of archaeologists at the Abydos funerary site in southern Egypt, said Egypt’s tourism ministry.

“The joint Egyptian-American archaeological mission, headed by Dr Matthew Adams of New York University, and Dr Deborah Vischak of Princeton University, working in North Abydos, Sohag, has uncovered what is believed to be the oldest high-production brewery in the world,” the ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page.

It quoted the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziry, as saying the brewery “likely dates back to the era of King Narmer”. Narmer, who ruled more than 5,000 years ago, founded the First Dynasty and unified Upper and Lower Egypt.

world's oldest brewery
The brewery “likely dates back to the era of King Narmer”. (Image: Egypt Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities/ Facebook)

British archaeologists first discovered the existence of the brewery at the beginning of the 20th century but its location was never precisely determined, the statement said. The joint Egyptian-American team “was able to relocate and uncover its contents”.

According to Waziry, the brewery consisted of eight large areas which were used as “units for beer production”. Each sector contained about 40 earthenware pots arranged in two rows. 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”.

Brew for ‘royal rituals’

Adams, who heads the joint archaeological mission, said studies have shown that beer was produced at a large scale, with about 22,400 litres made “at a time”.

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”, the statement quoted him as saying.

“Evidence for the use of beer in sacrificial rites was found during excavations in these facilities,” the statement said.

world's oldest brewery
Evidence of beer-making in ancient Egypt is not new, and past discoveries have shed light on such production. (Image: Egypt Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

Evidence of beer-making in ancient Egypt is not new, and past discoveries have shed light on such production.
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 famed for its temples, such as that of Seti I. In 2000, a team of US archaeologists brought to light in Abydos the earliest known example of an ancient Egyptian solar barge, dating back to the first Pharaonic dynasty around 5,000 years ago.

Egypt has announced several major discoveries in recent months which it hopes will spur tourism, a sector which has suffered multiple blows — from a 2011 uprising to the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities had expected 15 million tourists to visit Egypt in 2020, compared to 13 million the previous year, but the virus has kept holidaymakers away.

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