Archaeologists discover a 5000-year-old industrial-scale brewery in Egypt

A team of archaeologists led by Deborah Vischak, an assistant professor of art and archaeology at Princeton, has made a discovery in Egypt that will excite beer fans. The researchers, who are part of the North Abydos Project, have uncovered evidence of the world's oldest known industrial-scale beer production facility. The complex they have discovered is more than 5000 years old.

The ancient brewery was able to produce enough beer to serve thousands of people in a single batch. The Princeton archaeological team worked with Egyptian archaeologists to date the brewery to the dawn of ancient Egyptian history, about 3000 BCE. That date corresponds with the approximate time of Upper and Lower Egypt's political unification and the emergence of the pharaonic state.

The ancient brewery corresponds with the era of King Narmer. Archaeologists on the project say that the brewery is revealing the level of resources that were available to Egyptian kings from their beginning. Previous evidence of Egyptians brewing beer was discovered at sites in Hierakonpolis and Tell el-Farkha, but it was at a much smaller scale in both of those locations.

The existence of multiple breweries indicates the cultural importance of beer-making in Egypt. The brewery in Abydos is believed to be a royal brewery and shows that the Pharaoh devoted significant resources to beer making. British archaeologists excavated the site of the discovery in the early 20th century.

However, those early excavations mistook the site for kilns used to parched grain, and the exact location was lost. Current excavations began in 2018 and continued in 2020. The brewery was on the edge of the desert and had at least eight separate installations built-in parallel and spaced about eight meters apart. Six of the eight were approximately 20 meters long x 2.5 meters wide x 40 centimeters deep. Each of the installations had 40 large ceramic vats arranged in two rows supported by rings of sun-dried mud struts used for slow cooking or mashing a thick mixture of grain and water that was strained and fermented to produce beer.