Ancient Egyptian Brewery

Archaeologists Virtually Recreate Ancient Egyptian Brewery

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A Polish archaeologist at the Jagiellonian University Institute of Archaeology has made a 3D reconstruction of a 5,500-year-old brewing installation which was found at Tell el-Farcha, an archaeological site in Egypt dating back to approximately 3700 BC when it functioned as a centre of local Lower Egyptian Culture.  The virtual reconstruction has brought to life the ancient scene in which Egyptians practiced a traditional form of beer making.

The reconstruction was created based on preserved structures of similar analogous buildings at both Tell el-Farcha and other brewing centres in Upper Egypt.  The Tell el-Farcha brewery, the oldest ever brewery found in the region, covers an area about 3.4 by 4 metres and consists of three vat pits separated from each other by low, narrow walls, and all surrounded by a wall with a height of up to 60 cm.  The vessels for brewing beer were placed on a solid clay base which was surrounded by a clay ring with a clear break.

"The purpose of this solution was probably better air circulation, which in turn would allow better control of constant temperature. Such base was usually surrounded with two concentric rows of bricks with D-shaped cross-section, designed to sustain the vessel", explained archaeologist Karolina Rosińska-Balik.

Beer was part of the daily diet of Egyptian Pharaohs over 5,000 years ago. Then, it was made from baked barley bread, and was also used in religious practices. But the role of beer in Egyptian society was far greater than just a drink. Often, beer was prescribed to treat various illnesses. It was also considered to be the most appropriate gift to give to Egyptian Pharaohs, and was offered as a sacrifice to the gods

"The oldest record that mentions beer is a list of grave goods found on the stele in the tomb of the third dynasty belonging to Sekherhabau - almost five thousand years old, and thanks to our excavations, we know that the tradition goes back even further into the history of Egypt", said Rosińska-Balik.

The oldest previously found brewery is also located in Egypt, at the site Hieraconpolis, and is connected to the Nagada culture. However, the oldest references to beer making come from the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia in the form of a 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet depicting people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a communal bowl.  The oldest surviving beer recipe can be found in a 3,900-year-old ancient Sumerian poem honouring Ninkasi, the goddess of brewing, fertility and the harvest.

By April Holloway

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