5,000-year-old brewery, possibly world's oldest, uncovered in Egypt

Archaeologists have discovered a 5,000-year-old brewery that could produce thousands of litres of beer in the ancient Egyptian city of Abydos that likely dates back to the reign of King Narmer around 3,100 BC.

Ancient breweries believed to be used in burial rituals for kings

This image shows archaeologists discovering a 5,000-year-old mass production brewery in the ancient city of Abydos at Sohag Governorate in Egypt, in this image released on Feb. 13, 2021. (The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities/Handout via Reuters)

American and Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed what could be the oldest known beer factory at one of the most prominent archaeological sites of ancient Egypt, according to a top antiquities official.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the factory was found in Abydos, an ancient burial ground located in the desert west of the Nile River, over 450 kilometres south of Cairo.

He said the factory apparently dates back to the reign of King Narmer, who is widely known for his unification of ancient Egypt at the beginning of the First Dynastic Period (3150 BC- 2613 BC).

Archaeologists found eight huge units — each is 20 metres (about 65 feet) long and 2.5 metres (about eight feet) wide. Each unit includes some 40 pottery basins in two rows, which had been used to heat up a mixture of grains and water to produce beer, Waziri said.

The brewery used clay pots used to warm mixtures of grain and water. (The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities/Handout via Reuters)

The joint mission is co-chaired by Dr. Matthew Adams of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and Deborah Vischak, assistant professor of ancient Egyptian art history and archaeology at Princeton University.

Adams said the factory was apparently built in this area to provide royal rituals with beer, given that archaeologists found evidences showing the use of beer in sacrificial rites of ancient Egyptians.

British archaeologists were the first to mention the existence of that factory in the early 1900s, but they couldn't determine its location, the antiquities ministry said.

With its vast cemeteries and temples from the earliest times of ancient Egypt, Abydos was known for monuments honouring Osiris, ancient Egypt's god of the underworld and the deity responsible for judging souls in the afterlife.

The necropolis had been used in every period of early Egyptian history, from the prehistoric age to Roman times.

Egypt has announced dozens of ancient discoveries in the past couple of years, in the hope of attracting more tourists.

The tourism industry has been reeling from the political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The sector was also dealt a further blow last year by the coronavirus pandemic.