Archaeologists in Egypt believe they have discovered the world’s oldest known brewery in Abydos, close to the River Nile north of Luxor. According to the joint Egyptian-American team, the brewery could date back to the reign of King Narmer around 3100 BC.
The supposed brewery consisted of eight large areas, each 20m (65ft) long and each containing about 40 earthenware pots arranged in two rows, according to the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziry. The beer was produced by heating a mixture of grains and water in the pots or vats, with each basin “held in place by levers made of clay placed vertically in the form of rings”, explained Mr. Waziry.
It is though that beer was being produced here on a large scale, with about 22,400 litres (5,000 gallons) being made at a time. Archaeologist and team co-leader Matthew Adams of New York University believes that 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”.
In pharaonic times Abydos was a vast walled town with several ancient cemeteries, lakes, temples and magnificent painted tombs. As the cult centre for Osiris, god of the dead, it was regarded as one of Egypt’s holiest towns. It was a pilgrimage destination which all Egyptians hoped to visit once during their lifetime (which may be another reason why so much beer was needed).
Today, Abydos is often included as part of the standard itinerary for tourists on Nile cruises. Visitors can still admire the stunning 19th Dynasty Temple of Seti I, built between 1294 and 1279 BC. The temple still contains remarkable reliefs and hieroglyphics which retain their original dazzling colours.
Text Alun Harvey