World’s Oldest Brewery Discovered In Israel

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3 min readMay 4, 2020

The researchers weren’t specifically looking for traces of ancient beer, but that’s what they found when they analyzed three 13,000-year-old stone mortars from Raqefet. The vessels contained starch residues and phytolith, microscopic plant particles that are “typical in the transformation of wheat and barley to booze,” according to a Stanford University statement. This was discovered as the world’s oldest brewery in Israel.

Archaeologists believe the location of the mortars suggests alcohol was used in “ceremonies” or some kind of social event.

Oldest beer making in the world

The earliest archaeological evidence for cereal-based beer brewing even before the advent of agriculture comes from the Natufians, semi-sedentary, foraging people, living in the Eastern Mediterranean between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic periods, following the last Ice Age. The Natufians at Raqefet Cave collected locally available plants, stored malted seeds, and made beer as a part of their rituals.

“The Natufian remains in Raqefet Cave never stop surprising us,” said Prof. Dani Nadel, Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Israel, who was also an excavator of the site. “We exposed a Natufian burial area with about 30 individuals; a wealth of small finds such as flint tools, animal bones and ground stone implements, and about 100 stone mortars and cupmarks. Some of the skeletons are well-preserved and provided direct dates and even human DNA, and we have evidence for flower burials and wakes by the graves.

Researchers theorize that beer brewing may have inspired the Natufians to cultivate cereals in the region, but it’s not currently known whether beer or bread came first. The mortars dug into the cave floor were reportedly used for storing and pounding wheat and barley, as well as brewing beer.

Ancient beer-brewing was reenacted step by step.

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