Beer is almost as old as civilization itself. It is
mentioned in Sumerian texts that date back more than
5,000 years ago. Beginning in the 1950s, scientists
debated the notion that beer, not bread, was actually
the start of the development for agriculture.
Almost every culture around the world has invented
its own concotion of beer. History says brewing
was a home based operation, as part of the preparation
in meals. From South Africa to China, the production
of beer grew in scale with the rise of society,
then later became primarily a function of the state.
The physical evidence of ancient brewing isn’t easy
to obtain. With most cultures, home beer brewing
required only the basic of ingredients, such as a
fire, cooking vessels, and some jars. None of these
materials are unique to the brewing process. Jars
that were found near a kiln could have been used
for storing barley or wheat for bread, while cooking
pots could have been used for heating liquids.
So far, archaeologists haven’t been able to find a
complete set of evidence. One of the oldest
breweries was found in southern Egypt and dates back
to over 5,000 years ago. At this site, teams found
well heated vats that were encrusted on the inside
with a cereal based residue.
Another ancient brewery was discovered along the
Nile in the middle of Egypt. The site was located
in what is thought to be the Sun Temple, where
a king’s wife was buried. Archaeologists found
a complex set of rooms that had been used for
cereal processing. Ovens, grains, and larger jars
indicate that the rooms were used as a bakery or
In a different area of the world, excavators found
a brewery disabled dating back to the times of the Romans.
On this site, there were preserved tables that
date from A.D. 100, with beer being specifically
mentioned on several of the tablets.
The chemical evidence of beer would prove to be a
site’s purpose once and for all, although that
normally isn’t easy. Alcohol is much too delicate
to last for centuries, as any cereal based residue
found could have come from baking just as easily
as from brewing.
Throughout the course of time, there will always
be evidence of beer being brewed many centuries
ago. Without actually finding physical evidence
though, it can be really hard to determine. If
there were physical evidence, it would be really
Image taken from page 60 of ‘Spring at the Italian Lakes’
Image by The British Library
Image taken from:
Title: "Spring at the Italian Lakes"
Author: THOMPSON, George E. – of Birkenhead
Shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 10130.bbb.20."
Place of Publishing: London
Date of Publishing: 1892
Publisher: J. Cornish & Sons
Find this item in the British Library catalogue, ‘Explore’.
Open the page in the British Library’s itemViewer (page image 60)
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