“Oldest brewery in the world” discovered in Israel

In a cave in Israel, people apparently made a beer-like drink 13,000 years ago. It had less alcohol than the modern variant but was already celebrated with the brew back then.

Archaeologists have discovered what is probably the oldest brewery in the world in Israel. During excavations in the cave of Rakefet south of Haifa, they found evidence of an approximately 13,000-year-old production facility for alcohol.

“If we are not mistaken, this is the oldest evidence of alcohol production worldwide,” said Dani Nadel of the University of Haifa on Thursday. The results of the research, in which scientists from Stanford University in the USA were also involved, were published in the “Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports”.

The scientists assume that a beer-like drink was produced in the cave, which was served at festivals. The investigated cave served as a burial place in the Natufian culture. Between 12,500 and 10,000 BC, the people of the region began to settle down.

Liquid reminiscent of soup

The people of the Natufien had buried some dead in the cave on a platform covered with flowers and plants. In addition, they “apparently produced a liquid that is reminiscent of soup, but was actually an alcoholic drink”. The drink contained significantly less alcohol than today’s beer, but it was fermented.

Excavations in the cave of Rakefet Photo: AFP/Dani NADEL/Haifa University

During their excavations, the researchers discovered three small chambers 40 to 60 centimeters deep that had been dug into the rocky ceiling of the cave. Two of the pits were used to store grain, the third for fermentation, as archaeologists suspect.

According to Nadel, the location of these chambers suggests that the production of the alcohol was “linked to the ceremonies or other social activities”. The great effort involved in the production of alcohol shows the importance of the drink in the Natufian culture.

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