Archaeologists unearth 13,000-year-old brewery in Israel

September 13, 2018 by JNS
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Brewing beer existed in Israel more than 5,000 years before the first known evidence discovered in China.

The tap wheel, giving customers a shot each of 10 beers, at the Beer Bazaar in Jerusalem’s Shuk Mahane Yehuda. Credit: Maayan Jaffe.

As part of a joint-project between Stanford University and the University of Haifa, archeologists examined three stone mortars from a 13,000-year-old Natufian burial cave site in the country. Their analysis, the culmination of five seasons of excavating, confirmed that these mortars were used for brewing of wheat and barley, in addition to storing food, according to a press release.

The earliest evidence of cereal-based beer-brewing derives from the Natufians, who were semi-stationary hunters living in the Eastern Levant between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic eras, succeeding the last Ice Age.

“Alcohol making and food storage were among the major technological innovations that eventually led to the development of civilizations in the world, and archaeological science is a powerful means to help reveal their origins and decode their contents,” said Li Liu, a professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures, in the press release. “We are excited to have the opportunity to present our findings, which shed new light on a deeper history of human society.”

“The Natufian remains in Raqefet Cave never stop surprising us,” said Dani Nadel, a professor at the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, who was also one of the site’s excavators. “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 cup marks. 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.”

“And now, with the production of beer,” added Nadel, “the Raqefet Cave remains provide a very vivid and colorful picture of Natufian lifeways, their technological capabilities and inventions.”


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