Ancient Egyptian brewery found in downtown Tel Aviv
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'The Egyptians drank beer morning, noon and night'

Ancient Egyptian brewery found in downtown Tel Aviv

Potsherds used for producing beer discovered at site believed to be northernmost Egyptian settlement in Early Bronze Age, 5,000 years ago

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

One of the artifacts uncovered at an ancient Egyptian brewery found in downtown Tel Aviv (photo credit: IAA)
One of the artifacts uncovered at an ancient Egyptian brewery found in downtown Tel Aviv (photo credit: IAA)

Nothing beats a cold one on a hot Tel Aviv summer evening, a sentiment it seems was shared by the ancient Egyptians.

Archaeological excavations at a construction site in the White City found remains of a 5,000-year-old brewery belonging to a Bronze Age Egyptian settlement, Israel’s Antiquities Authority announced Sunday.

The site, located in the heart of Tel Aviv, is the northernmost Egyptian site from the Early Bronze Age.

It was excavated by IAA archaeologists as part of a salvage dig before the construction of a new tower on Hamasger Street.

The excavation also yielded 6,000-year-old artifacts, including a bronze dagger and flint tools.

“We found seventeen pits in the excavations, which were used to store agricultural produce in the Early Bronze Age I (3500-3000-BCE),” dig director Diego Barkan said in a statement.

“Among the hundreds of pottery sherds that characterize the local culture, a number of fragments of large ceramic basins were discovered that were made in an Egyptian tradition and were used to prepare beer.”

Beer was a staple of the ancient Egyptian diet, a convenient means of converting grains into storable calories, and the alcohol content, while low, made contaminated water potable. “The Egyptians drank beer morning, noon and night,” said Barkan.

One of the artifacts uncovered at an ancient Egyptian brewery found in downtown Tel Aviv (photo credit: IAA)
One of the artifacts uncovered at an ancient Egyptian brewery found in downtown Tel Aviv (photo credit: IAA)

Workers building the Pyramids at Giza were given a daily ration of several liters of beer each day in addition to bread.

The ancients praised its value, as one inscription from the third millennium BCE stated: “The mouth of a perfectly contented man is filled with beer.”

The beer vessels, Barkan said, were made in a fashion not usual in the local ceramic industry, and of a type similar to those found at an Egyptian administrative building at ‘En Besor, in the northwestern Negev Desert. He said that the excavation was the first evidence of Egyptian presence from the Early Bronze Age in what’s today Tel Aviv.

“Until now we were only aware of an Egyptian presence in the northern Negev and southern coastal plain, whereby the northernmost point of Egyptian occupation occurred in Azor,” Barkan said.

“Now we know that they also appreciated what the Tel Aviv region had to offer and that they too knew how to enjoy a glass of beer, just as Tel Avivians do today.”

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