5,000-Year-Old Egyptian Brewery Uncovered in Tel Aviv [PHOTOS]

“Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto the bitter in soul.” (Proverbs 31:6)

A pre-construction archaeological excavation in Tel Aviv has uncovered evidence of a popular Tel Aviv cultural practice, showing it dates back thousands of years. The salvage excavation revealed pottery indicating beer was prepared and served in the city 5,000 years ago.

Prior to new construction in Israel, archaeological excavations are carried out on site by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA)  to preserve any remnants that may be buried there. A new building project by the Rubenstein Company in downtown Tel Aviv prompted the current excavation on HaMasger Street near the Ma’ariv bridge.

A Fragment of a basin used by the ancient Egyptians to produce beer. (Photo: Yoli Shwartz/ Israel Antiquities Authority)
A Fragment of a basin used by the ancient Egyptians to produce beer. (Photo: Yoli Shwartz/ Israel Antiquities Authority)

Seventeen storage pits were found during the excavation, which were used for agricultural produce during the Early Bronze Age I (3500-3000 BCE). Archaeologists also found fragments of vessels that had been used to brew beer.

Said Diego Barkan, director of the archaeological excavation on behalf of the IAA, said in a press release, “Already thousands of years ago Tel Aviv was the city that never sleeps!”

Bronze dagger against the backdrop of the excavation and the towers. (Photo: Yoli Shwartz/ Israel Antiquities Authority)
Bronze dagger against the backdrop of the excavation and the towers. (Photo: Yoli Shwartz/ Israel Antiquities Authority)

According to Barkan, these unique basins prove that there was an Egyptian presence in the city at the time, further north than was known before. “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. These vessels were manufactured with straw temper or some other organic material in order to strengthen them, a method not customary in the local pottery industry.”

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“Vessels such as these were found in the Egyptian administrative building that was excavated at ‘En Besor. On the basis of previously conducted excavations in the region we knew there is an Early Bronze Age site here, but this excavation is the first evidence we have of an Egyptian occupation in the center of Tel Aviv at that time. This is also the northernmost evidence we have of an Egyptian presence in the Early Bronze Age I. 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. 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”.

Flint blades. (Photo: Yoli Shwartz/ Israel Antiquities Authority)
Flint blades. (Photo: Yoli Shwartz/ Israel Antiquities Authority)
Animal bones from 5,000 years ago that were discovered in the excavation, among them bones belonging to wild boar, sheep and goat. (Photo: Yoli Shwartz/ Israel Antiquities Authority)
Animal bones from 5,000 years ago that were discovered in the excavation, among them bones belonging to wild boar, sheep and goat. (Photo: Yoli Shwartz/ Israel Antiquities Authority)

Beer was the ancient Egyptian equivalent of Coca Cola today, consumed by men, women and children alike. Made from a mixture of barley and water, it was often flavored with fruit and filtered through special vessels. Evidence of beer brewing has been found in Egypt dating back as early as the middle of the fourth millenium BCE.

In addition to the pottery, Barkan noted a bronze dagger and flint tools dating 6,000 years ago to the Chalcolithic period had also been discovered at the dig site.

According to Moshe Ajami, the Tel Aviv district archaeologist at the IAA, “The archaeological excavations and documentation of the area will finish today [Sunday]. The site will be approved for development and the research will continue in the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority.”

A bowl dating to the Early Bronze Age I (3500 BCE).  (Photo: Yoli Shwartz/ Israel Antiquities Authority)
A bowl dating to the Early Bronze Age I (3500 BCE). (Photo: Yoli Shwartz/ Israel Antiquities Authority)