What would you like, Egyptian or Philistine beer?

Beer was extractd from yeast residue on 5000 years old pottery vessels

Israeli researchers managed to produce beer from yeast residue found in thousands of years old vessels.

A joint study by researchers from the Hebrew University, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Tel Aviv University and Bar Ilan University found a unique method for extracting yeast from ancient clay vessels in order to produce good quality beer. Dr. Ronen Hazan of the Hebrew University and Dr. Yitzhak Paz of the Antiquities Authority, one of the study’s leaders, said: “We know what the taste of the Egyptian and Philistine beer was.”

Beer was an important component of the daily diet in the ancient world and was also the first alcoholic beverage that humans distilled. The pottery vessels, in which the beer were produced in antiquity, were the basis for the new study. The research leaders used yeast created by colonies and based on the pores of the pottery vessels and tried to examine how they were preserved over the years. Using this yeast, high-quality beer was finally produced.

The vessels were chosen from various periods in history, from 3000 BCE to the fourth century BCE, from the time of the founding of the first unified Egyptian kingdom during the reign of King Narmer to the days of Nehemiah, governor of Judea under the Persian rule. The pottery was found at Tel Tzafit (ancient Gat) and Ramat Rachel, near Jerusalem.

Dr. Ronen Hazan of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of the study’s leaders, said that

“The great wonder here is that the yeast colonies have survived within the vessels, sown in them for thousands of years, and just waited for us to grow them, through which we succeeded in producing the beer.”

Dr. Yitzhak Paz of the Israel Antiquities Authority emphasizes the importance of the discovery: “We are talking here about a real breakthrough. This is the first time we succeeded in producing alcohol from ancient yeast, that is, from the original materials from which the alcohol was produced.”

Prof. Yuval Gadot, of the Department of Archeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University that some of the vessels came from Ramat Rachel, the largest Persian site in the Kingdom of Judea, and that many of the jars were engraved with the letters Y, H, D, (Yehud), the name of Judea Province at the Persian period.

Yaniv Berman, courtesy IAA