Beer is almost as old as civilization itself. It is mentioned in Sumerian texts that date back more than 5,000 years ago. Beginning in the 1950s, scientists debated the notion that beer, not bread, was actually the start of the development for agriculture.
Almost every culture around the world has invented its own concoction of beer. History says brewing was a home based operation, as part of the preparation in meals. From South Africa to China, the production of beer grew in scale with the rise of society, then later became primarily a function of the state.
The physical evidence of ancient brewing isn’t easy to obtain. With most cultures, home beer brewing required only the basic of ingredients, such as a fire, cooking vessels, and some jars. None of these materials are unique to the brewing process. Jars that were found near a kiln could have been used for storing barley or wheat for bread, while cooking pots could have been used for heating liquids.
So far, archaeologists haven’t been able to find a complete set of evidence. One of the oldest breweries was found in southern Egypt and dates back to over 5,000 years ago. At this site, teams found well heated vats that were encrusted on the inside with a cereal based residue.
Another ancient brewery was discovered along the Nile in the middle of Egypt. The site was located in what is thought to be the Sun Temple, where a king’s wife was buried. Archaeologists found a complex set of rooms that had been used for cereal processing. Ovens, grains, and larger jars indicate that the rooms were used as a bakery or a brewery.
In a different area of the world, excavators found a brewery dating back to the times of the Romans. On this site, there were preserved tables that date from A.D. 100, with beer being specifically mentioned on several of the tablets.
The chemical evidence of beer would prove to be a site’s purpose once and for all, although that normally isn’t easy. Alcohol is much too delicate to last for centuries, as any cereal based residue found could have come from baking just as easily as from brewing.
Throughout the course of time, there will always be evidence of beer being brewed many centuries ago. Without actually finding physical evidence though, it can be really hard to determine. If there were physical evidence, it would be really different indeed.