World’s ‘oldest brewery’ is discovered in northern Israel

Drink to old times: World’s ‘oldest brewery’ discovered in northern Israel brewed alcoholic beverages for ceremonies 13,000 years ago

  • The beer-like beverage may have been served in ceremonies 13,000 years ago 
  • The site is located in the Raqefet cave south of Haifa in today’s northern Israel
  • The location of the mortars implies the drink was consumed during ceremonies

Archaeologists have found what they believe is the world’s oldest site for alcohol production. 

The site is located in the Raqefet cave south of Haifa in today’s northern Israel that also served as a burial site for the Natufian people. 

They believe the beer-like beverage may have been served in ceremonies some 13,000 years ago.

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Archaeologists inspect what they believe is the world’s oldest site for alcohol production, south of the Israeli city of Haifa in cave dating back 13,000 years

‘If we’re right, this is the earliest testament in the world to alcohol production of any kind,’ Dani Nadel, an archaeology professor at the University of Haifa told AFP.

‘We know what the Natufians did in the cave. They buried some of their dead on a platform of flowers and plants, and apparently also produced a soup-like liquid, an alcoholic drink.’

According to Dr Nadel, the liquid was ‘different than today’s beer’ and probably much weaker, ‘but fermented’.


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Three small pits, or mortars, were discovered that had been carved into the surface of the Raqefet cave, according to the paper published in the ‘Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports’.

Two of the small stone mortars were for storing grains, and the third for pounding and brewing grains ahead of fermentation, the study found.

The mortars were some 40-60 centimetres (one-two foot) deep.

The location of the mortars in the burial caves implies the drink was ‘apparently connected to the ceremonies, or some sort of social event,’ Dr Nadel said.

The site (pictured) is located in the Raqefet cave south of Haifa in today’s northern Israel that also served as a burial site for the Natufian people

Pictured is the cave site. The Natufians were hunter-gatherers who lived in the eastern Mediterranean region 15,000 to 11,500 years ago, and began settling down rather than roving from place to place

According to the article, published with researchers from Stanford University in the United States, the beer-making innovations ‘predated the appearance of domesticated cereals by several millennia in the Near East.’

The Natufians were hunter-gatherers who lived in the eastern Mediterranean region 15,000 to 11,500 years ago, and began settling down rather than roving from place to place.

They were ‘the last in the region who lived in a different way than the villages we’re familiar with,’ Nadel said.

The efforts put into producing the alcoholic beverage showed the importance of the drink in the Natufian culture, he noted.

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