A team of Israeli archeologists, microbiologists, and brew experts, recently brewed a beer so old it would have been drunk by Pharaohs some 5,000 years ago. The yeast was discovered in ancient pottery from that era.
Portions of this article were originally reported by NoCamels.com
In the study, authored by over a dozen scientists from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University, Ariel University, and the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center, the researchers wrote that they “developed a pipeline of yeast isolation from clay vessels and screened for yeast cells in beverage-related and non-beverage-related ancient vessels and sediments from several archaeological sites,” finding that “yeast cells could be successfully isolated specifically from clay containers of fermented beverages.”
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The scientists say that a majority of previous studies of ancient organisms were based mainly on the analysis of ancient DNA, and that attempts to recreate ancient beer and wine were made using “modern ingredients combined with modern domesticated commercial yeast (predominantly Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and not with the actual microorganisms that might have been used in the production of these fermented beverages.”
These results, they wrote, “open new and exciting avenues in the study of domesticated microorganisms and contribute significantly to the fields of bio- and experimental archaeology that aim to reconstruct ancient artifacts and products.”
The team was led by Dr. Ronen Hazan and Dr. Michael Klutstein, microbiologists from the School of Dental Medicine at the Hebrew University, and Dr. Yitzhak Paz from the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Paz called the study a “real breakthrough,” asserting that “this is the first time we succeeded in producing ancient alcohol from ancient yeast… This has never been done before.”
In all, the scientists isolated six yeast strains from 21 beer-and mead-related ancient vessels dating back to the reign of Egyptian Pharaoh Narmer (roughly 3000 BCE), Aramean King Hazael (800 BCE) and to Prophet Nehemiah (400 BCE) who, according to the bible, governed Judea under Persian rule.