Bible and archaeology news
Scholars from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), Tel Aviv University, and Bar-Ilan University isolated, extracted, and sequenced yeast cells from ancient beer and mead jugs unearthed in excavations around Israel. The vessel fragments came from En-Besor in the Negev desert and a dig at HaMasger Street in Tel Aviv, two Early Bronze Age IB (c. 3100 B.C.E.) sites where there was an Egyptian presence; from an Iron Age IIA (c. 850 B.C.E.) context at the Philistine site of Tell es-Safi/Gath; and from an early Persian period (fifth-century B.C.E.) layer at Ramat Rachel, a site situated between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. In all, the researchers were able to experiment with six yeast strains extracted from 21 vessels.
“These jars date back to the reign of Egyptian pharaoh Narmer, to the Aramean king Hazael, and to the prophet Nehemiah, who, according to the Bible, governed Judea under Persian rule,” explained an IAA press release.
In recreating the brews using the ancient ingredients, the researchers followed a common standard recipe for beer production, and the results were assessed according to the Beer Judge Certification Program.
“[P]henotypic and genomic characterization of these yeast strains, including genomic DNA sequencing, showed that they are similar to yeast found in modern traditional beers and are able to ferment and produce drinkable beer similar to modern beverages,” the researchers wrote in their mBio paper.
“The greatest wonder here is that the yeast colonies survived within the vessel for thousands of years—just waiting to be excavated and grown. This ancient yeast allowed us to create beer that lets us know what ancient Philistine and Egyptian beer tasted like,” said Hebrew University scholar Ronen Hazan, one of the paper co-authors. “By the way, the beer isn’t bad. Aside from the gimmick of drinking beer from the time of Pharaoh, this research is extremely important to the field of experimental archaeology—a field that seeks to reconstruct the past. Our research offers new tools to examine ancient methods, and enables us to taste the flavors of the past.”
Sign up to receive our email newsletter and never miss an update.