Beer was one of the very first drinks humans ever produced – and it may be much older than we previously thought. The brew is generally thought to be about 7,000 years old, but now archaeologists have found clues that could date beer-making to almost twice that age, meaning it predates agriculture and represents the oldest record of man-made alcohol.
The new evidence was uncovered in Raqefet Cave in Israel, which was once a grave site for the Natufian people, hunter-gatherers that populated the Levant region in the Eastern Mediterranean between about 15,000 and 10,000 years ago. On stone mortars found in the cave, Stanford researchers discovered traces of starch and plant particles called phytolith, indicating grains were crushed and processed in a way that suggests beer-making. The find actually surprised the team.
“We did not set out to find alcohol in the stone mortars, but just wanted to investigate what plant foods people may have consumed because very little data was available in the archaeological record,” says Li Liu, lead researcher on the study.
According to the team, the beer traces seem to be between 11,700 and 13,700 years old, making them the oldest known evidence of man-made alcohol in the world.