Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 219–224 | Cite as

Beer from the early dynasties (3500–3400 cal B.C.) of Upper Egypt, detected by archaeochemical methods

  • Salwa A. Maksoud
  • M. Nabil El Hadidi
  • Wafaa Mahrous Amer


Physical and chemical analyses of beer residues recovered from a vat site at Hierakonpolis (Upper Egypt) were carried out. Radiocarbon dates of the residues suggest a dating of 3500–3400 cal B.C. and are believed to represent the oldest known beer in the world. Macroscopic and microscopic examinations of the residues revealed the presence of intact remains of grains and spikelets of wheat and barley, as well as fragments of dates and grape pips. Chemical analyses included percentages of sample ingredients, pH and total soluble ions, quantitative determinations of sugars, carboxylic acids and free amino acids. A total of 25 compounds were identified, which are components of fermentation processes that are believed to have formed in connection with the preparation of what is called Nekhen-Hoffman beer.

Key words

Archaeochemistry Beer preparation Upper Egypt Hierakonpolis 3500–3400 B.C. 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. AOAC (1984) Association of Official Analytical Chemists (14th edition). ArlingtonGoogle Scholar
  2. Aspinall GO, Ross KM (1963) Degradation of two periodate-oxidized arbinoxylans. J Chem Soc 1963(2): 1681–1686Google Scholar
  3. Biermann CJ, McGinnis GD (1990) Analysis of carbohydrates by GLC and mass. Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  4. Brunner A, Devillers MA, Robichon SH (1969) Regulation of isoleucine-valine biosynthesis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae altered threonine deaminase in an Is1 mutant responding to threonine. Eur J Biochem 10: 172–183Google Scholar
  5. Cram DJ, Hammond GS (1964) Organic chemistry (2nd edn) pp. 66, 89, 763–770. New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Erman A (1894) Life in ancient Egypt. Macmillan, New York.Google Scholar
  7. Farag RS, Taha SH (1991) Influence of microwaves heating on stability of processed Samn. Bull Fac Agric Cairo Univ 42: 101–105Google Scholar
  8. Geller J (1989) Recent excavations at Hierakonpolis and their relevance to Predynastic pyrotechnology and settlement. Cahier Rech Inst Papyr Egypt Lille 11: 41–52Google Scholar
  9. Geller J (1992) From prehistory to history, beer in Egypt, in Friedman R, Adams B (eds) The followers of Horus; studies dedicated to Michael Allen Hoffman. (Egyptian Studies Publication No. 2), Oxbow Monograph 20: 19–26Google Scholar
  10. Harborne JB (1973) Phytochemical methods, a guide to modern techniques of plant analysis. 1st edn, Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Kaplony P (1963) Die Inschriften der Ägyptischen Frühzeit. Ägyptologische Abhandlungen 8, WiesbadenGoogle Scholar
  12. Kasidas GP, Rose GA (1980) Oxalate content of some common foods, determination by an enzymatic method. Human Nutrition London 34: 255–266Google Scholar
  13. Lucker M (1984) Secondary metabolism in micro- organisms, plants and animals. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  14. Martin SM, Steel R (1955) Effect of phosphate on production of organic acids by Aspergillus niger. Can J Microbiol 1: 470–472Google Scholar
  15. Morcos SR, Hegazi SM, El-Damhougy ST (1973) Fermented foods in common use in Egypt, II. The chemical composition of Bouza and its ingredients. J Sci Food Agric 24: 1157–1161Google Scholar
  16. Murray MA (1905) Saqqara Mastabas, part I, Publications of the Egyptian Research Account 10, British School of Archaeology in Egypt. Quaritch, LondonGoogle Scholar
  17. Novellie LJ (1966) Kaffircorn malting and brewing studies, XIV: mashing with kaffircorn malt factors affecting sugar production. J Sci Food Agric 17: 354Google Scholar
  18. Petrie WMF (1901) Diospolis Parva. The cemeteries of Abadiyeh and Hu, 1898–9. Egyptian Exploration Fund 20: 32Google Scholar
  19. Rose AH, Harrison JS (1969) The Yeasts. Vol 2, Yeasts and the environment, vol 3, Metabolism and physiology of yeasts, Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  20. Samuel CP, Cecil GD (1959) Industrial microbiology. McGraw Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. Stuiver M, Reimer PJ (1986) A computer program for radiocarbon age calibration. Radiocarbon 28: 1022–1030PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Stumpf DK, Burris RH (1979) A micromethod for the purification and quantification of organic acids of tricarboxylic acid cycle in plant tissues. Anal Biochem 95: 311–315Google Scholar
  23. Swain T (1966) Comparative phytochemistry. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Witt L, Weiler PG, Holzer H (1964) Increased CO2 fixation by NH4 salts in yeasts oxidizing glucose. Biochem 2: 331–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Salwa A. Maksoud
    • 1
  • M. Nabil El Hadidi
    • 1
  • Wafaa Mahrous Amer
    • 1
  1. 1.The Archaeobotany Laboratory, The Herbarium, Faculty of ScienceCairo UniversityGizaEgypt

Personalised recommendations