Researchers Believe They Found the World's Oldest Beer in Israel

This photo shows Canadian craft brewery beers at a liquor store on August 4, 2018 in Montreal. Researchers believe they found the oldest traces of beer in the world in a cave in Israel. ERIC THOMAS/AFP/Getty Images

After finding residue of a 13,000-year-old beer in a prehistoric cave near Haifa, Israel, researchers believe they have found the world's oldest brewery.

The traces were of a wheat and barley based alcohol and found in stone mortars carved into the cave floors that were used for cooking and storing different plants. The discovery may change two assumptions about the history of beer: that brewing dates back 5,000 years and that beer was the result of a surplus of bread making.

According to the Journal of Archaeological Science, beer was most likely brewed for ritual feasts meant to honor the dead. The issue is set to publish in October. The residue was found in the Ragefet Cave, a Natufian graveyard site.

This brew was more sludge-like, obviously different than modern day beer, and also suspected to be weaker than your typical pint. Researchers made the discovery while studying a nomadic burial site for hunter-gatherers. They were initially searching for indications to what foods the Natufian people were eating between the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods.

"This accounts for the oldest record of man-made alcohol in the world," Li Liu, professor of Chinese archaeology at Stanford University and leader of the research team, told Stanford News on Wednesday. The team has been able to recreate this beer in order to compare it to the residue.

"This discovery indicates that making alcohol was not necessarily a result of agricultural surplus production, but it was developed for ritual purposes and spiritual needs, at least to some extent, prior to agriculture," Liu continued.

"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," she said.