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Ancient Nubians Brewed Antibiotic Beer

A chemical analysis of Nubian mummies dating back 1,600 years indicates that the ancient Nubians brewed beer with tetracycline, an antibiotic. Chemist Mark Nelson recently published an article arguing that this activity was intentional:

Nelson found large amounts of tetracycline in the bones tested from the ancient population, which lived in the Nubian kingdom (present day Sudan) between 250 A.D. and 550 A.D. and left no written record.

“The bones of these ancient people were saturated with tetracycline, showing that they had been taking it for a long time,” Nelson said in a press release August 30. “I’m convinced that they had the science of fermentation under control and were purposely producing the drug.”[...]


This study was co-authored by George Armelagos, who asked graduate students to try to brew this type of beer:

To make sure that making the antibiotic beer was possible, Armelagos had his graduate students give it a try.

“What they were making wasn’t like a Bud Light but a cereal gruel,” Armelagos said. “My students said that it was ‘not bad,’ but it is like a sour porridge substance. The ancient people would have drained the liquid off and also eaten the gruel.”


Link | Photo by Flickr user maccun934 used under Creative Commons license

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