Ancient Nubians were regularly consuming antibiotic tetracycline, most likely in their beer, according to a chemical analysis of their bones.
The finding is the strongest evidence yet that the art of making antibiotics, which officially dates to the discovery of penicillin in 1928, was a common practice nearly 2,000 years ago.
Tetracycline is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections such as urinary tract infections, chlamydia and acne.
The research was led by Emory University anthropologist George Armelagos in the US and medicinal chemist Mark Nelson of Paratek Pharmaceuticals, reports the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
"We tend to associate drugs that cure diseases with modern medicine," said Armelagos, according to an Emory release.
"But it's becoming increasingly clear that this prehistoric population was using empirical evidence to develop therapeutic agents."