Interactions lie at the heart of correlated many-body quantum phases1, 2, 3. Typically, the interactions between microscopic particles are described as two-body interactions. However, it has been shown that higher-order multi-body interactions could give rise to novel quantum phases with intriguing properties. So far, multi-body interactions have been observed as inelastic loss resonances in three- and four-body recombinations of atom–atom and atom–molecule collisions4, 5, 6. Here we demonstrate the presence of effective multi-body interactions7 in a system of ultracold bosonic atoms in a three-dimensional optical lattice, emerging through virtual transitions of particles from the lowest energy band to higher energy bands. We observe such interactions up to the six-body case in time-resolved traces of quantum phase revivals8, 9, 10, 11, using an atom interferometric technique that allows us to precisely measure the absolute energies of atom number states at a lattice site. In addition, we show that the spectral content of these time traces can reveal the atom number statistics at a lattice site, similar to foundational experiments in cavity quantum electrodynamics that yield the statistics of a cavity photon field12. Our precision measurement of multi-body interaction energies provides crucial input for the comparison of optical-lattice quantum simulators with many-body quantum theory.