Ancient Alcoholic Beverages - Crystalinks

Ancient Alcoholic Beverages

Purposeful production of alcoholic beverages is common in many cultures and often reflects their cultural and religious peculiarities as much as their geographical and sociological conditions. Discovery of late Stone Age jugs suggest that intentionally fermented beverages existed at least as early as the Neolithic period (cir. 10,000 BC).

Wine's first appearance dates from 6000 BC in Georgia. Evidence of alcoholic beverages has also been found dating from 3150 BC in ancient Egypt,[8] 3000 BC in Babylon,[9] 2000 BC in pre-Hispanic Mexico, and 1500 BC in Sudan. Recipes have been found on clay tablets and art in Mesopotamia that show people using straws to drink beer from large vats and pots. The Hindu ayurvedic texts describe both the beneficial effects of alcoholic beverages and the consequences of intoxication and alcoholic diseases.

The medicinal use of alcohol was mentioned in Sumerian and Egyptian texts dating from about 2100 BC. The Hebrew Bible recommends giving alcoholic drinks to those who are dying or depressed, so that they can forget their misery (Proverbs 31:6-7). Read more ...

In the News ...

Students recreate 5,000-year-old Chinese beer recipe   PhysOrg - February 9, 2017
A collection of plastic-covered glass beakers and water bottles filled with yellow, foamy liquid stood in front of them on the table, at the end of which sat Li Liu, a professor in Chinese archaeology at Stanford. White mold-like layers floated on top of the liquids. As the students removed the plastic covers, they crinkled their noses at the smell and sour taste of the odd-looking concoctions, which were the results of their final project for Liu's course Archaeology of Food: Production, Consumption and Ritual.

Egyptians Brewed Beer in Tel Aviv 5,000 Years Ago   Live Science - March 30, 2015

Tel Aviv's reputation as a party city for expats might have started 5,000 years ago. During the Bronze Age, Egyptians were making beer in what is today downtown Tel Aviv, new archaeological evidence suggests. When archaeologists were conducting salvage excavations ahead of construction on new office buildings along Hamasger Street, they found 17 ancient pits that were used to store produce. These pits held Egyptian-style pottery that dated back to the Early Bronze Age I, a period that lasted from 3500 B.C. to 3000 B.C.

Origins of Inebriation Revealed   Live Science - May 27, 2014

In prehistoric Eurasia, drugs and alcohol were originally reserved for ritual ceremonies, and weren't used merely to satisfy hedonistic motives, a new study suggests. What's more, given the sacred role of the substances, their use was likely highly regulated and only available to elite citizens. Many Eurasian cultures are known to have an ancient history with psychoactive substances, as evidenced by early written documents. The Greek historian Herodotus, for example, once described the Scythians' (Iranian equestrian tribes) post-funeral purification ceremony involving hemp, which dates back to the fifth century B.C. But written records aren't the only indication of early drug and alcohol use.

Iron-Age brewing evidence found in southeastern France   BBC - June 15, 2011
Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that the occupants of southeastern France were brewing beer during the Iron Age, some 2,500 years ago. A paper in Human Ecology outlines the discovery of barley grains that had been sprouted in a process known as malting; an oven found nearby may have been used to regulate the process. Beer brewing's heritage stretches back to the Bronze Age in China and the Middle East, but this is the earliest sign of the practice in France, where wine-making had already taken hold. The recent find was in Roquepertuse, close to modern Aix-en-Provence, and was excavated in the 1990

Earliest Known Winery Found in Armenian Cave   National Geographic - January 11, 2011

Barefoot winemakers likely worked in cave where oldest leather shoe was found. As if making the oldest known leather shoe wasn't enough, a prehistoric people in what's now Armenia also built the world's oldest known winery, a new study says. Undertaken at a burial site, their winemaking may have been dedicated to the dead - and it likely required the removal of any fancy footwear. Near the village of Areni, in the same cave where a stunningly preserved, 5,500-year-old leather moccasin was recently found, archaeologists have unearthed a wine press for stomping grapes, fermentation and storage vessels, drinking cups, and withered grape vines, skins, and seeds, the study says.

9,000-Year-Old Beer Re-Created From Chinese Recipe National Geographic - July 19, 2005
A Delaware brewer with a penchant for exotic drinks recently concocted a beer similar to one brewed in China some 9,000 years ago. Sam Calagione of the Dogfish Head brewery in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, used a recipe that included rice, honey, and grape and hawthorn fruits. He got the formula from archaeologists who derived it from the residues of pottery jars found in the late Stone Age village of Jiahu in northern China. The residues are the earliest direct evidence of brewed beverages in ancient China.

World's earliest alcoholic beverage discovered in China   New Scientist - December 6, 2004

Chemical tests on ancient fragments of broken pottery show that Chinese villagers were brewing alcoholic drinks as far back as 7000 BC. That beats the previous record for the oldest evidence of brewing, found in Iran and dated at about 5400 BC.

The oldest known Chinese texts, from the Shang dynasty period of 1200 BC to 1046 BC, mention three types of alcoholic drink. Archaeologists had suspected that fermented drinks had been developed much earlier because older bronze vessels and pottery resembled those used for the Shang dynasty drinks.

However, solid evidence had been lacking until a Chinese-American team studied potsherds - radiocarbon-dated at 7000 BC to 6600 BC - from the oldest portion of Jiahu, a village from the Neolithic period in Henan province. This cultural period is characterized by primitive crop growing and the use of flint tools and weapons.

The team compared residues extracted from the potsherds with liquids remaining in tightly sealed vessels dated to the Shang dynasty. Their analysis of the Jiahu residues revealed traces of compounds found in rice, as well as the ancient Shang dynasty wines. They found that 13 of the 16 potsherds tested had contained the same material. It was "a consistently processed beverage made from rice, honey and a fruit", say the researchers.

The analysis revealed tartrates – a chemical concentrated in the seeds of grapes and hawthorn trees which are common in China. And indeed the only fruit seeds excavators reported finding at the Jiahu site came from these plants. Although fermentation can occur naturally, wines must be sealed in containers to keep bacteria from converting the alcohol to vinegar. Jiahu is the oldest Chinese site with pottery - wood or leather containers would not have survived and so alcoholic beverage production could have gone even further back into Chinese history.

Patrick McGovern at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, US, who led the study believes that honey, grapes and hawthorn fruit gave the Jiahu brewers the sugar and yeast they needed to start fermentation. Later Chinese brewers developed a technique called mould saccharification, which breaks the complex carbohydrates of rice into simple sugars that can be fermented. That process yielded more specialized drinks including ancient and modern rice wines. Why brewing developed nearly simultaneously in east Asia and the middle east is something we haven't resolved yet, McGovern told New Scientist. The expanse of central Asia in between would seem to preclude any direct connection