A new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports suggests beer brewing practices existed in the Eastern Mediterranean over five millennia before the earliest known evidence, discovered in northern China .
In an archaeological collaboration project between Stanford University in the United States, and University of Haifa, Israel, archaeologists analyzed three stone mortars from a 13,000-year old Natufian burial cave site in Israel. Their analysis confirmed that these mortars were used for brewing of wheat/barley, as well as for food storage.
“This accounts for the oldest record of man-made alcohol in the world,” said Li Liu, PhD, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Stanford University, USA.
“Alcohol making and food storage were among the major technological innovations that eventually led to the development of civilizations in the world, and archaeological science is a powerful means to help reveal their origins and decode their contents,” said Li Liu.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to present our findings, which shed new light on a deeper history of human society.”
Oldest beer making in the world.
The earliest archaeological evidence for cereal-based beer brewing even before the advent of agriculture comes from the Natufians, semi-sedentary, foraging people, living in the Eastern Mediterranean between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic periods, following the last Ice Age. The Natufians at Raqefet Cave collected locally available plants, stored malted seeds, and made beer as a part of their rituals.
“The Natufian remains in Raqefet Cave never stop surprising us,” said Prof. Dani Nadel, Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Israel, who was also an excavator of the site. “We exposed a Natufian burial area with about 30 individuals; a wealth of small finds such as flint tools, animal bones and ground stone implements, and about 100 stone mortars and cupmarks. Some of the skeletons are well-preserved and provided direct dates and even human DNA, and we have evidence for flower burials and wakes by the graves.
“And now, with the production of beer, the Raqefet Cave remains provide a very vivid and colorful picture of Natufian lifeways, their technological capabilities and inventions.”
A team of Stanford University and Israeli archaeologists stand in the entrance to Raqefet Cave, where they found evidence for the oldest man-made alcohol in the world. From left, Dani Nadel, Li Liu, Jiajing Wang and Hao Zhao . . .
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