Monday 8 November 2010
Source: Live Science.
Beer is the world’s most widely consumed and probably the oldest of alcoholic beverages; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. Could beer have helped lead to the rise of civilization? It’s a possibility, some archaeologists say.
Their argument is that Stone Age farmers were domesticating cereals not so much to fill their stomachs but to lighten their heads, by turning the grains into beer. That has been their take for more than 50 years, and now one archaeologist says the evidence is getting stronger.
Signs that people went to great lengths to obtain grains despite the hard work needed to make them edible, plus the knowledge that feasts were important community-building gatherings, support the idea that cereal grains were being turned into beer, said archaeologist Brian Hayden at Simon Fraser University in Canada.
The advent of agriculture began in the Neolithic Period of the Stone Age about 11,500 years ago. Once-nomadic groups of people had settled down and were coming into contact with each other more often, spurring the establishment of more complex social customs that set the foundation of more-intricate communities.
Beer is one of the world’s oldest prepared beverages, possibly dating back to the early Neolithic or 9000 BC, and is recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The earliest known chemical evidence of beer dates to circa 3500–3100 BC from the site of Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran. Some of the earliest Sumerian writings found in the region contain references to a type of beer; one such example, a prayer to the goddess Ninkasi, known as The Hymn to Ninkasi, served as both a prayer as well as a method of remembering the recipe for beer in a culture with few literate people. The Ebla tablets, discovered in 1974 in Ebla, Syria and date back to 2,500 BC, reveal that the city produced a range of beers, including one that appears to be named Ebla after the city. A beer made from rice, which, unlike sake, didn’t use the amylolytic process, and was probably prepared for fermentation by mastication or malting, was made in China around 7,000 BC.