How ancient humans got drunk: New book recreates the world's oldest known beers and wines, and argues being tipsy played a key part in developing language, art and religion
- 'Ancient Brews: Rediscovered and Recreated' is by Dr Patrick McGovern
- He says humans started agriculture to make grains for fermented drinks
- Alcohol was probably crucial in developing language, music and the arts
- One drink called the Midas Touch was found in a Turkish tomb dating to 700 BC
Humanity's thirst for getting drunk probably started in the Palaeolithic period and was crucial in developing language, art and religion, according to a new book.
Dr Patrick McGovern, an alcohol archaeologist, suggests humans started agriculture not to make food but to make fermented drinks from the grain so they could get drunk.
By analysing the residues found on fragments of pottery, Dr McGovern has managed to recreate a number of ancient beers and wines that were all but lost to history.
One of the drinks he recreates is named the Midas Touch which was found in Turkish tomb dating back to 700 BC.
South American 'Shuar' women of Amazonia preparing chicha: a corn based beer mixed with strawberries that was consumed by the Incas in the 17th century. Patrick McGovern suggests humans started agriculture not to make food but to make fermented drinks
ALCOHOL CAN BE MADE FROM GRASS, FRUIT, TREES AND EVEN MILK
- Cacao Wine: Mesoamericans made wine using the cacao fruit, drinking it by blowing air into a pot and drinking the liquid froth at the top.
- Cassava beer: Ancient brewers in 4,000 BC made a strong brew from cassava by chewing the starchy root first - an enzyme in saliva converts starch into fermentable sugar.
- Potato chicha: The Mapuche people of Chile fermented potatoes into a strong brew in 13,000 BC.
- Sorghum beer: The sorghum grain was used to make beer in 6000 BC in Africa - and it's gluten free.
- Palm wine: In 16,000 BC, the sap of different types of palm trees was feremented to make palm wine, and it's still popular in Africa and in tropical regions in Asia.
In his book 'Ancient Brews: Rediscovered and Recreated', Dr McGovern from the University of Pennsylvania suggests Paleolithic people - the era that hominids start making tools - may have also been getting tipsy.
He believes the need for grain to make alcohol fuelled human development and domestication.
'We don't know for sure and have limited archaeological evidence, but if you had your choice, which would it be?' said Dr McGovern.
'Once you have fermented beverages, it causes a change of behaviour, creates a mind-altering experience.
'I think that could be important in developing language, music, the arts in general and then religion, too', he said.
Archaeologically, it's hard to prove as alcohol evaporates leaving nothing for chemical analysis and the oldest container shown to have contained alcohol is from 9,000 years ago, writes Smithsonian Magazine.
Dr McGovern points out that alcohol is central to social interactions around the world - lowering people's inhibitions and making them feel more spiritual.