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Archaeologist recreates ancient brews

Patrick McGovern, an archaeologist from the University of Pennsylvania, loves recreating ancient potables.

Over time, McGovern became interested in ancient pottery, then discovering what was inside the pottery.

A colleague presented him with a large jar from Iran from 3500 B.C. that had a reddish deposit. She sought his analysis. The vessel contained tartaric acid, a key ingredient found in grapes from the Middle East.

“That started us off on the wine odyssey,” he recalled.

4 thoughts on “Archaeologist recreates ancient brews

  1. I plan on going to this lecture on Sunday…

    The Archaeology of Beer
    Dr. Christine A. Hastorf
    Curator of South American Archaeology
    Phoebe Hearst Museum, UC Berkeley

    When: Sunday, October 18, 4:00 PM
    Where: Santa Rosa Junior College, Room 2009, Lark Hall (near the Planetarium).
    Beer brewing and drinking are old traditions. In fact some archaeologists think that Near Eastern cereals were domesticated due to the desire to have the grain for beer, rather than the traditional belief for bread. Even if this is not strictly true, we do have growing evidence from around the world of early beer brewing in the archaeological record. Moreover, biologists tell us that humans co-evolved with ethanol, making the daily glass of wine part of our hominid ancestry! Some of these examples from Egypt and Peru will be presented here to illustrate how ubiquitous such a tradition has been.

  2. Dr. Hastorf’s lecture was very good. She had electon microscope photos of starch granules that were pitted showing that they had undergone fermentation ( one way archaeologists can determine if residue was used for bread or beer. She showed graphs of isotopes from skeletal remains that compared changes in types of carbs (C3 or C4 plants, nitrogen from proteins or nitrogen fixing plants) that gave them clues about dietary changes…(i.e. legumes, potatoes, wheats, etc.) She talked about how important fermentation and other microbiotic action was in preserving foods. She showed diagrams ( includ. Egyptian heiroglyph) of ancient beer production.

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