During the Iron-Age, ‘competitive feasting’ (essentially throwing the biggest, best, and most exciting party) was a key element in developing political and social connections. Archaeologists working Germany for the past ten years have uncovered key feasting elements in graves dating to 2,600 BP (Before Present). The contents of the grave emphasize not only ‘feasting’ but drinking – large cauldrons used to hold alcoholic beverages.
To the upper-class, the quantity of alcohol consumed was as important as the quality. Arnold excavated at least one fully intact cauldron used for serving alcoholic beverages in one of the graves at Heuneburg. But it’s hard to top the recovery of nine drinking horns — including one that held 10 pints — at a single chieftain’s grave in nearby Hochdorf in the 1970s.
The burial pits excavated contain objects belonging to men, women, and even children. To learn more about the excavations and these finds, feet the article in Science Daily.
Nautical Archaeologists have recently discovered a Roman era shipwreck off of the coast of Albania. The wreck, which dates to the 1st century BCE was filled with amphorae used to store wine. Archaeologists believe that merchants were transporting the wine from Albania’s vineyards to be sold throughout the Mediterranean.
In spite of its age and relatively shallow depth (50 m below sea level), the wreck is remarkably well preserved and nearly all of the vessel seem to be in tact. Both American and Albanian archaeologists will work together to excavate the findings and are excited about the potential for insight it provides about this period in Roman history.
To read more about the wreck and its findings, see this article on MSNBC.
Any student of ancient civilization recognizes the importance that alcohol has played on the development of our cultural past. When we all started living together densely (a.k.a. – civilization), food and water became immediate, problematic needs as pollution (generally in the form of human waste) destroyed our resources. Water was generally a dangerous drink (as any traveller to Mexico has discovered) and alcohol was a safe alternative – the fermentation process often killed or prevented the growth of dangerous bacteria and parasites. In fact, in ancient Egypt, a common breakfast was a hunk of bread and a bucket of beer.
One man has made his name on the study of alcohol in the ancient world, specifically the role it played in our own cultural and social evolution – Patrick McGovern. “Dr. Pat” is the world’s foremost expert on ancient booze, but his expertise expands beyond the rate of hops or blended barleys. As an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, he has travelled the world, poured over manuscripts, and excavated the remnants of ancient distilleries, breweries, and wineries in his quest to further understand humanity’s relationship with intoxicating beverages.