Beer is an alcoholic beverage that has been consumed for countless years. However, a discovery in Israel goes some way to putting an actual date to early beer production.
According to the Times of Israel, the 60-year debate over whether beer or bread came first might be riled up again after a new study on stone mortars found in Israel dates beer production of being at least 13,000 years old, meaning it is still not quite as old as the oldest evidence of bread. For the record, according to a previous Inquisitr article, the oldest known evidence of bread production dates back 14,400 years, so the gap is definitely closing. Regardless, both processes predate the earliest evidence of grain domestication by about 4,000 years, according to Archaeology.
The Stanford University study involving an international team of scientists analyzed residues found on mortars used by the semi-nomadic Natufians. These mortars were discovered by the group near a graveyard site called the Raqefet Cave, located in the Carmel Mountains near Haifa, Israel. The Natufians were known to have lived in the Levant between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic periods.
According to the Stanford News, researchers analyzed “residual remains of starch and microscopic plant particles known as phytolith, which are typical in the transformation of wheat and barley to booze.”
The study was led by Li Liu, a professor of Chinese archaeology at Stanford. Liu now believes this study has revealed the oldest recorded evidence of beer making in the world.
“This accounts for the oldest record of man-made alcohol in the world,” Liu said.
While it is possible this beer was made as a way to store cereal surpluses, Liu believes it was actually made for special rituals that venerated the dead.
“This discovery indicates that making alcohol was not necessarily a result of agricultural surplus production, but it was developed for ritual purposes and spiritual needs, at least to some extent, prior to agriculture,” Liu revealed.
However, while it may be the earliest evidence of beer brewing, beer from that long ago was apparently nothing like the beverage we see today according to Jiajing Wang, who is a doctoral student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures as well as a co-author in the study.
Wang reveals that 13,000-year-old beer was likely a “multi-ingredient concoction like porridge or thin gruel.”
The researchers believe that the Natufians used a three-stage process to make beer. Using the starch of wheat or barley, this tribe would turn the cereal into malt. The malt would then be mashed and heated before being left to ferment using airborne yeast.