15 November 2010

Beer – the origin of civilisation!


Once again the Fortean Times breaking News section contains gold. On Friday it had a link to a Livescience article concerning the role that beer may have played in the rise of civilisation.


Some archaeologists believe that Stone Age farmers domesticated cereals not so much to fill their stomachs but to turn the grains into beer. This is not a new argument but now one archaeologist believes that the evidence is getting stronger.

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.

"Beer is sacred stuff in most traditional societies," said Hayden, who is planning to submit research on the origins of beer to the journal Current Anthropology.

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.

Archaeological evidence suggests that until the Neolithic, cereals such as barley and rice constituted only a minor element of diets, most likely because they require so much labor to get anything edible from them — one typically has to gather, winnow, husk and grind them, all very time-consuming tasks.

Hayden said that he had seen that hard work for himself. "In traditional Mayan villages where I've worked, maize is used for tortillas and for chicha, the beer made there. Women spend five hours a day just grinding up the kernels."

However, sites in Syria suggest that people nevertheless went to unusual lengths at times just to procure cereal grains — up to 40 to 60 miles (60 to 100 km). One might speculate, Hayden said, that the labour associated with grains could have made them attractive in feasts in which guests would be offered foods that were difficult or expensive to prepare, and beer could have been a key reason to procure the grains used to make them.

"It's not that drinking and brewing by itself helped start cultivation, it's this context of feasts that links beer and the emergence of complex societies," Hayden said.

"In traditional feasts throughout the world, there are three ingredients that are almost universally present," he said. "One is meat. The second is some kind of cereal grain, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, in the form of breads or porridge or the like. The third is alcohol, and because you need surplus grain to put into it, as well as time and effort, it's produced almost only in traditional societies for special occasions to impress guests, make them happy, and alter their attitudes favourably toward hosts."

The brewing of alcohol seems to have been a very early development linked with initial domestication, seen during Neolithic times in China, the Sudan, the first pottery in Greece and possibly with the first use of maize.

Well this is good enough for me. It is delightful to know that beer, rather than being the cause of society’s ills in fact the cause of society’s creation!

I would raise a glass myself but for the fact that I am not allowed to drink alcohol at present… Bah!

13 comments:

Claude said...

When I read about the evil of drinking, I gave up reading. Henny Youngman

Claude said...

A woman drove me to drink, and I didn't have the decency to thank her. W.C.Fields

jams o donnell said...

A wise move and a fine quote Claude!

Kay Dennison said...

Heres my fave and I think he got it right:

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. -- Benjamin Franklin.

jams o donnell said...

Now that quote I love Kay!

Kay Dennison said...

S"omehow I thought you would!" said Kay as she popped the top on another Labatt's. LOL

Pagan Sphinx said...

bah hahahahaha! :-D great image!

WHere Do you find this stuff???

jams o donnell said...

Ah now given what Franklin iad having another one must be equivalent to prayer. Visiting a pub is in effect a church service Kay!

I just did a search on beer. This was on the first page of images so I nicked it!

Kay Dennison said...

Cool!! Here are a couple more from my archives!!!! LOL

“Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza." --Dave Barry

“Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.” --Plato

“Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.” -- Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Life isn't all beer and skittles, but beer and skittles, or something better of the same sort, must form a good part of every Englishman's education.” -- Thomas J. Watson

LOL

Kay Dennison said...

Cool!! Here are a couple more from my archives!!!! LOL

“Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza." --Dave Barry

“Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.” --Plato

“Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.” -- Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Life isn't all beer and skittles, but beer and skittles, or something better of the same sort, must form a good part of every Englishman's education.” -- Thomas J. Watson

LOL

jams o donnell said...

I love them Kay, Thanks!

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Dunno. Beer makes a man slow - in all sense of this word. Single malt, on the other hand...

jams o donnell said...

Ah but distillation represents the peak of civilisation. Beer is the foundation though!