Experts find ancient pottery linked to beer consumption 9,000 years ago in southern China

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Scientists have discovered evidence of beer drinking 9,000 years ago in southern China, which was likely part of a ritual honoring recently deceased people, similar to a modern funeral meal.

Experts at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire found 20 ancient pots in a platform mound surrounded by a man-made ditch – between 10 and 15 meters (32 and 49 feet) wide and at least 1.5 -2 m (5-6.5 feet) deep – at a burial site in Qiaotou in Zhejiang province.

Scientists have found evidence of beer drinking 9,000 years ago in southern China, which was likely part of a ritual in honor of the deceased. Two human skeletons (b) were also found along with 20 pottery vessels, some of which were decorated

It is likely that pottery was used to celebrate the dead in rituals.  Part of the pottery was decorated with abstract patterns

It is likely that pottery was used to celebrate the dead in rituals. Part of the pottery was decorated with abstract patterns

Researchers also found two human skeletons at the site, as well as pottery vessels, some of which were decorated with abstract patterns.

It is likely that since the pottery was found near graves in a “non-residential area,” researchers believe it was used to celebrate the dead in rituals.

“Contexts of rejection suggest that beer consumption was essential for funeral rituals,” the authors wrote in the study.

The find was made on a platform mound surrounded by an artificial moat at a burial site in Qiaotou in China's Zhejiang province

The find was made on a platform mound surrounded by an artificial moat at a burial site in Qiaotou in China’s Zhejiang province

They continued, “Beer in Qiaotou was probably served in rituals to commemorate the burial of the dead. Ritual consumption likely played an integrating role in maintaining social relationships, paving the way for the rise of complex agricultural societies four millennia later.

The pottery is believed to be examples of “the world’s first known painted pottery,” according to the study.

The pottery found all came in different shapes and sizes – some could be held in one hand, like a mug, while others were significantly larger.

Seven of the 20 pots found resemble long-necked Hu pots.

Seven of the 20 pots found resemble long-necked Hu pots, which have narrow necks and globular bodies (a, b and d)

Seven of the 20 pots found resemble long-necked Hu pots, which have narrow necks and globular bodies (a, b and d)

‘Long necked hu pots [used to drink alcohol years later] are distinguished by their narrow neck, globular body, and slightly flared and folded edges, ”the authors wrote in the study.

The beer that was kept in the pottery was made from rice, a grain known as Job’s teardrop, and unidentified tubers – the same family as the study’s co-author, Dartmouth Assistant Professor Jiajing Wang. declared in a declaration.

“This ancient beer, however, would not have been like the IPA we have today. Instead, it was likely a slightly fermented, sweet drink, which was likely cloudy in color.

Researchers examined the microfossil residue – locating certain microbotanical and microbial bacteria – on ancient pottery and compared them from the surrounding soil to confirm that they were used for drinking alcohol.

The residue also showed traces of phytoliths from rice husks and other plants that could have been used to ferment beer.

“We don’t know how people made the mold 9,000 years ago, because fermentation can occur naturally,” says Wang.

“If people had leftover rice and the grains got moldy, they might have noticed that the grains got sweeter and more alcoholic with age. While people may not have known about the biochemistry associated with moldy grains, they likely observed the fermentation process and exploited it through trial and error.

Traces of mold were also found on the jars, although Wang said it was not clear how they made it 9,000 years ago.

“We don’t know how people made the mold 9,000 years ago because fermentation can occur naturally,” Wang added.

Traces of mold were also found on the pots, although one of the study's authors said it was not clear how they made it 9,000 years ago.

Traces of mold were also found on the pots, although one of the study’s authors said it was not clear how they made it 9,000 years ago.

“If people had leftover rice and the grains got moldy, they might have noticed that the grains got sweeter and more alcoholic with age. While people may not have known about the biochemistry associated with moldy grains, they likely observed the fermentation process and exploited it through trial and error.

Given that

Given that “harvesting and processing rice may have been a labor intensive task” 9,000 years ago, it is likely that beer was of significant importance in funeral rituals.

Given that “harvesting and processing rice may have been a labor intensive task” 9,000 years ago, it is likely that beer was of significant importance during funeral rituals.

The study was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.


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