Israeli researchers from the University of Haifa claim they have found the first evidence of social beer consumption that took place 7,000 years ago. The findings report that the ancient pottery suggests beer brewed for social gatherings, rather than religious celebrations, the Independent reports.

A team of archeologists, lead by Professor Danny Rosenberg, claim they have discovered traces of starch residue with signs of fermentation from wheat and barley grains on ancient pottery. The excavation was of Tel Tsaf, an ancient town in the central Jordan Valley, dating to the Chalcolithic era, the transitory era in between the Neolithic era and the Bronze Age, around 5,000 BCE.

In many previous excavations and discoveries, it has been determined that beer and other forms of alcohol were used for religious or ceremonial purposes, especially dating back to that age. This new evidence shows that beer was drunk socially in the Ancient Levant, even before alcohol became more widespread in the Bronze Age.

Photo from the University of Haifia showing the excavation sites where researchers found the ancient pottery.
Credit: University of Haifa

“The evidence we’ve previously uncovered of Tel Tsaf’s prosperity, expressed in its accumulation of agricultural produce, and particularly cereal, in large quantities,” Rosenberg told the Independent. “We can imagine Tsaf’s developing community holding large-scale events in which large quantities of food and beer are consumed in a social context— and not just in a ceremonial context.”

According to Rosenberg, Tel Tsaf is one of the few settlements found from the Levant during the Chalcolithic period, an era in which smaller agricultural societies were transitioning into larger cities and settlements.

“It’s unknown at the moment whether the beer whose remnants we found in Tel Tsaf was produced on a regular basis or specifically for major social events,” says Rosenberg. “We hope that in the near future, when we can isolate further evidence of beer production at the site and at other sites, we will be able to better understand the role of alcohol in ancient societies, and particularly in those that—as in Tel Tsaf—were on the cusp of significant changes in their social structure as it became more and more complex.”

Additional relics discovered recently in separate archaeological digs include evidence of 5,800-year-old Ancient Egyptian beer used in ceremonies; and a 2,700-year-old wine press in Iraq. 

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