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Studies show evidence of drinking beer in southern China 9,000 years ago

Painted pottery for serving drinks and food (from Hashito Platform Mound). Credit: Jiajing Wang

Alcoholic beverages have long been known to perform important socio-cultural functions in ancient societies, including ceremonial feasts. A new study found evidence of drinking beer in southern China 9,000 years ago. This was probably part of a ritual honoring the dead. The findings are based on an analysis of ancient vases found at the bridgehead burial ground, making it one of the oldest beer taverns in the world.Results will be reported in PLOS ONE..


The ancient jar was found on a platform mound (80 mx 50 m wide, 3 m above sea level) surrounded by artificial grooves (10-15 m wide and 1.5-2 m deep). It is based on an ongoing archaeological excavation at the bridge. No housing was found on the premises.The mound contained two Human skeleton And there were multiple pottery pits with high quality pottery containers, many of which were complete pottery. The pottery was painted with white slips, and some were decorated with abstract designs. As research reports, these relics are probably part of “the earliest known painted pottery in the world.” This type of pottery has not been found anywhere else dating back to this time.

The research team analyzed different types of pottery of different sizes found on the bridge. Some pottery vessels were relatively small and similar in size to the drinkers used today and those found in other parts of the world. Each of the pots can be held in one hand, basically like a cup, unlike storage containers, which are much larger in size. Seven of the 20 ships that were part of their analysis appeared to be long-necked pots used to drink alcohol in later historic times.

Studies show evidence of drinking beer in southern China 9,000 years ago

Human Burial 1 (M44) is one of the archaeological features of the bridgehead platform mound. Credit: Leping Jiang

To confirm that the container was used for drinking, the research team analyzed microfossil residues such as starch, plant fossils (fossilized plant residues), and fungi extracted from the inside of the pot. Residues were compared to control samples obtained from the soil surrounding the vessel.

The team identified microbial (starch granules and phytolith) and microbial (mold and yeast) residues in the pot. Beer It is not found naturally in soil and other relics unless it is fermented and contains alcohol.

“Through a residual analysis of the pots on the bridgehead, our results reveal that pottery containers were used to hold beer in the most general sense. cooked rice (Oryza sp.), A grain called Coix lacryma-jobi, and an unidentified tuber, “said co-author Jiajing Wang, an assistant professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College. What we have today. Instead, it was probably a slightly fermented sweet drink, probably cloudy in color. “

Studies show evidence of drinking beer in southern China 9,000 years ago

Map of the bridge head. Credit: PLOS ONE

The results also showed that rice husks and plant fossils of other plants were also present in the residue from the pots. They may have been added to beer as a fermenting agent.

The Yangtze River Valley in southern China is now known as the country’s rice center, but rice was gradually cultivated 10,000 to 6,000 years ago and still rice 9,000 years ago. It was in the early stages of domestication. At that time, most communities were hunter-gatherers who were primarily dependent on foraging. Given that rice harvesting and processing was labor-intensive, as the researchers explain in the study, Hashito’s beer was probably a ceremonially important drink / beverage.

Residual analysis of the pot also showed traces of mold used in the beer making process. The mold found in the Hashito pot was very similar to the mold found in the jiuqu used to make sake and other fermented rice beverages in East Asia. This result precedes previous studies in which mold was used in the fermentation process in China 8000 years ago.

Studies show evidence of drinking beer in southern China 9,000 years ago

A long-necked ship. Credit: Leping Jiang

Beer is technically a fermented beverage produced from crops through a two-step conversion process. In the first stage, enzymes convert starch into sugar (saccharification). In the second stage, yeast converts sugar into other states such as alcohol and carbon dioxide (fermentation). As researchers explain in the study, the mold acts like an agent for both processes by acting as a saccharification fermentation starter.

“Fermentation can happen naturally, so I don’t know how people made the mold 9,000 years ago,” says Wang. “You may have noticed that when rice remains and mold grows, it becomes sweeter and more alcoholic with age. You may not have known the biochemistry of moldy grains, but fermentation. I think I used it by observing the process. I repeated trial and error. “

Considering Pottery Found near a burial in a non-residential area at the bridgehead, researchers conclude that the beer pot was most likely used in ritual ceremonies related to the burial of the dead. They speculate that ritual drinking may have been essential for building social relationships and cooperation. And it served as a precursor to the complex rice-growing society that emerged 4,000 years later.


China’s Neolithic pottery hut reveals alcoholic beverage manufacturing technology


For more information:
Jiajing Wang et al, early evidence of beer drinking on a 9000-year-old platform mound in southern China, PLOS ONE (2021). DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0255833

Li Liu et al, the origin of special pottery and various alcoholic fermentation techniques in early Neolithic China, Minutes of the National Academy of Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.1902668116

Provided by
Dartmouth College

Quote: According to a survey, evidence of beer drinking in southern China (August 31, 2021) 9,000 years ago is https: //phys.org/news/2021-08-evidence-beer-years-southern -Obtained from china.html on August 31, 2021.

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Studies show evidence of drinking beer in southern China 9,000 years ago

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