Saturday, March 16, 2013

Beer Before Bread?

Why did humans domesticate grains?
Current theory has it that grain was first domesticated for food. But since the 1950s, many scholars have found circumstantial evidence that supports the idea that some early humans grew and stored grain for beer, even before they cultivated it for bread.

Brian Hayden and colleagues at Simon Fraser University in Canada provide new support for this theory in an article published this month (and online last year) in the Journal of Archeological Method and Theory. Examining potential beer-brewing tools in archaeological remains from the Natufian culture in the Eastern Mediterranean, the team concludes that “brewing of beer was an important aspect of feasting and society in the Late Epipaleolithic” era.

Anthropological studies in Mexico suggest a similar conclusion: there, the ancestral grass of modern maize, teosinte, was well suited for making beer — but was much less so for making corn flour for bread or tortillas. It took generations for Mexican farmers to domesticate this grass into maize, which then became a staple of the local diet.

Once the effects of these early brews were discovered, the value of beer (as well as wine and other fermented potions) must have become immediately apparent. With the help of the new psychopharmacological brew, humans could quell the angst of defying those herd instincts. Conversations around the campfire, no doubt, took on a new dimension: the painfully shy, their angst suddenly quelled, could now speak their minds.

1 comment:

  1. "though, the morning after, instincts to conform and submit would have kicked back in to restore the social order."

    Sounds just like a 6th century drinking song. Although very different to the article in regard to thoughts on beer and social order. But this song is sung repeatedly over time and its history gives it retrospective depth which alters performance and the songs context.

    The thought that kicked in the morning after was the realization of what was going to be required to pay for the price of beer and song. You had entered into a dept and obligation by attending the feast. A reciprocal arrangement with the giver of drink.

    In small scale rural societies where social differences are difficult to mark as every one shares the same basic material goods, it is quantity that marks social difference rather than the quality distinctions modern Western society makes in regard to clothing, cars, etc.