9000-Year-Old Beer Remnants Found In China

, 9000-Year-Old Beer Remnants Found In China

The origins of beer just keep getting older and now beer remains have been discovered in China that show people have been drinking the fermented beverage for more than 9000 years.

Here’s the deal…

, 9000-Year-Old Beer Remnants Found In China

Map of Qiaotou. Credit PLOS ONE

Archaeologists in south-east China have found microfossil residues left over from early beer drinking at a football field-sized burial site. The discovery which was published in the PLOS One journal last month, is thought to be evidence of ancient drinking rituals at funerals.

Ceramic vessels unearthed at the site have been found to contain starches, plant residue, and fungal remains, indicating that they once held alcohol.

Beer is technically any fermented beverage made from crops through a two-phase process. In the first stage, enzymes transform starch into sugar. In the second phase, the yeasts convert the sugar into alcohol, a process known as fermentation.

Analysis shows that the four bowls, nine jars, and seven long-necked Hu pots, thought to be around 9,000 years old, once housed a rice beer made using a mold starter. And as the researchers explain in the study, mold acts kind of like an agent for both processes, by serving as a fermentation instigator.

“This ancient beer would not have been like the IPA that we have today. Instead, it was likely a slightly fermented and sweet beverage, which was probably cloudy in color,” said archaeologist Jiajing Wang, lead author of the study, in a press release.

, 9000-Year-Old Beer Remnants Found In China

Credit: Leping Jiang

“If people had some leftover rice and the grains became moldy, they may have noticed that the grains became sweeter and alcoholic with age,” said Wang. “While people may not have known the biochemistry associated with grains that became moldy, they probably observed the fermentation process and leveraged it through trial and error.”

The findings have led the research team to conclude that beer was used in ancient burial rituals in China to honor the dead.

It’s important to note that rice farming was only in its very early stages 9,000 years ago in this region of China according to the Drinks Business, “suggesting that the process of fermenting rice for alcoholic beverages would have been something reserved for special occasions, such as marking the passing of respected figures within the community.”

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