Monday, March 12, 2012

Beer In The Ancient World - my article published on Ancient History Encyclopedia

Beer has been enjoyed by humans for much longer than most people think. The following is my article on Beer in the Ancient World published on Ancient History Encyclopedia:

The article begins:

The intoxicant known in English as `beer' takes its name from the Latin `bibere' (by way of the German `bier') meaning `to drink' and the Spanish word for beer, cerveza' comes from the Latin word `cerevisia' for `of beer', giving some indication of the long span human beings have been drinking beer. Even so, beer brewing did not originate with the Romans but began thousands of years earlier. The first beer in the world was brewed by the ancient Chinese around the year 7000 BCE (known as `kui'). In the west, however, beer brewing began with the Sumerians at the Godin Tepe settlement now in modern-day Iran between 3500 - 3100 BCE. Evidence of beer manufacture has been confirmed between these dates but it is probable that the brewing of beer in Sumeria was in practice much earlier. Some evidence has been interpreted which sets the date of beer brewing at Godin Tepe as early as 10,000 BCE when agriculture first developed in the region. While some scholars have contended that beer preceded bread as a staple, it is more likely that beer was `discovered' through grains used for bread-making which fermented.

The people of ancient Mesopotamia enjoyed beer so much that it was a daily dietary staple. Paintings, poems and myths depict both human beings and their gods enjoying beer which was consumed through a straw to filter out pieces of bread or herbs in the drink. The brew was thick, of the consistency of modern-day porridge, and the straw was invented by the Sumerians or the Babylonians, it is thought, specifically for the purpose of drinking beer. The famous poem Inanna and the God of Wisdom describes the two deities drinking beer together and the god of wisdom, Enki, becoming so drunk he gives away the sacred `me' (laws) to Inanna (thought to symbolize the transfer of power from Eridu, the city of Enki, to Uruk, the city of Inanna). The Hymn to Ninkasi is both a song of praise to the goddess of beer, Ninkasi, and a recipe for beer, first written down around 1800 BCE. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, the hero Enkidu becomes civilized through the ministrations of the temple harlot Shamhat who, among other things, teaches him to drink beer.

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