hist-brewing: bronze age beer making theory in Ireland

kent hillard kgarryh at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 19 11:53:11 PDT 2007

--- "John P. Looney" <valen at tuatha.org> wrote:

>  Thought this might be of interest to some of you. A
> number of Irish
> archeologists have proposed a theory that over 4000
> unexplained neolithic or
> bronze age constructions around Ireland may have
> been early breweries. 
>  It's an interesting theory, though given the size
> of the constructions (250
> litres or more) it would indicate a scale of brewing
> unknown outside the
> cities of Mesopotamia and Egypt, yes ? 

It appears there was some large scale brewing going on
in Anatolia, for instance, as well. In Europe and
elsewhere I believe the evidence is less clearly
defined, although there can of course be no doubt that
fermented beverages were being produced.

The 4500 or so constructions mentioned would likely
not all have been in use during the same period--they
may date over a range of several centuries. I didn't
note any dating estimates for these sites in the press
release. Therefore, the 250 liters or so volume of the
troughs is not problematic. Volume of beer produced
would depend upon the population consuming it and the
purpose of its production and consumption (e.g.
ceremonial, subsistence beverage, payment for services
or work incentive). 

The authors admit that the hypothesis is not based on
evidence gleaned from the site (and suggest in fact
that it was the brain-child of beer-drinking), and
this is the most troubling aspect of the hypothesis.
While experimental archaeology demonstrated that the
production of beer was possible using the troughs as
mash basins, this proves nothing other than that. What
would be needed to make this a more convincing
argument is chemical evidence from the troughs (highly
unlikely, given the environmental conditions to which
they would have been exposed over the millennia) and
other material remains (such as stones found at the
sites in the general proximity of the troughs, if such
were being used to heat the mash, traces of vessels
for boiling or fermenting the wort, evidence of grain
processing nearby, charcoal deposits at the sites
suggestive of firepits or the like, etc.). Were any of
these things found?

It's an interesting idea, and I hope it is followed up

Thanks for sharing this, John.


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