Human beings have enjoyed getting drunk for generations, but it turns out the desire to get lit dates back further than just a few hundred years. On Monday, news broke that archeologists had discovered a 5,000-year-old brewery in the Central Plain of China—the oldest ever to be unearthed in the country.
Led by researches from the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia and Stanford University in California, the excavation found "beer-making tool kits" that date back between 3400 and 2900 B.C. The kits were discovered in underground rooms, and the archaeologists determined that the techniques used at the ancient brewery were not too different from practices in modern beer-making.
"All indications are that ancient peoples, [including those at this Chinese dig site], applied the same principles and techniques as brewers do today," Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, told NPR.
McGovern, is largely considered to be the "Indiana Jones" of ancient fermented beverages, and was able to piece together how the drinks were created through clues from the artifacts. According to the researchers, the beer was made using a pottery stove, which helped break carbohydrates down into sugar. The archeologists also found traces of malted and mashed grains inside pots and jugs, a big sign that the tools had been used to make the alcoholic beverage. What surprised the researches most, however, was the presence of barley, an ingredient not thought to be available in China until years later.
"Barley was one of the main ingredient[s] for beer brewing in other parts of the world, such as ancient Egypt,"Jiajing Wang, an archaeologist from Stanford, told NPR. "It is possible that when barley was introduced from Western Eurasia into the Central Plain of China, it came with the knowledge that the crop was a good ingredient for beer brewing. So it was not only the introduction of a new crop, but also the movement of knowledge associated with the crop."
From their, researchers were able to outline a recipe for the 5,000-year-old beer, publishing their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.
"This research reveals a 5,000-year-old beer recipe in which broomcorn millet, barley, Job’s tears, and tubers were fermented together," the study reads. "To our knowledge, our data provide the earliest direct evidence of in situ beer production in China."