Greece is known for its wine but it seems ancient Greeks were not only winemakers but also fond of brewing and drinking beer, a recent study suggests.
Evidence found at two ancient settlement sites — Archontiko and Argissa in central Greece– reveals beer was being brewed as far back as the Bronze Age.
Both sites had been wrecked by fire, which turned them into time capsules of sorts, Sultana-Maria Valamoti, Associate Professor of the Department of History and Archeology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki said.
After the fire, the prehistoric people appear to have moved out, leaving countless burned artifacts behind, including the remains of sprouted cereal grains.
At Archondiko, archaeologists found about 100 individual sprouted cereal grains dating to the early Bronze Age, from about 2100 to 2000 B.C. At Agrissa, they found about 3,500 sprouted cereal grains dating to the middle Bronze Age, from about 2100 to 1700 B.C.
The findings were reported in an article by Valamoti. “The new data show strong indications that the inhabitants of prehistoric Greece, besides wine, also produced and consumed beer,” she says.
Beer is an unexpected find in ancient Greece
“It is an unexpected find for Greece because until now all evidence pointed to wine,” she added.
She noted that although the discovery may be the oldest-known evidence of beer in Greece, it’s not the oldest in the world. Egyptian records show that people drank it as early as the mid-fourth millennium B.C., and people in the Near East slurped down the amber liquid as early as 3200 B.C., according to the study.
In the case of Archontiko, along with rich cereal residues, a concentration of germinated cereal grains, ground cereal masses and fragments of milled cereals were found inside the remains of two houses.
Their condition is put down to malting and charring, claim researchers.
The practice of brewing could have reached the Aegean region and northern Greece through contacts with the eastern Mediterranean where it was widespread, it is also suggested.
The finding hints that prehistoric Greeks were “using alcoholic drinks for feasts all year-round, instead of just on a seasonal basis,” when grapes were ripe, Brian Hayden, a professor of archaeology at Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, Canada, who wasn’t involved with the study, told Live Science.