New archaeological discoveries are being announced so frequently these days that it is difficult to keep up with them. In February 2021 archaeologists in Egypt announced that they had found the world’s oldest brewery, dating back to 3100 BC. (See Ancient brewery on this website). The earliest reference to beer was also believed to be Egyptian, found in recipes on 7,000-year-old papyrus scrolls. Now, however, it appears that the Chinese were drinking beer 2,000 years earlier.
According to an American team from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, excavations at Qiaotou in east China’s Zhejiang Province have revealed drinking vessels around 9,000 years old, buried next to bodies in a tomb. This suggests that beer was drunk at funerals, probably as part of a burial ritual honouring the dead.
Chemical analysis of the smaller mugs showed traces of beer fermentation which were not present in the surrounding soil or indeed anywhere other than in the pottery. According to Jiajing Wang, assistant professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College and co-author of the published study, said: “This ancient beer would not have been like we have today. Instead, it was likely a slightly fermented and sweet beverage and probably cloudy in colour… (It was) a fermented beverage made of rice, a grain called Job’s tears and unidentified tubers.”
The team also believe that the vessels are some of the earliest painted pottery ever discovered.
The study was published in the journal PLOS One.