|28 June 2011
Early French had a taste for beer
Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that the occupants of southeastern France were brewing beer during the Iron Age, some 2,500 years ago.
Beer brewing's heritage stretches back to the Bronze Age in China and the Middle East, but this is the earliest sign of the practice in France, where wine-making had already taken hold. The recent find was in Roquepertuse, close to modern Aix-en-Provence, and was excavated in the 1990s.
Archaeologist Laurent Bouby from France's National Centre for Scientific Research has been studying archaeo-botany - preserved plant remains - in the region around Roquepertuse for more than a decade. Dr Bouby and his colleagues have now analysed the macro-botanical remains found at three sites during those digs.
Ninety percent of the barley grains that were recovered from these locations had been induced to sprout. The malted grains and the arrangement of the finds lead the team to surmise a "home-brew" scenario, which requires no specialised equipment.
"All that is needed is an amount of grain, some water, containers (commonly pottery vessels) in which to soak the grain, a flat paved area - possibly the floor - to spread out and turn the grain during germination, an oven to dry it in order to stop germination, domestic grindstones to grind the malted grain, and containers for fermentation and storage," they wrote.
Prior studies suggest that a variant of the barley plant known as six-row barley was the primary cultivated plant in the region at the time; the authors of the study now suggest that beer production may have been one of the principal reasons for this.
Edited from Physorg.com (14 June 2011), BBC News (15 June 2011)
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