Archaeological Digs

Since it was first discovered in 1956, Raqefet Cave, located near Haifa in Israel, provided a very important information about an ancient group known as Natureans. In conjunction with animal bones, instruments and plant traces, the remains of 30 people showed that the natufians buried their dead in beds adorned with flowers. Now scientists discovered that the Natufians were ferment in the Raqefet Cave, probably the oldest known alcoholic beverage production.

Natufian culture was a semi-resident gatherer group living in the Levant between Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. The Natufians are believed to serve as a vital transitional bond between hunter gatherers in the Near East and the oldest farmer communities. Looking to learn more about this important community, a research team led by Li Liu has recently begun to investigate what these people have been eating.

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The researchers examined the ancient starches from the artifacts in the Raqefet cave to create the modern version of the Natufian drink. C: Li Liu

The researchers were not particularly looking for old beer relics, but that’s what they found when they analyzed 13,000 years of stone mortars in the Raqefet cave. The vessels consisted of starch deposits, phytolite and microscopic plant particles, which were typically expected to be found in the transformation of wheat and barley into a drink.

Archaeologist Liu of Stanford University said he was discovering “the world’s oldest human-made alcohol records”. Beer production is typically known in relation to the existing agricultural communities in the later period. The earliest known beer-making evidence of this discovery was found in northern China. This evidence, however, belonged to the Natufians about 5000 years after drinking in the cave of Raqefet.

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A stone structure in the Shubayqa 1 archaeological site in northeast Jordan, where the old bread ruins are located. The fireplace where the bread is cooked is in the middle. C: Alexis pantos

Researchers say the use-wear analysis and residue analysis revealed that two of the vessels were used to store grains and one of them was used to fercate beer.

New Archaeological Discoveries

According to research authors, the production of Natufians was based on the species (including wheat, oats, barley, legumes and fibrous plants such as linen), and most likely consisted of three different phases. For the first time, the grains were lapping, floated and dried in the water. Then the malt was crushed, mixed with water and heated for up to four hours. Finally, this poultice is fermented with yeast, and one or more days were waiting.

A: The location of the cave of Raqefet and three other Natufian living areas nearby. B: Stone mortars found in the cave. C: The animation of the caviar.

To verify that the process was progressing in this way, researchers made a Natufian style beer in their labs and compared them to those found in the old containers of the starch granules. The yeast liquor made by the researchers showed quite a resemblance to the Natufians ‘ preparation.

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The beer of Natufians was very different from the sparkling things we had today, and the alcohol content was probably pretty low. According to Jiajing Wang, co-authors of the article, this beer was not transparent; It looked like thin porridge or oatmeal.

The analysis of the research team is very important for a number of reasons. First, the presence of brewing evidence in the cave of Raqefet, a burial site, shows that alcoholic beverages can function as an important ritual in the Natufian culture. In addition, the new findings give credit to a highly controversial theory; It’s not just for the taste of bread, but to quench their thirst, it shows that they domesticated grain to drink beer. The remains of the beer in Raqefet may be before the remnants of bread, which were cooked by Natufians from 14,600 to 11,600 years ago in northwestern Jordan.

A human tomb in the Cave of Raqefet. C: Dani Nadel

Finally, the Natufyans ‘ brewing skills show that relatively sophisticated food production has occurred, even before people are completely in the way of an agricultural lifestyle.

“The remains of the Natufian in the cave of Raqefet never cease to amaze us,” said Dani Nadel, co-author of the research. With the production of beer, the Cave of Raqefet presents a vivid and colourful picture of Natufian lifestyle, technological abilities and inventions, “he said.

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