An Iron Brew: 2,500-Year-Old Drink Recreated by Archaeologists and Brewers

An Iron Brew: 2,500-Year-Old Drink Recreated by Archaeologists and Brewers

(Read the article on one page)

In some of the latest news in archaeology, a bronze cauldron was discovered inside a burial plot from 400 or 450 BC in Germany. The walls of the vessel contained precious remnants of an old drink recipe. Now, researchers have managed to recreate the ancient brew.

According to ZME Science , Bettina Arnold, a researcher from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, examined a burial plot in Swabia, Germany dated back to the 5th century BC. The investigation of the grave was connected to the discovery of a tumulus, which looks like a mound of earth, and cut stones placed over a burial. The site was created between the 7th-5th centuries BC.

The bronze cauldron during excavations in Swabia, Germany.

The bronze cauldron during excavations in Swabia, Germany. Source: Bettina Arnold

The bronze pot, or cauldron, which was discovered inside the tomb became Arnold’s focus of interest. She wondered why people brought it to the tomb and the reason they needed to drink the alcohol inside. Arnold believes that the cauldron once held about 14 liters (3.7 gallons) of an alcoholic beverage that could have been used by the spirit of the deceased to establish himself as an important person in front of his gods.

Bacchus’ by Caravaggio.

‘Bacchus’ by Caravaggio. ( Public Domain ) Bacchus was the Roman god of wine.

The tomb where the researchers found the fascinating cauldron is located in the tumulus (it’s known as Tumulus 17, Grave 6). Although the researchers didn't find a skeleton, which was likely dissolved by the acidic soil, the grave goods suggest that the tomb belonged to a man. He was buried in a traditional oak chamber. An iron sword, a helmet, and two long iron spears buried inside the tumulus suggest that the man was also a warrior.

As Bettina Arnold wrote on her blog :

“A 55 cm long iron slashing sword with a bird’s head-shaped handle in a cow-hide sheath wrapped in textiles was placed at his right side and two long iron spears with ash shafts were laid along his left shoulder. Also to his left was an iron object used to attach a feather crest to a leather helmet. Based on the presence of both spears and a sword and helmet we can date the burial to about 450 BC. At his feet was the bronze cauldron, wrapped in textile, a very rare find in Iron Age burials in this area of Europe.”

Cauldron, iron spears, sword and helmet attachment found in the burial chamber.

Cauldron, iron spears, sword and helmet attachment found in the burial chamber. (Bettina Arnold )

Paleobotanical analysis of the vessel's contents allowed the researchers to discover the ingredients of the brew's recipe. They found that it was made up of yeast, barley, honey, meadowsweet, and mint.

Paleobotanist Manfred Rösch and conservator Tanja Kreß sample the ancient cauldron in Tübingen, Germany.

Paleobotanist Manfred Rösch and conservator Tanja Kreß sample the ancient cauldron in Tübingen, Germany. ( Bettina Arnold )

Arnold’s research was continued in Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery, where the cellarmaster Chad Sheridan (an expert in homebrewed meads) helped re-create the process of preparing the ancient drink.

His result was a smooth and pleasant drink which has been described as tasting like a dry port, but with a herbal minty tinge. Although the Lakefront Brewery claims that the product is tasty, it is unlikely that it will appear in bars anytime soon.

Arnold suggests that ''with an [alcohol by volume] of over 8 percent, this is not your grannie’s braggot, and although adding honey at this stage would probably make it more drinkable for [today’s] mead imbibers, we decided to leave it as is.''

Chad Sheridan and Mike Vergolina preparing the brew.

Chad Sheridan and Mike Vergolina preparing the brew. ( Bettina Arnold )

Every time there is a chance to recover an ancient alcoholic drink recipe, researchers seem to take it - regardless if their brew turns out especially pleasant to the taste buds or not.

As Mark Miller reported for Ancient Origins on February 1, 2015: “An archaeologist working with a brewery is recreating ancient beers from around the world, including Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Denmark, Honduras and China. Alcohol archaeologist Patrick McGovern thinks he may even be able to recreate a drink from Egypt that is 16,000 years old […] The professor is using modern technology to detect traces of ingredients. In addition, Dogfish Head Brewery has produced beer using African, South American and Finnish recipes from centuries ago.”

In that same article, Miller referenced another example from 2013, in which the Great Lakes Brewery in Ohio, “with the help of archaeologists in Chicago, tried to brew a Sumerian beer whose recipe dated back 5,000 years […] Great Lakes tried to replicate the Sumerian beer using only a wooden spoon and clay vessels modeled after artifacts excavated in Iraq. They successfully malted barley on the roof of the brew house and also used a bricklike “beer bread” for the active yeast.” Their results “yielded a beer full of bacteria, warm and slightly sour.”

Comments

Put it out for trials...Beer connoisseurs will decide ... Especially the after taste...

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

View of the “Cueva del Pirul”, one of the largest systems of interconnected caves to the East of the Pyramid of the Sun. One can notice the many rough pillars left to support the roof and a number of side passages branching out in different directions.
Few of the modern visitors to Teotihuacan are aware of the vast and mysterious underworld of caves and man-made tunnels that extends under much of the ancient site and for miles around. The existence of these tunnels has been known for centuries, but not even the most recent research has been able to solve the mystery of their origin and purpose. Very much like at Giza, in Egypt, these tunnels are rumored to connect all the main pyramids by means of underground passageways, and perhaps even lead to the records of a lost civilization.

Human Origins

God the Father (represented by an old patriarch with white hair) by Cima da Conegliano, c. 1515
The question of whether a god exists is heating up in the 21st century. According to a Pew survey, the percent of Americans having no religious affiliation reached 23 percent in 2014. Among such “nones,” 33 percent said that they do not believe in God – an 11 percent increase since only 2007.

Ancient Technology

The Antikythera Mechanism, National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece
Every time ancient Greece is mentioned most people automatically think of democracy, the Olympic Games, mythology and philosophy. It seems that not many are aware of how advanced the ancient Greeks were on a technological level as well and the Antikythera Mechanism, known as the world’s first analog computer, is the brightest example of all.

Opinion

View of the “Cueva del Pirul”, one of the largest systems of interconnected caves to the East of the Pyramid of the Sun. One can notice the many rough pillars left to support the roof and a number of side passages branching out in different directions.
Few of the modern visitors to Teotihuacan are aware of the vast and mysterious underworld of caves and man-made tunnels that extends under much of the ancient site and for miles around. The existence of these tunnels has been known for centuries, but not even the most recent research has been able to solve the mystery of their origin and purpose. Very much like at Giza, in Egypt, these tunnels are rumored to connect all the main pyramids by means of underground passageways, and perhaps even lead to the records of a lost civilization.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article