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The ancient vessel (center) that was found to contain 2,000-year-old alcohol.

Would You Try This Ancient Liquor Found Inside 2,200-Year-Old Chinese Vessel?


ArchaeologChinese Vesselists have unearthed an ancient tomb in China’s Shaanxi Province, containing a hoard of relics, including a sealed bronze kettle filled with 2,200-year-old liquor. Would you be game to try this ancient brew?

New China reports that the vessel with alcohol was found in a graveyard of tombs for ‘commoners’ dating back to the Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BC). In one particular grave, they found 260 items, most of which are linked to ancient worshipping rituals. The relics would have been placed in the tomb as offerings.

The bronze vessel containing the ancient alcohol. Credit: XINHUA/Li Yibo

The bronze vessel containing the ancient alcohol. Credit: XINHUA/Li Yibo

2,200-Year-Old Alcohol

The bronze vessel was found to contain 300ml (10 fl oz) of a milky white-yellow substance that later testing revealed was composed of glutamic acid substances made using fermentation techniques.

The alcohol had remained preserved over the millenia because the seal on the vessel, which was made of natural fibers, had remained intact.

Scientists are now undertaking further testing to determine what ingredients would have been used to make the liquor and to better understand how it may have been brewed. 

Ancient Alcohol

Traces of ancient wine, beer and liquor have been found all around the world, but the oldest known alcohol comes from the Chinese village Jiahu in Henan province, where archaeologists found a type of rice mead dating back to around 7,000 BC. Analyses revealed it had been made by fermenting rice, grapes, honey and berries.

Alcohol was not consumed in the same way as it is today. In fact, in ancient times, alcohol was seen as an important medicinal ingredient and as an essential part of the diet. Apart from the stress relieving, relaxing nature that alcohol has on the body and mind, alcohol is an antiseptic and in higher doses has anesthetizing effects. But it is a combination of alcohol and natural botanicals, which creates a far more effective medicine and has been used as such for thousands of years. It is the origin of the most famous toast, “Let’s drink to health”, which exists in many languages around the world.

Ancient Chinese storage containers for alcohol (

Ancient Chinese storage containers for alcohol (

Reconstructing Ancient Tastes

Archaeological findings from millennia-old breweries to alcholic residues left on pottery and even ancient recipes, have enabled scientists to recreate what these ancient beverages would have tasted like. But such experiments tyically reveal that our modern palates are not accustomed to the tastes of the past.

Top image: The ancient vessel (center) that was found to contain 2,000-year-old alcohol. Credit: XINHUA/Li Yibo

By April Holloway



It's a safe way to intake water. Seriously. Natural sources are good, stored sources could be dangerous.

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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