Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

Alcohol 1040 and is the oldest continually

Alcohol
has been a major influence of human culture since its discovery. The influence
of alcohol helped in the development of pretty much all aspects of social culture.
In the beginning we are introduced to Zarnkow, who is described as a large man that
could easily pass as a monk, started his career as a brewer’s apprentice. Now,
he is an avid beer historian. He works in a building that sits next to the
Weihenstephan brewery.  This brewery was founded
by Benedictine monks in A.D. 1040 and is the oldest continually functioning
brewery in the world. Zarnkow is one of many researchers that seek to prove that
alcohol is one of the most universally produced and enjoyed substances in not
only history, but pre-history as well. For a long time, most historians and
archaeologists regarded beer and wine as simple consumables, just like regular
foods.

Recently,
there has been proof that people were consuming alcohol well before they could
document said alcohol with writing. It has been found that grapes were one of
the earliest fruits to be domesticated, and wine was being made as early as
7,400 years ago. Chemical analysis from archeological findings recently showed
that the Chinese were making a kind of wine from rice, honey, and fruit up to 9,000
years ago. All over the world evidence for alcohol production from all kinds of
crops is showing up, dating to near the dawn of civilization. Archaeologist
Patrick McGovern believes that great transitions in human history, from the
origin of farming to the origin of writing should be attributed to alcoholic beverages.
McGovern half-jokingly suggested our species be called Homo imbibens.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

The
article argues that our taste for alcohol may be an evolutionary trait that
distinguishes us from other animals. The reason may be a critical gene mutation
that geneticists have dated to at least 10 million years ago. A change in the ADH4 gene
created an enzyme that made it possible to digest ethanol up to 40 times
faster. According to Steven Benner, a co-author of the study, the new enzyme
enabled our ancestors to enjoy the active ingredient common to all alcoholic
beverages: ethanol.

Ethanol
is produced by yeast eating the sugars of fruits or barley and producing carbon
dioxide and ethanol. Modern makers of beer and the likes mostly use cultivated
varieties of yeast called Saccharomyces.
From our modern point of view, ethanol has one enticing property, it helps
release endorphins in the brain make us happy and less anxious.

Robert
Dudley, a Berkeley physiologist who first suggested the “drunken monkey”
hypothesis says that those who were able to smell the fermented fruits and get
to them faster would be more likely to benefit from the fermented properties.
The ethanol in rotting fruit had three appealing characteristics. One, it had a
distinctive smell, making the fruit easy to locate on the ground, two, it has
some antiseptic qualities that would likely repel microbes that might sicken a
primate, and three, it is easier to digest, allowing more of the precious
commodity that, back then, was calories.

Not
only do they say that alcohol was a key to survival, now researchers are
questioning if alcohol helped the Neolithic revolution. Posing the question, did
beer help persuade Stone Age hunter/gatherers to give up nomadism and settle
down with farms?

Göbekli
Tepe, an ancient set of temples that, at 11,600 years old, may be the world’s
oldest. Inside the walls they found six trough shaped stone vessels. Archaeologists
proposed that they were used to brew a basic beer. Residues from the tubs
showed evidence of oxalate, a chemical left behind when water and grain are mixed
together. It is argued that this grand temple was used to worship so instead of
traveling from far and wide every once in a while, they decided to settle and
be able to worship more often. But really, it may have been beer that was the inspiration
for settling. Some of the earliest evidence of domesticated grain came from a
site only twelve miles away from Göbekli Tepe. McGovern says the domestication
of plants is driven by the desire to have greater quantities of alcoholic
beverages and it is not the only factor driving civilization forward, but it plays
a central role. People drank alcohol for many of the same reasons primates ate
fermented fruit, some of the antimicrobial effects benefitted the drinker. Fermented
beverages were often healthier to drink than water. Obviously, the survival of
people was mandatory for progress of civilization. By 3150 B.C., ancient
Egyptians had progressed and were maintaining industrial size breweries
producing enough beer to power the construction of the great pyramids.

Of course, people are not always the brightest
and not everyone is an innovator so there are plenty of examples of alcohol
being a bad influence on culture. Around 140 B.C., eight decades before Julius
Caesar’s invasion, elites developed an insatiable taste for Roman wine. The
evidence is shown by an over-abundance of imported clay wine jars called
amphorae, shattered all over the excavation site. Archaeologists have uncovered
at least 50 tons of broken amphorae and suspect there is at least 500 more tons
they have yet to dig up. The huge over consumption of wine often led to things getting
rowdy, sometimes ending in sword fights over food. The ancient Greeks were a
good example. Greek hosts served their guests a first bowl of wine for health,
then another for pleasure, then a third bowl for sleep. After that, if the
guests were to stay, the fourth bowl “belongs to violence; the fifth to uproar;
the sixth to drunken revel; the seventh to black eyes. The eighth is the
policeman’s; the ninth belongs to biliousness; and the 10th to madness and the
hurling of furniture.”

Millions
of years ago, the attraction to ethanol may have been a survival advantage for
our ancestors but today those genetic and neurochemical traits may be at the
root of compulsive drinking. The modern world is run by booze. According to
estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol abuse
kills 88,000 Americans and costs $249 billion a year alone in the US. “The domestication of
plants is driven forward by the desire to have greater quantities of alcoholic
beverages, it’s not the only factor driving forward civilization, but it plays
a central role.”

x

Hi!
I'm Simon!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out