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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Our Drunken Ancestors

A US team under the leadership of the Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, Patrick McGovern, used organic compounds and cutting-edge science to determine that liquid recovered from a vase some 5000 years old contained alcohol.  The container was excavated from Egyptian tombs dating back to around 3150BC.  They are the earliest jars, or amphora, discovered so far containing liquid.

Professor McGovern said the findings prove that our ancestors were using trial and error to develop medicinal concoctions, and that alcohol was a key ingredient in their treatments.  Other ingredients in the liquid are known medicinal components, including herbs and tree barks.  McGovern notes that alcoholic brews would have been particularly well-suited for dissolving these ingredients.

The professor is now collaborating with a team at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center in testing the oldest alcoholic beverage in existence -- liquid found in China which dates back to around 7000BC.  He is hoping to recreate some of the compounds.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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