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Thread: Humans and Alcohol

  1. #1
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    1 out of 2 members found this post helpful.

    Humans and Alcohol



    See:
    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/m...human-culture/

    " For a long time that’s about how most historians and archaeologists have regarded beer and wine: as mere consumables, significant ones to be sure, but not too different from sausages or cheese, except that overconsumption of alcohol is a far more destructive vice. Alcoholic beverages were a by-product of civilization, not central to it. Even the website of the German Brewers’ Federation takes the line that beer was likely an offshoot of breadmaking by the first farmers."

    "
    Zarnkow is one of a group of researchers who over the past few decades have challenged that story. He and others have shown that alcohol is one of the most universally produced and enjoyed substances in history—and in prehistory too, because people were imbibing alcohol long before they invented writing. Zarnkow’s Sumerian beer is very far from the oldest. Chemical analysis recently showed that the Chinese were making a kind of wine from rice, honey, and fruit 9,000 years ago. In the Caucasus Mountains of modern-day Georgia and the Zagros Mountains of Iran, grapes were one of the earliest fruits to be domesticated, and wine was made as early as 7,400 years ago."

    "T
    The active ingredient common to all alcoholic beverages is made by yeasts: microscopic, single-celled organisms that eat sugar and excrete carbon dioxide and ethanol, the only potable alcohol. That’s a form of fermentation. Most modern makers of beer, wine, or sake use cultivated varieties of a single yeast genus called Saccharomyces (the most common is S. cerevisiae, from the Latin word for “beer,” cerevisia). But yeasts are diverse and ubiquitous, and they’ve likely been fermenting ripe wild fruit for about 120 million years, ever since the first fruits appeared on Earth.
    From our modern point of view, ethanol has one very compelling property: It makes us feel good. Ethanol helps release serotonin, dopamine, and
    endorphins in the brain, chemicals that make us happy and less anxious.

    To our fruit-eating primate ancestors swinging through the trees, however, the ethanol in rotting fruit would have had three other appealing characteristics. First, it has a strong, distinctive smell that makes the fruit easy to locate. Second, it’s easier to digest, allowing animals to get more of a commodity that was precious back then: calories. Third, its antiseptic qualities repel microbes that might sicken a primate. Millions of years ago one of them developed a taste for fruit that had fallen from the tree. “Our ape ancestors started eating fermented fruits on the forest floor, and that made all the difference."

    "A truly drunken monkey, Dudley points out, would be an easy target for predators. In spite of widely reported anecdotes, there’s very little scientific evidence of animals in the wild ever getting enough alcohol from fermented fruit to exhibit drunken behavior. A satisfied glow is more likely. But that response to alcohol seems to be specific to humans and perhaps apes.The reason may be a critical gene mutation that occurred in the last common ancestor of African apes and us; geneticists recently dated the mutation to at least 10 million years ago. This 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 and a biologist at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Alachua, Florida, the new improved enzyme enabled our ancestors to enjoy more of the overripe bounty on the forest floor, without suffering ill effects.

    “You could say we came out of the trees to get a beer,” Benner says. But the point wasn’t to get drunk. "

    "
    Flash forward millions of years to a parched plateau in southeastern Turkey, not far from the Syrian border. Archaeologists there are exploring another momentous transition in human prehistory, and a tantalizing possibility: Did alcohol lubricate the Neolithic revolution? Did beer help persuade Stone Age hunter-gatherers to give up their nomadic ways, settle down, and begin to farm?

    The ancient site, Göbekli Tepe, consists of circular and rectangular stone enclosures and mysterious T-shaped pillars that, at 11,600 years old, may be the world’s oldest known temples. Since the site was discovered two decades ago, it has upended the traditional idea that religion was a luxury made possible by settlement and farming. Instead the archaeologists excavating Göbekli Tepe think it was the other way around: Hunter-gatherers congregated here for religious ceremonies and were driven to settle down in order to worship more regularly.

    Nestled inside the walls of some smaller enclosures are six barrel- or trough-shaped stone vessels. The largest could hold 40 gallons of liquid. The archaeologists suggest that they were used to brew a basic beer from wild grasses."

    Remember the poster who insisted Yamnaya "invented" beer? :)




    Non si fa il proprio dovere perchè qualcuno ci dica grazie, lo si fa per principio, per se stessi, per la propria dignità. Oriana Fallaci

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    I think this is an interesting theory. Still to this day, alcohol is important for religious purposes. The most obvious to me being used for the blood of Christ for Mass. Alcohol, and the culture that comes from it's production, and consumption are a great means for socialization. I would imagine that for the early societies, it served as the first kind of sense of reward, for their labor. Rather than for just trying to survive. I'm sure it also taught people that too much of a good thing can be bad, if abused, when they experienced hang overs. This all makes for a much more dynamic society; more self-reflection, etc.

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    If some wine was good enough for Jesus, I’m sure it's good for us too.

    It's one of the few advantages of being a Catholic :)

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    Well, thank goodness for that drunken ape, otherwise my wife wouldn't be bringing me a martini every afternoon (I make the gin & tonics and sangria). There are somethings that make life worth living and apparently our ancestors discovered what at least one of them was . . .

    (I'm sorry, this doesn't really advance the conversation, but it felt good to say it)

    More seriously, it makes sense that there must have been overriding reasons for people to congregate (despite the danger of associating with, perhaps unfriendly, non-family members) and communal access to alcohol seems like a good one. If the religion controlled that access, and described the exaltation it imparted to a connection with god, that's a pretty powerful inducement to belief . . .

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