A Drink Fit for Goddesses: Beer and Mankind in Ancient Mythology

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A Drink Fit for Goddesses: Beer and Mankind in Ancient Mythology

A Drink Fit for Goddesses: Beer and Mankind in Ancient Mythology

It is widely known these days that beer is one of the oldest beverages human beings have ever produced. Beer-related items and activities familiar to us today can be traced back to the ancient world. Evidence of early beer brewing has been confirmed by findings at the Sumerian settlement of Godin Tepe in modern-day Iran, which indicates that production of beer dates back possibly further than 3500-3100 BCE. A stamp seal from Tepe Gawra from 4000 BCE near Mosul, Iraq, shows two figures drinking together— indicating that people have been drinking socially for thousands of years.

Egyptian wooden model of beer making in ancient Egypt.

Egyptian wooden model of beer making in ancient Egypt. (CC BY 2.5)

Beer is, in fact, such an ancient beverage that The Kalevala, an epic compilation of Finnish and Karelian folklore ranging from 1000 BCE to the 17th century CE, tells the story of the creation of Earth and humanity, as well as the creation of beer and its first fermentation. The Kalevala is divided into fifty chapters, with chapter 20 dedicated especially to the brewing of beer. The Code of Hammurabi from Babylon, mankind's oldest existing set of laws, sets fair prices for beer and specified harsh penalties for bars and brewers; a brewer who diluted his beer could be drowned in his own vat and a tavern owner who overcharged patrons could be put to death. As this indicates how much beer was valued in ancient society, it is only natural to conclude that beer also played a part in ancient mythology and religions.


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