A kind of romance between man and alcohol has been going on for over 9,000 years, but researchers are interested not only in the current influence of alcohol on culture or health, but also in the origins of this relationship.
Scientists at Stanford University examined fragments of nine amphorae discovered in the 1960s in a Neolithic village in Henan province. Earlier it was found that the age of these amphorae is about 6,000 years. The settlement was associated with the Yangshao culture, which was a semi-nomadic and agricultural society. Later, the Yangshao culture spread throughout the Yellow River Valley in the Miaodigu Phase (about 6,000-5,000 BC).
The researchers set out to find out if these amphorae were used to ferment beer. The fragments were washed, and then each of them was placed in a plastic bag with distilled water, which was immersed in an ultrasonic bath for three minutes. The liquid residue from each of the fragments was then processed using a dispersion of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. This substance is used in industry - to soften water - and in chemistry - to identify elements.
Fragments of Neolithic amphorae found in China
The remains of fungi were found in the amphorae, proving that they were used for brewing beer. In addition, scientists have found that the ancient Chinese used two different methods of making beer. In the first, a mixture of millet, rice and grass seeds was used as malt; in the second, dry sourdough, moldy grass and grains were used. The second method was used to produce stronger beers. Supposedly, the Chinese used various variations of these methods to produce different types of alcohol, which is evidence that they were sophisticated brewers.
Two main methods were passed down from generation to generation and were recorded in Chinese literature in the first millennium BC. Strong beer was called "jiu", and lighter beer was called "li".
Fungi found inside shards
Amphoras were widespread in Neolithic China, some of them reaching a meter in height. These vessels played a key role in the Yangshao culture and, ultimately, in the production of alcohol. The amphorae had thin necks, which made it possible to reliably close them, excluding the penetration of air and creating anaerobic conditions during the fermentation process.
Earthenware vessels have been found in the vast area of the Yellow River Valley, which may indicate the spread of beer brewing technology, and possibly a growing interest in alcohol in China during the Stone Age.