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AlcoholA History$
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Rod Phillips

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781469617602

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469617602.001.0001

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Alcohol in Ancient Worlds

Alcohol in Ancient Worlds

Nature and the Human Hand

(p.6) 1 Alcohol in Ancient Worlds

Rod Phillips

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter discusses the history of alcohol in the ancient world. While alcoholic beverages made by humans can be traced back to around 7000 bc, prehistoric man had consumed alcohol in fruits and berries many thousands of years earlier. When fruits and berries start to decay, wild yeasts begin to consume the sugars they naturally contain and this produces alcohol through a spontaneous process of fermentation. The alcohol thus produced in the flesh and juice of rotting fruits often reaches levels of 3 or 4 percent and sometimes over 5 percent, giving them an alcoholic strength similar to that of many modern beers. What emerged in the ancient world is a theme that runs through the history of alcohol to the present: that moderate consumption was good for reasons of health and pleasure. But drinking too much alcohol, either on specific occasions or as a regular pattern, was regarded as unhealthy.

Keywords:   alcohol, fruits, berries, fermentation, prehistoric humans, drinking

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