The first chemical proof of beer production, found inside ceramics from Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains, showed that beer production occurred as early as 4, 000 BC . Later sources provide even more evidence of beer production in sources such as the Enuma Elish, or the Babylonian Epic of Creation, written between the fourteenth and twelfth century BC . Other texts and wall paintings depict the importance of beer in various Ancient Near Eastern cultures, yet scholars continue to ignore the importance of beer, and instead, incorrectly translating beer to mean wine or a strong drink1. This is most likely due in part to today’s society in which beer is seen more as a drink for rowdy sports fans compared to wine or liquor. Regardless of what some scholars may think, the use of beer in the Ancient Near East is numerous including encouraging the agricultural revolution, medicinal uses, economic uses, inducing happiness, and religious uses.
To begin with, scholars, such as Dr. Patrick Hayes of Oregon State University, believe that beer drove the first agricultural revolution and makings of civilizations. Barley, a main ingredient of beer, was actually the first crop planted . As the demand for beer rose, due to the effects of intoxication, humans had to find a way to harvest more barley. Domestication, leading to agriculture, served as the solution. Dr. Patrick McGovern, professor of bio-archaeology at University of Pennsylvania, backs up Dr. Hayes’s claim with pottery found with traces of beer chemicals on it tracing back to 3,000 years before the first bread was baked3. Dr. Hayes also states that the agriculture of beer helped fuel the invention of the plough, to help dig holes to burry seeds, irrigation, to bring water to areas not quite suitable for growing barley, and the cart, to carry the barley3.
Dr. Steven Tinney, an associate professor of Assyriology at the University of Pennsylvannia, is a well-known expert of texts and states that writing was invented to track commodities, such as beer . Although there are several important commodities traded in the Ancient Near East, it appears as though beer created the need for writing. Cuneiform, as a result, emerged as the first writing system4.
It is vital for one to understand that the theories put out by Dr. Hayes and Dr. Tinney strictly stands as theories for now. Other causes behind the growth of agriculture in the Ancient Near East are backed by several different theories, including V.G. Child’s Oasis Theory and R. Braidwood’s Fertile Crescent Theory . As a result, one must view beer as a probable cause for the growth of agriculture, until more evidence is presented.
Beer served an important role in the religious aspects of several Ancient Near Eastern cultures. Multiple gods and goddesses are associated with beer and alcohol in general, including Siris, Dumuzi, Enlil, Inanna, Hathor, Menqet, Dionysus and Ceres . Beer was poured onto the ground as libation to the god or goddess to quench...