Fermented beverage and food storage in 13,000 y-old stone mortars at Raqefet Cave, Israel: Investigating Natufian ritual feasting

Li Liu, Jiajing Wang, Danny Rosenberg, Hao Zhao, György Lengyel, Dani Nadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Fermented and alcoholic beverages played a pivotal role in feastings and social events in past agricultural and urban societies across the globe, but the origins of the sophisticated relevant technologies remain elusive. It has long been speculated that the thirst for beer may have been the stimulus behind cereal domestication, which led to a major social-technological change in human history; but this hypothesis has been highly controversial. We report here of the earliest archaeological evidence for cereal-based beer brewing by a semi-sedentary, foraging people. The current project incorporates experimental study, contextual examination, and use-wear and residue analyses of three stone mortars from a Natufian burial site at Raqefet Cave, Israel (13,700–11,700 cal. BP). The results of the analyses indicate that the Natufians exploited at least seven plant taxa, including wheat or barley, oat, legumes and bast fibers (including flax). They packed plant-foods, including malted wheat/barley, in fiber-made containers and stored them in boulder mortars. They used bedrock mortars for pounding and cooking plant-foods, including brewing wheat/barley-based beer likely served in ritual feasts ca. 13,000 years ago. These innovations predated the appearance of domesticated cereals by several millennia in the Near East.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)783-793
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Volume21
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank D. Piperno for her suggestions on starch analysis, and E. Kvavadze for her advice on flax fiber identification. The research is supported by the Min Kwaan Archaeology Fund at Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University. Fieldwork at Raqefet Cave was carried out under license numbers G-2004/50, G-34/2006, G-64/2008, G-34/2010 and G-22/2011 of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and permits of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The Irene Levi-Sala CARE Archaeological Foundation, the National Geographic Society (Grant #8915-11) and the Wenner-Gren Foundation (Grant #7481-2008) generously supported the project. Dror Maayan took the photos in Fig. 1B and C and Anat Regev-Gisis designed Fig. 1. Ping Liu helped to make flax fabric for the experimental study. We also thank all our research partners in the Raqefet Cave excavations. G. L. was supported by the National Science Centre, Poland; Agreement No. UMO-2016/23/P/HS3/04034.

Funding Information:
We thank D. Piperno for her suggestions on starch analysis, and E. Kvavadze for her advice on flax fiber identification. The research is supported by the Min Kwaan Archaeology Fund at Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University . Fieldwork at Raqefet Cave was carried out under license numbers G-2004/50, G-34/2006, G-64/2008, G-34/2010 and G-22/2011 of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and permits of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The Irene Levi-Sala CARE Archaeological Foundation, the National Geographic Society (Grant # 8915-11 ) and the Wenner-Gren Foundation (Grant # 7481-2008 ) generously supported the project. Dror Maayan took the photos in Fig. 1 B and C and Anat Regev-Gisis designed Fig. 1 . Ping Liu helped to make flax fabric for the experimental study. We also thank all our research partners in the Raqefet Cave excavations. G. L. was supported by the National Science Centre, Poland ; Agreement No. UMO-2016/23/P/HS3/04034 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Alcohol
  • Flax fibers
  • Foragers
  • Mortuary ritual
  • The Near East
  • Wild cereals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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