Native American cultures in Mississippi: a counter-example?



Known for having raised mounds and huge earthworks along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, these Mississipian Native American cultures in the central United States today were not only builders but also growers of maize, beans and squash. They stored and redistributed large quantities of grain. This is known thanks to the testimonies of travellers and the most recent archaeological excavations.

But against all expectations, these complex and culturally highly advanced societies did not brew maize beer. This raises a burning question. We postulated that a certain level of social complexity led 'automatically' to the birth of beer brewing, when the material conditions for brewing beer were met (abundant starch sources, pottery, use of fire, etc.). This seems to be the case with the Native American societies of the Mississippi.

However, no traces of corn beer, it seems! Instead, the use of tobacco, psychotropic plants and unfermented beverages made from berries. In fact, several North American Indian societies have brewed beer and integrated beer into their social customs since the 10th century: Pueblos, Zunis, ... with corn beer; Yumas, Pimas, Maricopas, Tumas and Apaches with carob beer; Creek and Cherokees with corn beer; and even the Hurons further north.

Without calling into question the proposed model, which reflects the history of brewing in many other contexts, the case of these Amerindian societies requires a very careful examination (protohistory of beer in North America).



14/11/2020  Christian Berger