The first granaries and the first brewings of beer.

 

Neolithic sites in the dry regions of the world are known for their grain storage structures. The Near East, Central Asia, North Africa and the Sahel, the Andean Cordillera, northern Mexico offer multiple examples of buried jars, coated cavities used to store grain, raised structures made of adobe or beaten earth used as granaries. A food storage facility dating from 11,000 BC, i.e. before the domestication of cereals, has been discovered in the Jordan Valley[1].

Humid tropical areas do not have such structures: the tubers are hydrated, unlike the caryopses of grasses. They are collected all year round and keep better sunk in the ground than uprooted and quickly putrescible. The stocks are in the soil of the cleared forest, areas of slash-and-burn land fertilised for horticulture, not in the villages locked up in jars or silos.

The following explanations therefore apply to cereal farmers, human groups subject to the constraints of the annual or semi-annual harvest (rice, millet, wheat, barley, ...) that need to be stored. These cultural centres coincide with the alluvial basins of large rivers and the domesticated cereals of these regions: Tigre and Euphrates, Nile and Niger, Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra, Huang-He and Yangze, Mekong, Mississippi-Missouri, etc. The following protohistoric sequences therefore apply only to the civilisations that these fertility basins fed and watered.

Other models are needed to explain the history of beer brewing among peoples and civilizations based on the horticulture of starchy plants (cassava, yams, sweet potatoes, taro, etc.). This history is as rich and ancient as that of the cereal growers. Beer also holds a central role among the world's horticultural peoples who live in the tropical regions, a very wide belt on either side of the equator (Amazonia, Guianas, Central America, tropical Africa, monsoon Asia, Indonesia, etc.).

 

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[1] Kujita & Finlaysonb 2008, Evidence for food storage and pre-domestication in Jordan Valley 11.000 BC - PNAS

15/01/2012  Christian Berger