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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Fermented Beverages of Pre and Protohistoric China

Authors
item Mcgovern, P - UNIV. OF PENN.
item Zhang, J - U. OF SCI.&TECH,CHINA
item Tang, J - INST. ARCHEOL,CHINA
item Zhang, Z - INST. CULT RELLIG,CHINA
item Hall, G - UNIV. OF PENN.
item Moreau, Robert
item Nunez, Alberto

Submitted to: Nature
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 4, 2004
Publication Date: December 21, 2004
Citation: Mcgovern, P.E., Zhang, J., Tang, J., Zhang, Z., Hall, G.R., Moreau, R.A., Nunez, A. 2004. Fermented beverages of pre- and protohistoric china. Nature. PNAS. V. 101, NO. 5. P.17593-17598.

Interpretive Summary: Prehistoric (7000 BC) samples of powders that were the remains of beverages were discovered and collected in several locations in China. These samples were analyzed using modern methods for food analysis. The prehistoric samples contained constituents that apparently were derived from rice, honey, and fruit. Proto-historic (1000 BC) samples that were fragrant liquids in bronze vessels were similarly collected and analyzed. The proto-historic samples contained constituents that identified it as a unique grain-based beverage that was made without honey or fruit. These analyses provide the first direct evidence of fermented beverages in ancient Chinese culture, and they help to understand later advancements in Chinese archeological food chemistry.

Technical Abstract: Chemical analyses of ancient organics absorbed into pottery from the early Neolithic village of Jlahu in Henon province have revealed that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey, and fruit was being produced as early as the seventh millennium BC. This drink paved the way for unique grain beverages of the late Shang/Western Zhou Dynasties (c.1250-1000 BC), remarkably preserved as liquids. These findings provide the first direct evidence for the social, religious, and medical significance of fermented beverages in ancient Chinese culture, and help elucidate their earliest written attestation in the Shang Dynasty oracle bone inscriptions.

Last Modified: 4/18/2014
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