Ancient humans used the oldest-known drinking straws to sip beer out of communal party bowls - study

Ancient humans used the oldest-known drinking straws to sip beer out of communal party bowls - study

2022-01-29 10:18:00 AM

Ancient humans used the oldest-known drinking straws to sip beer out of communal party bowls - study

Archaeologists believed the three-foot metal tubes were sceptres. Instead, barley residue and built-in strainers hint they may have been beer straws.

Illustration of the Maikop tubes intact with their bull figurines. Viktor Trifonov/Courtesy of Antiquity PublicationsArchaeologists discovered these three-foot-long, silver and gold tubes at a burial mound called Maikop kurgan, in the Caucasus, in 1897. The tomb features three compartments, with someone buried in each. The person inside the largest compartment was buried with intricate garments, hundreds of beads, ceramics, weapons, and tools arranged along the walls.

At the skeleton's right hand were eight tubes made of silver and gold that are more than 5,000 years old, some attached to tiny bull figurines. At first, archaeologists thought the tubes were sceptres, or maybe poles for holding up a canopy.But archaeologist Viktor Trifonov had a different theory. He looked to the Sumerians, an early civilization in

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New evidence suggests that beer parties also inspired the oldest-known straws on Earth. Illustration of the Maikop tubes intact with their bull figurines. Viktor Trifonov/Courtesy of Antiquity Publications Archaeologists discovered these three-foot-long, silver and gold tubes at a burial mound called Maikop kurgan, in the Caucasus, in 1897. The tomb features three compartments, with someone buried in each. The person inside the largest compartment was buried with intricate garments, hundreds of beads, ceramics, weapons, and tools arranged along the walls. At the skeleton's right hand were eight tubes made of silver and gold that are more than 5,000 years old, some attached to tiny bull figurines. At first, archaeologists thought the tubes were sceptres, or maybe poles for holding up a canopy. But archaeologist Viktor Trifonov had a different theory. He looked to the Sumerians, an early civilization in (modern-day Iraq and Kuwait). They regularly drank beer from long straws with built-in metal strainers for filtering out debris or other impurities floating in their beverages. The Maikop"sceptres" have similar strainers. Fragments of the silver and gold tubes unearthed at the Maikop burial mound. Viktor Trifonov/Courtesy of Antiquity Publications The real smoking gun, however, was Trifonov's discovery that residue inside one of the Maikop tubes contained granules of barley starch. The researchers could not figure out whether the barley had been fermented, but its presence inside the straw suggests its users were drinking beer. "If the interpretation is correct, these fancy devices would be the earliest surviving drinking straws to date," Trifonov, who works at the Institute for the History of Material Culture at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in a press release. Straws allowed ancient people to share big jugs of beer A figure shows how ancient people may have used the Maikop straws to drink from a communal vessel. Courtesy of Antiquity Publications Ltd Ancient Sumerian art depicts several long straws sticking out of a communal vessel with people surrounding it. Trifonov's team thinks that Maikop people used their straws similarly. It's akin to a modern-day shared party bowl. The researchers also found a large vessel at Maikop kurgan, which they believe could be the party bowl itself. There's no evidence that it was used for beer, but it could hold enough liquid for eight straw-drinkers to sip seven pints. The bull figurines, which can slide up and down the poles, but stop at the bottom, may have helped balance the straws while people sat together and drank. The bull figurines that accompanied the Maikop tubes. Viktor Trifonov/Courtesy of Antiquity Publications "Before having done this study, I would never have believed that in the most famous elite burial of the Early Bronze Age Caucasus, the main item would be neither weapons nor jewelry, but a set of precious beer-drinking straws," Trifonov said. The straws' inclusion in the Maikop mound suggests ties between Maikop people and their southern Mesopotamian neighbours. People in the Caucusus may have had lavish royal funerals similar to those documented in Sumeria. The of the Maikop tubes was published in the January issue of the journal Antiquity. The straws are on display at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia. Get the best of our site