Posts Tagged ‘drink’

Topic More on Beer

Orange-colored galls, such as these pictured in 2010, from the beech tree forests of Patagonia have been found to harbor the yeast that makes lager beer possible. Five hundred years ago, in the age of sail and when the trans-Atlantic trade was just beginning, the yeast somehow made its way from Patagonia to the caves and monastery cellars of Bavaria where the first lager beers were fermented.

If you like lager beer, you have Christopher Columbus to thank for it. The
long-standing mystery of where the yeast that makes cold-temperature lager beer
fermentation possible has been solved, in the beech forests of Patagonia
in Argentina.

Humans have been making beer for a very long time. The first actual
evidence we have is barley beer 6,000 years ago in Sumeria, which was probably
somewhat like a thin, fermented, drinkable gruel. In Europe, the same yeast
types used to make bread and wine were used to make ale-type beers,
a process that was well-established by the Middle Ages.

But in the 15th century, something remarkable happened in Bavaria. Beers stored in the cold, dank caves and cellars there,
often by monks, began to ferment. A new type of slow-growing, cold-tolerant
yeast had found its way into the area, making bottom-fermenting beer type
possible for the first time.

Lager has since become so widespread that it is now the most popular
technique for producing alcoholic beverages, with over $250 billion in global
sales in 2008.

The yeast that made all this possible was called Saccharomyces pastorianus, which was a fusion of a
well-known ale-yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae and some other, unknown,
cold-tolerant yeast.

However much scientists searched, they couldn’t find the other half of the
yeast fusion in the wild. They looked at the more than 1,000 yeast species known
and found no match. It didn’t appear to exist in anywhere in Europe.

But now an international team of researchers have discovered the home ground
of this magical yeast that has made so many sporting events so much more

It comes from the beech forests of Patagonia, the alpine region at the tip of
South America, they report in this week’s edition of the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences
. The yeast lives in galls
that infect the trees there and is a 99.5% match for the ‘missing link’ half of
the lager yeast.

They named the newfound yeast Saccharomyces eubayanus.

“Beech galls are very rich in simple sugars. It’s a sugar rich habitat that
yeast seem to love,” Chris Todd Hittinger, a University of Wisconsin-Madison genetics
professor and a co-author of the study, said in a release.

In fact, the yeast is so active in the galls that they spontaneously ferment.
“When over mature, they fall all together to the (forest) floor where they often
form a thick carpet that has an intense ethanol odor, most probably due to the
hard work of our new Saccharomyces eubayanus,” Diego Libkind of the Institute for Biodiversity
and Environment Research in Bariloche, Argentina, said.

Somehow, and no one knows exactly how, this New World yeast got to Europe
just as the Columbian exchange between Europe and the Americas was
beginning. Perhaps beech wood from Argentina was used to make something that
ended up in a monastery. However it happened, it made its way to where beer was
brewed. And the rest, beer lovers have cause to be grateful for, was

Or as the researchers put it rather more dryly:

The facile recovery of this species from Patagonia suggests that S.
may have been absent in Europe until it was imported from
overseas after the advent of trans-Atlantic trade.

Original article:

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY



This illustration depicts the journey of lager yeast from Patagonia at the southern tip of South America to Europe 500 years ago.

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Topic Date Palm in Egypt

Date Palm tree and fruit


Date palm has given the latin name Phoenix dactylifera L.

The part L.: denoting Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Swedish botanist who brought this binomial name.

Phoenix: There are three explanations as to the etymology of Phoenix:
1. In Ancient Greece: It was the name of a legendary bird which haunted people’s minds throughout antiquity and still exists in the religious and artistic traditions of the Far East. The Greeks described Phoenix bird as a wonderful bird which lived through periods of many hundred years. It was said that before dying, this bird built its own funerary pile, setting fire to it by fanning it with its own wings and eventually arose again from its own ashes.
2. In Ancient Egypt: The date palm was known from the first Pharaonic dynasties. The Egyptian legendary bird was the greedy heron which was so widespread in the Nile valley and they called it ‘Bennu’ bird Fig (1). This bird was found on the mural paintings which decorate the tombs of the kings and the nobles, this bird was assimilated to the great ‘Sun-God’ ‘Ra’ and the sun itself. The terms ‘Bennu’, ‘bnr’, ‘bnr.t’ were also applied to the date palm fruit and to every thing sweet. The date palm was linked in ancient Egypt to the sun-bird and they giving both the same name indicating the importance of this tree to their life (Bircher,1990).
3. In Theophrastus’ days: (The famous botanist; 370-285 BC): There was Phoenicia which was the narrow coastal strip between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan valley which is now ‘Israel’ and a part of ‘Lebanon’. This region was inhibited with a population with famous purple colour from the Murex shellfish, this colour called ‘Phoenix’ in their language. Theophrastus may derived the word ‘Phoenix’ and gave it to date palm fruits which appear purple on ripening (Bircher,1990).

Dactylifera: This latin term was derived from the Greek word ‘Dactylos’ which means finger. According Linnaeus this was meant tall and slender form. This word was used by ancient ‘Hebrew’ and Syrian names for date palm itself.

Dom and Date palms near Philae Egypt


Date palm has special religious, feeding and industrial values in Ancient Egypt. It was probably cultivated in the Nile Valley several thousand years before the first Hieroglyphs marks appeared. Date palm was given various names in Ancient Egypt, These names were cited in Hieroglyphic symbols (Darby, et al 1977 and Bircher, 1990) among of them: ‘Buno’, ‘Phuno’, ‘Bni’, ‘Bnr’ , ‘Benrt’, ‘Amt’ , ‘Bnrit’ and ‘Bniw’ for date juice. .

1. Old stone-age period: The earliest date palm finds recovered from Egypt was a date palm trunk found in Kharga Oasis (western desert). The sample was dated back to the old stony period.

2. Predynastic period: In Ruzikate (Sharkia province ) the excavations revealed a mummy robed with date palm leaves, in a site dating back to Predynastic period (c.3500 BC; Bircher, 1990). Fleshy part of date palm fruits was detected among the plants, identified from a beer cocktail excavated from a vat in Hierakonpolis site (upper Egypt). The site dated back to Predynastic period (3450 BC.). This was the earliest sample used as reference for usage of date palm for beer sweetening (Amer, 1994). However Darby, et al (1977) mentioned that date palm was used in Ancient Egypt for Beer sweetening.

3. Dynastic period: “In a clean place shall I sit on the ground. Beneath the foliage of a date palm of the goddess Hathor…” The Egyptian Book of Dead.
Date palm seeds were excavated among the botanical remains recovered from Abu Sir (Giza) tombs. These were used as mortuary offerings; the site dating back to the king’s ‘Down’ family belonging to the first dynasty (c. 2950 BC; Annual report, 1992). The columns’ crowns of king ‘Sahure’ in Saqqara were decorated with palm leaves Fig (2). A small date palm tree was found in Saqqara tomb dating back to the first and early second dynasty (c.2850 BC. ). Date was mentioned under the name ‘Bnrit’ among the decoration of ‘Nfer-Mehat’ tomb in Midoum dating back to fourth dynasty (c.2600 BC.). Rocky stones decorated with palm tree were found in ‘Ra Or’ tomb in Giza and ‘Betah Hotop’ tomb in Saqqara from the fifth dynasty (c.2400 BC; Nazir, 1970). Date palm trees were cultivated around a rectangular swimming pool in ‘Rakh Me Ra’ garden; this decoration was depicted on his tomb walls (Nazir, 1970). In Tel-El Amarana eighteenth dynasty (c.1580 BC.); the garden in the magnificent temple of priest ‘Meri Ra’, was decorated with various types of trees; the most notable ones were: date palm, dome palm, in addition to fig and pomegranate (Nazir, 1970). Date palm trees were cultivated in the nobles and kings gardens. Anna’s (Ineini), who was the keeper of cereal storage bins in ‘Amon Hotob’ the first era (New kingdom). The walls of his tomb were decorated with a paints representing his house garden. The names and the numbers of the cultivated trees were written too. There were twenty plant species among of them: seventy three fig trees; thirty one persa trees; one hundred and seventy date palm trees; one hundred and twenty dome-palm trees all these were cultivated around a large rectangular swimming pool( Nazir,1970). Some representative drawings are outlined in Figs(3, 4,5&6).

4. Graeco-Roman period:Date palm seeds were excavated from Douch Necropolis (Kharga Oasis-western desert); the site was dating back to Graeco-Roman period, 350 AD (Wagner,1982 and Barakat 1986).

5. Roman period: Large number of date palm seeds were excavated from Abu-Sha’ar site (Red sea coast); the site dating back to Roman period (c.500 AD.). The excavated seeds were morphologically sorted into five categories it was believed that these seeds were belonging to different desertic date palm cultivars.


Ancient Egyptians used date palm leaves as an emblem of longevity; the excavations revealed a kneeling man holding in his hands a bunch of palm leaves for longevity. Date palm was an emblem of the greatest God ‘Ammon Ra’. Hathor’ the goddess of life, joy, music, dancing and fertility had the date palm as one of her emblems. At Denderah (upper Egypt), a beautiful palm grove surrounded her famous sanctuary (Bitrcher,1990). ‘Thot’ the god of science and time (they believed that he who separates time into months and years had also the date palm as one of his attributes.) Whenever a pharaoh king celebrated the thirtieth jubilee of his reign, the so called ‘Heb Sed’ ceremony; he helds in his hands a bunch of palm mid-ribs (Fig 7). It was believed that into these very mid-ribs the god that had carved the notches corresponding the number of years that were still allowed to the reign and life of the king (Nazir,1970 and Bircher,1990).
Date fruits were among the wages paid to the workmen at Dier El-Medina temple (Darby, et al, 1977). In the dynastic period palm leaves were carried to the tombs as mortuary offerings Fig (8). The mortuary bouques made of date palm leaves were still used till the Graeco-Roman period (Barakat, 1982).

Date palm preservation:

Date palm fruits were preserved in Ancient Egypt by two methods:
1- The simplest method: It was by drying the fruits in a direct sun light for two or three days and left at shaded place till become completely dried to be in ‘Tamr’ form. A representative sample of this method was deposited in Agricultural Museum, Cairo; the sample dating back to eighteenth dynasty and excavated from ‘Tibba’ (Upper Egypt).
2- The second method: It was applied to date palm fruits with higher moisture content than the previous method. This method was performed by pressing a large number of date fruits in basket made of date palm leaves for several days. The resulted date was called ‘Agua’. A representative sample was deposited in Agricultural Museum, Cairo (No. 39897); the sample dating back to the New Kingdom. Both methods are still used in Arab countries for date preservation.

Ancient date industries
Ancient Egyptians used palm trunks for roofing and leaves for basket making (Fig 9; Nazir,1970; Darby, et al, 1977). Leaves were used for manufacture of sandals (Fig 10) especially for the priests and the temple’s workers to whom animal substances were not allowed (Nazir,1970). There were three hundred and sixty date palm products mentioned by Wilkinson (1854). Among of these products a special type of wine known as ‘Araqe’, which is still manufactured in rural areas of Egypt (Nazir,1970). Date palm wine was mentioned on two ostraca of the nineteenth dynasty in the Cairo Museum. Pliny was cited that date palm wine was made throughout all the countries of the East; which probably was meant to include Egypt (Lucas and Harris,1962).


Date palm fruit or their juice were used in Ancient Egypt in many medicinal remedies. Some of them here mentioned based on Darby, et al (1977) and Manniche (1989):
1. A remedy for swelling of any limb of a man: Fresh dates, date kernels, dry myrrh, wax were combined to a paste and bandage for four days.
2. A remedy made for swollen and aching legs: Red natron was mixed with fermented date juice and the legs were bandaged therewith.
3. A remedy to suell cough in a child: Dried crushed date are ground in a ‘hin’ of milk and drunk by the child.
4. A remedy to kill worms: Date kernels, carob pod pulp, sweet beer were mixed, boiled, strained and drunk; the remedy had instant effect.
5. A remedy to cure heat of the heart: Fresh dates, honey, sweet beer were mixed and administer to the anus for four days.
6. A remedy for sneezing: Date juice fill the opening of the nose with it.
7. A remedy to accelerate hair growth: Bone of a dog, date kernels, donkey’s hoof, boiled well in a jar with oil or fat and used as an unguent. Date beer was mentioned with many writers (Lucas and Harris,1962; Darby, et al ,1977; and Nazir,1970) that it was used in mummification.

More to come!

Date Palm

Original article:


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Topic:Bottling of the golden elixer

You will note I am a bit behind in posting some ( oh well all ) of my mead endevors but if you could ask my friends I think they would say my time was worth it. In a taste face off my blackberry mead won over a fig mead from a commerical meadery- I must be on the right track.

2nd Racking- April 3, 2011

Time to rack again. There hardly any bubbles in the air locks but there is plenty of
lee on the bottom of all 3 carboys. Cleaned equipment and took the specific
gravity of the mead, reading at 1.010 which is a little lower than I expected.
After tasting a sample I am firm in my choice to add more honey to sweeten the
mead before bottling-but first I will bulk age all three bottles until
July.  This batch is a light golden, aroma is of apricot and apple and it  legs,( the viscous rivulets of mead that
cling to the sides of the glass).

3rdRacking- July 6, 2011

Since 5 gallons of mead is a lot to bottle all at once and since I am planning going
on a short vacation, I have decided to rack, sweeten and bottle only 3 gallons
at this time. The other two are in one-gallon carboys and can wait until I
return to be bottled.

The specific gravity is still 1.010. Again cleaned and sanitized all
equipment-always do this! This time I hit a glitch in the process. Racking went
as planned but I didn’t check the size of the stopper I was using and picked up
a size too small. Down it went into my 3 gallons of pale golden mead. When in
doubt-rack again-, which is just what I did. I’m not sure it the stopper would
have affected the mead at all; I just didn’t want to risk it.

BeforeI am able to add residual sugar (more blackberry honey), there
is one more step involved. To make sure that any remaining yeast will not resume
fermentation when I (you) add additional sugar, I followed the advice in The
Compleat Meadmaker by Ken Schramm
and added potassium sorbate. It does not
kill the yeast (which were pretty much used up anyway); rather it prevents the
fermentation process from continuing.

Never fear I do have a plan!

Wed-July 6- rack mead (which you can see is where I am at).

Fri- July 8- add the potassium sorbate I mentioned above.

Sat- July 9- rack mead into my plastic fermenter and add honey

Sun- July 10-bottle the mead!

4th Racking- July 9, 2011

Yesterday I added the sorbate which much to my surprise dissolved right away. I took some
mead from the carboy and put it in a wine glass adding the sorbate to that,
thinking it would take time to dissolve and blend with the mead.

Note this is not the time you want to be agitating your mead any more than necessary.

As it turns out, and for future batches where additional sugar is needed, I can
just add the sorbate directly to whatever size batch of mead I make.

Today I racked the mead into my plastic 5 gallon fermenter to make adding the honey
easier and with plans to use leave the mead in the fermenter to make it easier
to bottle. Having the spigot to use to regulate the flow into the bottles will
be very handy indeed.

In total I added 2 ¼ pounds more of blackberry honey, one cup at a time, to three
gallons of mead. To incorporate the honey into the mead I used the long handled
spoon I had used to make the mead with in the first place. I was sure to stir
the batch slowly so as to not add in any more air than possible all the while
taking a taste after each cup of honey was added so I would end up with just
the right amount of sweetness.

As far as my calculations go the three gallons of mead should have approximately
12 and 3/4 pounds of honey-still math is not my strong suit and taste at this
point is the most important factor.

Bottling Day-July 10, 2011

I cleaned and sanitized all equipment including 15 full bottles and six splits. I
don’t expect to use this many bottles but I want to be prepared.

As I did the first two times I capped each bottle with foil to keep it sterile
until the mead is piped in, then it gets capped again until it is fitted with a
cork. The fermenter is fitted with a siphon hose that goes into each bottle. These are
filled and then capped. During this time I have corks sitting in sanitizer.
After all bottles are filled each is fitted with a cork and tucked away in my
wine cooler. I ended up with 12 full bottles (750ml) and 4 splits (375ml).

Note: Most of the above work I can do myself but I have to thank my husband for his
help and strong arm in carrying around heavy and awkward carboys, corking every
bottle himself, helping me taste the brew, and above all following my orders
and wishes when it comes the” making of the Mead”!

I have even gone so far as to create a mead label. Since I have  found evidence of Honey wine being made in Ancient Egypt I have used that theme for my meadery name and labels.

Welcome to:

 Star Flower Mead

Artisan Meadmaker

 Joanna Linsley-Poe

Original article:

By Joanna Linsley- Poe


Copyright August 2011

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Topic: More on Chocolate



Molinillo- Chocolate frothing tool




Chocolate finds its way onto even the most simplistic dessert menus today to satisfy the sweetest sweet-tooth.  In ancient Mesoamerica, chocolate was deemed a specialty food, achieving a sacred status.


The Maya and the Aztecs believed that cacao was discovered by the gods in a mountain and was to be given to the people following their creation. The Maya held a yearly festival to honor the cacao god Ek Chuah, which included several offerings and rituals to him. Although sustaining the high possibility that is was not a native Mesoamerican crop, the cacao tree was one of the ancient Maya and Aztec’s most prized.


The warm, liquid form of the chocolate consumed was very different from today’s hot cocoa, being laden with chili powder and other spices making it a hot and sultry treat popular with royalty while lay people occasionally enjoyed its healing qualities. The Spanish who moved into Mesoamerica were unfamiliar with the ‘savage’ flavors of the spicy chocolate and determined that it would not be popular as it stood and was not to sent back home without proper adjustments like the elimination of many spices and the addition of sweetening ingredients. While archaeological evidence for cacao use by the Aztecs and Maya is rather limited, pictorial and iconographic evidence is quite substantial. The goal of this poster is to demonstrate the many ways in which the cacao tree was especially important ritually, medically and spiritually to the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica..

For nearly 3500 years the world has indulged in chocolate; chocolate bars, candy kisses, hot cocoa, chocolate ice-cream and numerous other forms.  The idea of a chocolate treat is far from a modern one. The use of chocolate began in the New World with the ancient Olmec civilization (1500 BC-500 BC) in Mesoamerican and continued on through the time of the Maya and Aztecs before making its trek across to the Old World in the 16th century.  The formulation and serving techniques of the chocolate were somewhat different than today. Mainly consumed as an unheated liquid by the Aztecs and generally heated by the Maya, chocolate was the drink of choice for the elites and with the addition of hot chilies, maize, spices, peanut butter, vanilla and other flavor and texture enhancers, made the chocolate beverage a spicy and sultry drink enjoyed only by those who are able to afford it or by those who are specifically chosen to enjoy its benefits.  Over the years, cacao, its components and chocolate in one form or another, have been used in more ways that just for a pleasure drink.  It is known to have healing and preventative properties and has been documented in both ancient and modern medical journals.

History of the Cacao Tree and its Cultivation:

The cacao (Theobroma cacao) tree is a member of Sterculiaceae family of evergreens. Today, we find the wild trees at various elevations (200-400m) in the Amazon Rainforest as well as the Orinco River basins.  The tree produces fruits approximately the size and shape of an American football. Each pod contains an average of 40 seeds (commonly referred to as ‘beans’), which are what is used to make cocoa powder, cocoa butter and chocolate (Rissolo per. comm. 2005).

The cultivation of a cacao tree and its seeds is a rather involved and time-consuming process.  In the wild, the trees can grow to a height of over 60 feet; however in a plantation setting it is typical to see them only at a maximum of 20 feet to ease the harvesting labour.  The planted trees take four or five years to flower. Once pollinated, each flower begins to produce a pod with will grow to be about one pound in weight and contain about 40 seeds surrounded by a naturally sweet white pulp. The pods are unable to open on their own accord and must so be done with human (or animal) intervention. The pods will ripen throughout the year and there are normally two main harvests. The pods are opened by hand and the pulp and are seeds extracted  According to Coe and Coe (1996) the four steps needed to produce the cacao ‘nibs’ (shelled and de-germed beans) are: fermentation, drying, roasting and winnowing. These steps are still followed in today’s modern chocolate making cultures, regardless of the technologies available to them. The four stages are summarized below.

Fermentation is a confusing word choice as the cacao is not fermented into an alcohol, although it could be.  As performed by the ancient people of Mesoamerica, the beans (seeds) are fermented for anywhere from three to six days, depending on the type of bean. During this time, chemical processes are occurring; the pulp liquefies, and drains away as the temperature increases and the seeds begin to germinate but are soon killed by the high temperature and acidity which is the desired effect as the chocolate will fail to taste like chocolate if this does not occur (Coe and Coe 1996, 24).  Once fermentation is complete, the beans are dried on flat mats left out in the sun for one to two weeks. Roasting the beans for approximately 70-115 minutes at temperatures of around 215 degrees F is vital for the drawing out of the chocolate flavour. The beans are roasted at a slightly higher temperature in order to produce cocoa powder. The final step is the removal of the outer shell of the bean (winnowing). Once winnowing has occurred, the beans can be ground into a paste, commonly known as ‘cacao liquor’, which is non-alcoholic (Coe and Coe 1996, 25). The process is time consuming and minimal chocolate is retrieved from each pod, but the value is so great and the time used in order to prepare the chocolate adds to the sacredness of the end product.

Cacao butter is made up of the fat inside the nib. It is extracted during the drying process and the fat was and still is used not only as an addition to quality chocolate, but as an ingredient in many cosmetics and skin-care products. The word cacao most likely originated with the Olmecs who resided in the lowland region of Mexico on the eastern gulf coast (Dillinger et al. 2000 and Coe & Coe 1996). The tree obtained its modern name from the eighteenth century Swedish biologist, Carolus Linnaeus. While developing a system for classifying living organisms, he assigned the botanical name Theobroma cacao to the chocolate tree. Theobroma, in Latin, means “food of the gods,” while cacao refers to the native word for the plant (Coe and Coe 1996, 17).

In the most basic of terms, cacao is a culturally edible material which grows on trees in Central and South America. To the ancient lay people of Mesoamerica, it was so much more than a food item. Cacao seeds were actually so valued as to be used for currency, while the subsequent beverages were used as offerings to the gods and as the champagne-of-the-time.  A 1545 Nahuatl (Mayan language) document provides a list of the prices of food items; a turkey hen is worth 100 cacao beans, a hare or forest rabbit or is worth 100 cacao beans, a large tomato is one bean and one turkey egg is worth three beans, among other food items (Coe and Coe 1996, 98-99).

There is doubt as to whether or not the cacao tree is native to Mesoamerica.  Specific climatic conditions are required for the needy cacao tree to grow.  Surprisingly, the trees have been reported to have grown and thrived in the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula where the climate would normally be far too harsh.  The area has a long, hot and dry season yielding a mere 50mm of rainfall a year.  Cacao trees require year round humidity and plenty of rainfall (2000mm) into well-drained soil in order to grow and propagate (Gomez-Pompa et al. 1990, 247-249).  Being a shade-loving species, the cacao is usually found growing under the canopy of taller, tropical trees and basking in the nutrient-rich soil made up of the abundant organic materials falling from the protective canopy-trees.   It is exceedingly difficult to recognize what the original properties of the wild populations of cacao trees prior to the Spanish contact were.  South America has been considered to be the center of origin for cacao, but the question of when the transfer of the tree to Mesoamerica occurred still sparks controversy upon Mayanists as well as other archaeologists and historians (Gomez-Pompa et al. 1990, 249).  However, there is absolutely no proof of South American usage of cacao prior to modern times and, according to Gomez-Pompa et al. (1990), it is unrealistic to assume that someone traveling from South America to Mexico could have (or would have) successfully brought the cacao seeds, while keeping them viable for the two-week trek, to be planted and cultivated in Mexico.  The seeds germinate quickly and will surely die if not kept moist and cool in the hot air that blankets the South American and Mesoamerican areas. It is therefore somewhat safe to assume that the trees do, in fact, grow naturally in the Mesoamerican area, but how?   Unfortunately, at present, it unknown for certain whether or not these cacao groves occurred naturally or with human assistance. The answer may well lie in cenotes, (underground caves), or collapsed above-ground caves.  These types of environments are similar to sinkholes and house a damp microenvironment virtually perfect for cacao growth.  Groundwater in the cenotes is generally the food for the trees, which are by and large untouched by rainwater for half the year.  Unfortunately, whether cacao trees naturally form and prosper or were originally brought into the area and planted in these sinkholes and cenotes, is still under investigation.

Iconographic and Archaeological Evidence:

Chocolate became popular as a drink among the Aztec upper classes, who could afford it. The custom was to serve chocolate after a feast, in a special cup (xicalli) made out of a calabash gourd. Royalty and upper elites ritualistically used elaborately painted pottery from which to drink the frothy concoction (Rissolo per. comm. 2005).

An impressive Mayan example of this is from a royal tomb in north-eastern Guatemala. It contained seven cylindrical containers, including a pot with a stirrup handle and screw-on lid. The notable piece was painted with hieroglyphs reading, “a drinking vessel for witik cacao, for kox cacao,” the still un-deciphered Mayan words which likely denote chocolate flavours (Coe and Coe 1996, 49 and Hall 1990). Laboratory analysis of its inner surface by came back positive for chocolate. All seven containers likely held varieties of the cacao beverage. There are thousands of these cylindrical vessels in collections, and the vast majority say right on them, ‘This is a vessel for chocolate,’ (Coe and Coe 1996).

Spouted vessels are a rare elite drinking vessel of the Preclassic Maya. Colha, in northern Belize, has yielded several of these types of drinking vessels. Dry-residue analysis using liquid-chromatography show chocolate use as early as 600BC. These vessels were only manufactured in the Preclassic period (900BC-AD250) (Hurst et al. 2002, 289).

Residue analyses on several vessels from ancient Maya burial sites indicate offerings of chocolate to the deceased (Dillinger 2000, Hurst et al. 1989 and Hall et al. 1990).  In fact, a majority of the pottery assemblages from Maya sites of the Postclassic (prior to the Spanish conquest) era contained vessels used to hold chocolate for the dead to utilize during his/her afterlife. Analysis if the residues of four Maya tomb vessels at the site of Rio Azul in Guatemala have shown that the vessel once contained theobrommine and/or caffeine which are both contents of cacao (Hall et al. 1990, 139).  Hall and his researchers surveyed the literature provided by the laboratories of the Hershey Foods Corporation Technical Center and determined that cacao is the only Mesoamerican food source which contained both theobrommine and caffeine.  Therefore it has been deemed safe to conclude that any vessel which tests positive for these ingredients likely contained cacao in one form or another.  Another 15 vessels which had a sort of locking mechanism, deemed by Hall (1990) to be a ‘child-proofing’ system, seemed to have once contained foods and liquids on which the deceased would subsist in the afterworld.  As Hall (1990) states, many of the vessels had obvious inner rings of residue, some of which were slightly slanted, as if the pot was not entirely flat on the bottom. This indicates the presence of a liquid having been stored.  The glyphic writing on the outside of the vessels clearly display the Maya word for cacao along with additional un-deciphered glyphs, possibly eluding to the recipe of the contents, the maker of, or other general information about the contents which were once housed in the vessel (Hall, 1990, 139).

As suggested by the residue analysis, as well as iconographic evidence, the elites began frothing the chocolate to create a thick, foamy head using a Spanish invention called a molinillo. Prior to Spanish contact, the method mostly used to froth the liquid was pouring from extended heights into another vessel on the floor (Coe and Coe 1996).

Archaeological evidence from Mesoamerica, points to chocolate use beginning with the ancient Olmecs and carrying on through the time of the Maya and Aztecs.  Evidence is sparse but comes from various parts of Mesoamerica. Whole cacao beans were recovered from Uaxactun, Guatemala, while in Belize, wood from ancient cacao trees has been uncovered along with ceramic vessels which tested positive for chocolate residues (Rissolo per. comm. 2005).

An example of a piece of iconographic evidence of the importance of cacao is a jadeite plaque uncovered inside a cenote in the town of Chichen Itza. The carved jade shows a man holding onto the trunk of a cacao tree covered with protruding cacao pods. The carving also contains the phonetic glyph for the word cacao pronounced ka-ka-w(a), or kakaw (Gomez-Pompa et al. 1990).  An incense burner from the Late Classic period (AD 600-900) depicting a god surrounded by many cacao pods was uncovered in the Rio Bec region of Campeche (Gomez-Pompa et al. 1990 and Rissolo per. comm. 2005).

The only surviving written evidence from the Classic era Maya, are the extravagantly decorated vessels which joined the elite in their tombs. There is little else known about the peasants who actually grew and cultivated the trees, or how the May ate or drank their chocolate (Coe and Coe 1996, 45-46).

Ritual Use:

The use of chocolate had many ritualistic, spiritual and political meanings for the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica.  According to similar creation stories of both the Aztec and the Maya, the gods discovered the cacao in a mountain named the Mountain of Sustenance (named by the Maya), along with other delectable foods. The Maya version tells the story of the Plumed Serpent (a god), who gave the people, recently made from maize by the divine grandmother goddess, Xmucane, the cacao on which to feast (Dillinger et al. 2000).  The gods also provided maize, fruits and other desired foods.

When it comes to ritual use of chocolate, usually, only the male, elite and royals consumed cacao in a liquid form (Rissolo per. comm 2005), making the sweet treat one of high status individuals. Perceived as being an intoxicating food, the chocolate drink was a forbidden food for both women and children in a ritual setting (Dillinger et al. 2000, 2057s).

Priests would often prepare chocolate as a drink for religious ceremonies or offer cacao seeds to the gods. The Maya held a yearly festival to honor the cacao god Ek Chuah, which included several offerings and rituals to him; chocolate beverages, blood, dancing and other gifts such as the sacrifice of cacao-colored dogs and feathers, incense and cacao seeds (Rissolo per. comm.. 2005). According to Aztec history, a similar yearly festival in the capital city of Tenochtitlan took place with the sacrifice of a warrior captured from an enemy group during battle. For forty days he was dressed up in the colorful feathers and jewels of the god Quetzalcoatl and ordered to dance for the appeasement of the god of war and the sun; Huitzilopochtli, all the while being treated like a god, but being caged at night. If he appeared agitated or nervous due to his impending doom, the captive would be fed a relaxing drink. He consumed a thick reddish liquid which would enable him to put his fears of eminent death aside and continue to entertain the god.  The drink was an intoxicating chocolate blend with the color of blood. His dancing and movements seemed to welcome the death to come, as if he was offering himself willingly. Soon after which, his heart was carved out of his body to be offered to the god that would ensure the rising of the morrows sun (Coe and Coe 1996, 102 and Rissolo per. comm. 2005).

The offering of blood also occasionally consisted of priests lancing their own earlobes or kings lancing their penises with obsidian blades drizzling their own blood to cover cacao and offering it to the gods whom they were honoring (Rissolo per. comm. 2005).  There are many, strong ethnographic sources (Thompson 1956) which demonstrate the importance of these two liquids; blood and chocolate among the Aztecs and the late Post-Classic Maya. They were both considered sacred and were thus regularly offered during ritual practices.

Baptisms of newborn babies and marriages required the ritual use of chocolate as well. The pre-Spanish Maya baptismal ritual consisted of cacao seeds ground up with flowers and pure water was used to anoint the heads, feet, hands and faces of the children, whole chocolate mixed with corn gruel was offered in special clay pottery to be used during wedding ceremonies (Rissolo per comm. 2005).  There were several types of drinks prepared for different occasions as well. Depending on the person for whom the drink was prepared, different ingredients were added or not added. Given the abundance of different types of chilies in the region, the drink could have been anywhere from mild to scalding and given the grinding techniques of various other additives, the drink may be thick, lumpy, or watery. Many recipes for chocolate drinks have made their way around the world. For example, Sahagun’s (who will be discussed in the next section) native informants give him a ‘menu’ of chocolate drinks which are suitable to be served to the ruler (Coe and Coe 1996, 89). Also, medicinally, drinks were prepared to have desired effects on the human body, which leads us into the medicinal use of the cacao and chocolate.

Medicinal Use:

Not only was chocolate used for ritual purposes but it was avidly used for medicinal reasons as well. Healing and preventative medicines as well as a tool for administering foul-tasting medicines were the two primary medicinal uses for the chocolate.  Ancient Aztec sources can trace the use of the chocolate as a medical tool.  Sources include the Badianus Manuscript, the Princton Codex and the Florentine Codex.  The Florentine Codex (1590 AD) contained an enormous list of medical uses for chocolate.  It was prepared by priest Bernardino de Sahagun from Spain who lived and worked in the ‘New Spain’ for 60 years, collecting vital medicinal information regarding the use of chocolate for the body both internally and externally (Dillinger et al. 2000).  Chocolate lessens agitation (Quelus 1730, 51), reduces angina and asthma (Villanueva y Francesconi, 1890, 231 and Hughes 1672, 153-154), reduces cancer (Villanueva y Francesconi, 1890, 239) and has a calming affect (Brillat-Savarin 1825, 100).  It reduces emaciation (Hernandez 1577, 305), improves energy (Stubbe 1662, 3), relieves hoarseness (Quelus 1730, 76), reduces fever (Hernandez 1577, 305) and quenches thirst (Quelus 1730, 46). It is also known to clean the teeth (Dillinger et al 2000, 2061s); of course modern-day dentists may disagree.  The increase in sexual appetite, fertility and abetted longevity were other benefits of the chocolate. It is stated that Montezuma, prior to visiting his grand harem, would consume up to 50 goblets of a hot chocolate drink to ensure a suitable visit to each member in the group (Aguilera 1985, 119 and Dillinger et al. 2000, 2062s). Another benefit is that of consuming cacao-tree bark. It assists in reducing abdominal pain (Morton, 1981, 556-557).   Externally, cacao was helpful in soothing burns, bronchitis and in disinfecting cuts.  One can facilitate childbirth by eating the fruit pulp of the cacao pod.  Even the leaves of the cacao tree act as antiseptics for external wounds (Morton, 1981, 556-557).   Aztec soldiers marching off to battle were often given chocolate beverages to fortify and sustain them during battle (chocolate.org, Rissolo per comm. 2008).  There are nearly 300 medicinal uses on de Sahagun’s list for the versatile cacao tree; however, he also added a warning label of sorts;

“[Green cacao] makes one drunk, takes effect on one, makes one dizzy, confuses one, makes one sick, deranges one.  When an ordinary amount is drunk, it gladdens one, refreshes one, consoles one, invigorates one. Thus it is said: ‘I take cacao. I wet my lips. I refresh myself’ (Sahagun 1590, 119-120)”.

The Spanish Influence:

The arrival of Christopher Columbus and his officers brought an ignorance of the importance of cacao to the new world.  Upon his return to Spain, Columbus toted a mere handful of cacao seeds. Only after Hernan Cortes came upon the chocolate, did its popularity in the Old World increase (Coe and Coe 1996). The bitter, spicy taste of the drink did little to satisfy Columbus and his men. They were unaware of the importance of the drink and could not bear to even choke it down.  Upon its arrival in Spain, it was re- flavored with cane sugar (previously unavailable in Mesoamerica), allspice and honey to a sweet, smooth beverage. Whilst in Spain, it too, was an elite-only drink but eventually ‘chocolate saloons’ began to open, making it available to all people (Rissolo per. comm. 2005).

The Spanish, who prepared the chocolate drink for their own pleasure, did so quite differently from the ancient Mesoamericans and without the knowledge of the rest of Europe. The addition of hot and spicy additives was not palatable to the Spanish consumer and therefore substituted them with sweet additions such as cane sugar, cinnamon, honey and other flavor enhancers. In his History of the New World (1575), Girolamo Benzoni negatively states: “It seemed more like a drink for pigs than a drink for humanity………But then, as there was a shortage of wine, so as not to be always drinking water, I did like the others. The taste is somewhat bitter, it satisfies and refreshes the body, but does not inebriate, and it is the best and most expensive merchandise, according to the Indians of that country (Benzoni 1575)”

The chocolate was reserved for the higher classes as well and the Spanish government went to great lengths to ensure only the wealthy could indulge.  They increased taxes on cacao product greatly to ensure only the elite could afford its benefits. Spain and Portugal kept it hidden from the rest of the world and at first only used it for medicinal purposes but the allure soon caught on.  The allure was in fact so high that arguments as to whether or not chocolate could be considered a food or a beverage arose. To some, it satisfied and nourished the body like a solid food and therefore it must not be consumed during times of fasting.  Eventually, much of the population, including the popes, agreed that it was not a solid food and therefore did not break the fast.  By the late 17th century, chocolate became available to most of Europe and accessible to the general populations.  Its popularity only increased and chocolate manufacturing companies like Hershey’s, Fry’s and Cadbury’s began opening around the globe to satisfy the people’s need for chocolate.


The love for chocolate has not dwindled since its discovery. It is still a favorite among many cultures, societies, elites, royals and everyday people.  The technologies, flavors, additives and reasons for consuming it have changed to allow for an increase and ease in production.  Once a sacred liquid from ancient Mesoamerica; chocolate has found its way onto the dinner tables of the entire world.  One need only look at the heart-shaped box of chocolates received on Valentine’s Day or the chocolate Easter egg found during a yearly egg-hunt to understand its importance in society today.

Original article:


By Julie St Jean 24/02/2011 16:46:00




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Topic :Shipwreck wine

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A secret stash of wine bottles discovered on the shipwreck the Mary-Celestia
marks a new chapter in the story of this well-documented Civil War

A team of international marine archaeologists and Government’s Conservation
Services, made the discovery of five full wine bottles last last week during a high-profile excavation.

They found the bottles stashed in a crumbling wooden crate in the bow of the
ship, separate from the main cargo that has long been excavated. The mini haul
adds weight to the theory that the blockade-runner, which sunk under mysterious
circumstances in 1864, was carrying contraband or that the bosun had stowed away
a personal stash of goods there.

I accompanied the excavation team on the dive when the stash was discovered.
(See story below). Speaking to me as he emerged from the water, Dr James
Delgado, director of the Maritime Heritage Program for the US National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration and host of the former National Geographic series
Sea Hunters, said: “As to whether or not this is part of a regular cargo — the
fact that we have wine sitting up there at the tip of the bow is very unusual.
It’s not in a cargo area so this is either somebody’s personal stash, it’s
something that they are intending to sell on their own or it is contraband that
is being hidden as part of a shipment that ostensibly, at this stage of the war,
should just be dedicated to military supplies and not to commodities that are
going to fetch a high price. People have always traded illicitly when there is a
profit to be made.”

Custodian of Historic Wrecks Dr Phillip Max Rouja explained that finding the
bottles was merely the start of the discovery. Asked what the next stage of the
project entailed he joked: “We have a drink and celebrate but not from them,”
pointing to the bottles.

“I can’t imagine feeling anymore brilliant than I do now but if we can find a
maker’s name that is even better.

“Our colleagues at NOAA have expertise in finding out about the wine. We
tried to make contacts in Europe and figure out ways to analyse the wine but now
there is more weight behind doing it — there is a very clear connected line of
where this came from. This is perfect providence — now you can take the time to
go though and test the grape. You can go from 1864 to today in one clear line.
There are probably some wine connoisseurs who might be able to come on board and
help us out — that is what we are hoping for.”

The Mary-Celestia is a wreck with historical significance to the United
Kingdom, where she was built, Bermuda, where she operated out of and where she
wrecked and the United States, where she ran to as a blockade-runner during the
US Civil War.

The excavation also yielded the remains of leather shoes, rope, a hairbrush
and the wooden form for a shoe among other items.

Dr Delgado is loath to make any conclusions at his early stage of

“It’s not until we have really done the digging and mapping and laboratory
analysis that we will be able to say more and that’s the excitement of it — even
when you go to a site like this that is well known, you always can learn

The expedition has been filmed by LookBermuda and will be made available
through schools, LookBermuda channel one and possibly major US networks
including National Geographic or PBS. LookBermuda’s director J-P Rouja told us
that this film was the TV production company’s most ambitious project to

Original article:

More photos on link below


By Sara Lagin


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Topic: A Toast to History

Terracotta kylix (drinking cup), Ancient Greece

Greek drinking cup


How commonly used items — like wine drinking cups — change through time can tell us a lot about those times, according to University of Cincinnati research being presented Jan. 7 by Kathleen Lynch, UC associate professor of classics, at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.

Lynch will present the research at the event’s Gold Medal Session, when archaeology’s most distinguished honor will be bestowed on her mentor, Susan Rotroff of Washington University.

UC’s Lynch will present a timeline of wine drinking cups used in ancient Athens from 800 B.C. to 323 B.C. and will discuss how changes to the drinking cups marked political, social and economic shifts.


Lynch’s specific area of study, which will result in a forthcoming book, is what’s known as the “symposium” in ancient Athens. These were gatherings held for nearly a millennia where communal drinking of wine was a means for cementing cultural norms and social bonds that carried over into the world of politics and business.

Think of these symposia as the ancient world’s ultimate cocktail parties, with established rituals and rules. An important aspect of any symposium was the wine cup, and the form of and the imagery on the cups reflected the shared culture of participants, as well as the larger social realities and changes in their world during the following periods:

  • Iron Age (1,100-700 B.C.)
  • The Archaic Period (700-480 B.C.)
  • The Late Archaic Period (525-480 B.C.)
  • The High Classical Period (480-400 B.C.)
  • The Late Classical Period (400-323 B.C.)
  • The Hellenistic Period (323-31 B.C)

Basic rules of Athenian symposia:

  • Couches or mattresses used by reclining participants were set in a circle or square. So, there was no formal position of status or group “head.”
  • Drinkers imbibed in rounds, so consumption of wine (mixed with water) was equitable. In other words, everyone got drunk at about the same rate. No teetotalers permitted.
  • Said Lynch, “The focus was on drinking communally and in equal amounts. Inhibitions were lost. In-group bonds were formed. “

Why study these items?

“Because,” stated Lynch, “People’s things tell you about those people and their times. In the same way that the coffee mug with ‘World’s Greatest Golfer’ in your kitchen cabinet speaks to your values and your culture, so too do the commonly used objects of the past tell us about that past. And, often, by studying the past, we learn about ourselves.”


  • The drinking gatherings (symposia) were reserved for the elite, probably allowing political factions to consolidate power and set themselves apart from the population at large. In other words, the drinking gatherings were for the “in” crowd.
  • At this time, even grave markers for the very wealthy came in the form of the mixing bowls (kraters) used to blend wine with water during symposia. In other words, the ability to sponsor these drinking events was what people wanted to be remembered for.
  • The drinking cups during this period were simply decorated and rested directly on a base (no stem).


  • After the turn of the 6th century B.C., changes in the fashion of drinking cups began, corresponding with Athens’ rising political power and rising dominance in the ceramic market. Variety and quality were high during this period. It was the beginning of black-figured pottery production as well as plain, black-glazed versions. Stemmed cups became more popular, probably because they were easier to hold while reclining.
  • The middle of the 6th century B.C. saw a rapid proliferation of cup types: Komast cups, Siana cups, Gordion cups, Lip cups, Band cups, Droop cups, Merry-thought cups and Cassel cups — last only a few decades in terms of popularity. Some of these remain popular for only a few decades.
  • Explained Lynch, “Possessing what was newest in terms of mode and style of drinking cups was likely equated with knowledge and status. The elites may have been seeking cohesion and self definition in the face of factional rivalries and populist movements. This hypothesis underscores how the drinking symposia — and specific cup forms identified with specific factions — might have been used by aristocratic blocs to cement group bonds in the politically charged environment of the time.”


  • The overall number of wine-drinking vessels increased dramatically during this period, pointing to the democratization of the symposium, as well as the democratization of the political and social arenas. The masses had become the political, if not the social, equals of the elites, and these masses were now enjoying symposia of their own.
  • It’s estimated that drinking vessels for symposia comprised up to 60 percent of the terra cotta fineware (collection of dishes) in the typical Athenian home of this period. “The typical home had few useful dishes for eating in contrast to many vessels designed for drinking wine in communal settings,” explained Lynch.
  • This period ends with the devastating Persian Wars, which Greece won. The proliferation of cup types fell, with red-figured drinking cups, introduced around 525 B.C., becoming the most popular.


  • Red-figured cups (cups decorated with red figures vs. black) remain popular through the first part of this period of cultural development in Athens, but the cups grow taller and shallower.
  • By the end of the 5th century B.C., Athens was weathering the Peloponnesian Wars and plague, and people were searching for an escape. This came in the form of an aesthetic restlessness. Fads in drinking cups came and went, but few developed into long-lived styles.
  • These new cup innovations tended to emulate the fineness commonly found in silver work at the time. For instance, there were many more plain, black clay cups with shiny surfaces. And delicate stamped and incised designs in clay cup interiors imitated metal prototypes on the cheap. In other words, the common terra cotta cups were “designer knock-offs” of the “high-end” designs found on silver cups.
  • Stemmed cups had finally run their course, being 200 years old at this point, and a stemless form became more popular.
  • Said Lynch, “People may have been seeking a visual antidote to the struggles of the period and a yearning for luxury at odds with daily conditions.”


  • Trends toward pseudo luxury (designer knock-offs) in drinking cups continued; however, the variety of these “silver-inspired” clay cup designs diminished after the turn of the 4th century B.C., probably because the forms were impractical. For instance, one clay cup — modeled on a silver drinking vessel — featured delicate high-swung handles that served no useful purpose in clay.
  • Also “running out of steam” in this period was the tradition of decorating cups with human figures. A decorative innovation, called West Slope, became popular at this time. It consisted of colored clay applied atop black-glazed surfaces to create the effects of garlands and wreaths. Human figures were no longer depicted.
  • Finally, as Athens fell under the sway of Philip of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great, the symposium came full circle. It began in the Iron Age as a practice of the elite. Then, with the movement toward democratization in Athens, participation in symposia broadened. Now, in Athens’ Hellenistic period, the practice was again the prerogative of the elites as a luxury and display of ostentatious consumption. Equality was no longer important in a state that was no longer democratic but monarchical.

Lynch’s research on symposia of ancient Greece received funding from the Louise Taft Semple Fund of the Department of Classics at UC; the Samuel H. Kress Foundation; and the Sheldon H. Solow Foundation, Inc.

Original Article:



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 Topic: Racking day





Day 28-March 13, 2011

We are a bit short of 30 days but the bubbles in the fermentation lock have slowed to one bubble every 45 seconds or so, making it a good time to rack the mead. Since I made more mead than I intended I am using one 3-gallon carboy as well as two 1-gallon carboys today. I had at the beginning meant to make only 3 gallons but due to an error in my calculations I ended up with 5 gallons of mead in total.

Note: I mentioned using 14 ½ pounds of honey and 4 gallons of water would make a medium sweet mead but after doing more checking I now realize I will need to add more honey to get the sweetness in the mead that I desire. Three more pounds should do it.

This was a good lesson learned for me, and one that can be fixed. After the mead has finished it is possible to sweeten a mead that is not to your taste; which, after tasting this mead while it was being racked, I suspect I will have to do.

Racking is pretty simple using the large fermenter. You can see in one of the pictures the white bucket with siphon hose running from it. This hose went straight into the carboy down to the bottom. Turn on the spigot and fill the carboy until almost full. Put on the airlock with a bit of water in it to act as a barrier and you are done.

There was a great deal of lee in the bottom of the bucket so I suspect fermentation is pretty much over but I will give it at least 1 or two month in the carboy to be sure. I may in that time rack the mead again if there is any lee on the bottom. If left this can cause the mead to pick up an unwanted taste.

I have seen only a bubble or two in the airlocks, which is why I think the fermentation, is pretty much over. The mead can also be aged in the carboy

You can see the mead in the photos has a beautiful golden color and I can tell you it has a lovely has a sweet smell. At this stage it also has a very alcoholic bite when tasted, which will change as it ages. 

Original article:

By Joanna Linsley-Poe

copyright March 2011


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Topic: Egypt-Fermented Honey-Drink of the Gods:

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“Fermentation needs fire and pottery,” wrote R.J. Forbes in his Studies in Ancient Technology volume III published in 1965, part of a 9 volume set covering such topics of the ancient world. He goes on to say “ the techniques of fermenting came with organized

 agriculture, some traces of which go back to the Upper Palaeolithic Period. These would have probably involved wild grasses, and then only when there was an excess of grain. Regular production of ferment cereal grains would have only come about in Neolithic times.

Honey would have been the exception, plentiful and easy to turn into mead, it could very well have been the drink of choice, for the early inhabitants of the Nile River Valley; first with gathering wild honey and later with a large domestic apiculture, especially in the Delta region. As time went on that changed and honey became according to records we have the prerogative of the rich and of royalty. This has been well documented on the walls of many temples and tombs   

Although I can find very little except conjecture that the Ancient Egyptians produce Mead in any quantity; there are records that would seem to imply that they might have. There are countless references to the uses for honey in everything from cooking to medicine, so I decided to dig a bit deeper. Looking over my sources I discovered fermented honey is mentioned several times. One application is for use in an eye ointment, another is for treating herpes and still another for a prescription used in bandaging a broken bone. No explanation as to what was meant by the term “fermented honey” but why fermented at all if at least a portion did not go into the making of wine?

A fifth dynasty illustration in Ne-Woser-Re’s Solar Temple at Abusis, shows us what is thought to be a man kneeling in front of a pile of jars, holding before his mouth an elongated vessel. Because the word nft, for “to breath” or “to exhale”, is found above his head it is thought to mean he is a bee keeper using smoke as a repellent, but looking at the jars pictured I had another thought. The jar in front of the man looks more like a wine vessel. What if the man was breathing in the sweet smell of honey-wine before putting on the lid to the jar or he was preparing to sample some to be sure of its quality for the tombs owner?  In that same scene you can see two men (third from the left), one is pouring something, probably honey, from a small vessel into a much larger one typically used for storing wine. Although it is not labeled honey-wine, it could very well have been. An interesting reference also comes from the scenes depicted on vizier Rekhmire’s tomb in Thebes (eighteenth dynasty). Presiding over the temple treasury Rekhmire receives officials who bring honey as part of their dues. He also watches over the manipulation of the precious liquid. My guess is the latter is honey-wine!

The Ancient Egyptians even had a word for honey-wine, which I found in E.A Wallis Budge’s An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary.

Arp: in one of its many meanings is the term for honey-wine. It also means, wine, wine cellar, wine shop etc. Each meaning for the word is depicted by a different set of hieroglyphics.

More to come…


Food: Gift of Osiris covers wine and beer in vol2-but not honey-wine. Vol 1 does mention honey used as a primer for wine and beer-it is still up to us to”dig” for the facts where honey and wine are concerned. 


 E.A Wallis Budge, An  Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Vol 1 

Darby, Ghalioungui, Grivetti: Food: The Gift of Osiris. Vol 1 

Manniche: An Ancient Egyptian Herbal 

Forbes: Studies in Ancient Technology, Vol 3

Tomb drawings:

1. Handling of Honey: Tomb of Rekh-mi-re at Thebes, New Kingdom

2. Honey production: Ne-Woser-Re’s Solar Temple, Old Kingdom

Original article:

By Joanna Linsley-Poe

copyright 2011

Ancient Foods


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Topic: Chocolate and beer

Scientists believe the first cacao beverages were sipped from vessels like this one, which was found in northern Honduras.

People have been enjoying chocolate for more than 3,000 years—about 500 years earlier than previously believed, according to a new study.

Researchers also think that chocolate was discovered by accident—when Central American Indians making beer from the pulp of cacao seedpods found a new use for a byproduct of that process.

The new findings about chocolate’s origins were gleaned from traces of cacao found on pottery fragments dating from about 1100 B.C. to 800 B.C.

The fragments were uncovered between 1995 and 2000 at archaeological excavations near Puerto Escondido in Honduras.

From Beer to Chocolate

Today’s chocolate is made from the fermented seeds of the cacao tree, which only grows near the Equator.

Around 1100 B.C., ancient beer makers used the cacao’s seedpods to make their drinks. The pods—which were a little smaller than a modern American football—were fermented, and then the pod pulp was used to make the beer. The seeds were discarded.

“It was beer with a high kick,” said study author Rosemary Joyce, an anthropologist at University of California, Berkeley.

“But it would not have tasted anything like the chocolate we have today.”

About 300 years later, however, people began using the discarded fermented seeds to make a non-alcoholic beverage that was highly prized despite its bitter taste, said study author John Henderson, an anthropologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

The drink was poured from special pitchers that created froth in the drinking cups and served to celebrate special occasions such as marriages and births, Joyce said. (Related news: “Chocolate and Holidays—A Long History” [March 29, 2002].)

The researchers chemically analyzed the Honduran pottery fragments, once the special pitchers, and found cacao residue.

Spanish explorers took the non-alcoholic chocolate beverage to Europe in the 16th century. Today’s familiar milk-chocolate bars first appeared in the United States in 1894. (See a picture of a chocolate sculpture.)

California author Ann Krueger Spivack, who wrote The Essence of Chocolate with John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg, was not involved in the study.

The discovery that fermented cacao seeds could be used to make a chocolate beverage was a “happy accident”—one that eventually gave the world one of its most popular pleasures, she said.

The new research into chocolate’s history could “fuel creativity and spark the imagination of chocolatiers and chefs,” Alice Medrich, author of Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate, said by email.

“As a result, we get new ideas about using chocolate in savory as well as sweet dishes and about pairing the flavors of chocolate with other flavors, too,” Medrich said.

“New dishes and new trends are born. And new ideas spread from the most innovative and elite kitchens quickly, ultimately becoming products on supermarket shelves.”

Original article:

Willie Drye
for National Geographic News
November 12, 2007

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Topic: Skull drinking cups



LONDON – Ice age Britons drank from human skulls and may even have eaten flesh and bone marrow, but they were far from barbarians.

That’s the conclusion of experts studying the oldest known examples of “skull cups,” found in a cave in southwest England.

The bowls look almost like works of art, ritual items laced with meaning. Look more closely, however, and it becomes clear they are made from human skulls. Scientists say they are the oldest known carbon-dated skull cups, said by experts to be about 14,700 years old.

British scientists writing in the Public Library of Science journal maintain the cups were fashioned in such a meticulous way that they only credible explanation for their manufacture is that they were used as bowls to hold liquid. If the hunters and gatherers simply wanted to eat the deceased person’s brains, there would have been far easier ways to get at them, scientists said.

Experts believe the rare cups — two made from adults skulls, one from a child thought to be about three years-old — were used in some sort of ritual, as was common in many parts of the world.

“It is likely that this was part of some symbolic ritual and not mere necessity,” said Sylvia Bello, lead author of the study. She said that the artifacts demonstrate how skilled early humans were at the manipulation of human bodies.

The practice of using human skulls as cups or bowls has been well documented in many cultures, and in some cases skull cups have been elaborately decorated and used to adorn temples and in religious ceremonies. The practice was documented by the Greek historian Herodotus in the fifth century B.C..

But the three skull cups found in an English cave are the only known examples from the British Isles, scientists said.

The three skulls aren’t the first historic clues to early man found in Gough’s Cave in Somerset. In 1903, the complete skeleton of a man dated to about 10,000 years ago was found at the same site. Explorations of the site, which in human and animal remains, began even earlier.

Although the team found indications that some of the flesh and bone marrow from the skulls was eaten, they concluded that cannibalism was unlikely to have been the main purpose of the modifications.

“It is impossible to say the flesh was consumed,” Bello said. “They could have de-fleshed to have a clean skull to work with, but then did they consume part of the brain or the soft tissue? We can’t prove it. I don’t know if they then consumed the brain, but that wasn’t the first purpose.”

She did say the bone marrow seems to have been consumed.

The use of skulls as cups or bowls in northern Europe is thought to have been fairly common during that time frame, but it is very rare to find actual examples that can be accurately dated by modern techniques, said Rick Schulting, an archaeology professor at the University of Oxford.

“These finds are important because there are so few finds from this period,” he said. “These are fully modern humans like us but we have very little insight into what they thought about themselves and their world. We know they had some burials, we know they cared about their dead. This adds complexity to their world.”

He said they were probably used in the ritual consumption of human remains, but said details cannot be known.

“It’s not some barbaric bloodthirsty example,” said Schulting, who was not involved in the project. “It’s always a ritualistic setting where you eat the remains of the dead, but we can’t know in this case whether you’re eating your own revered ancestors, to keep in contact, or eating the outsider, the enemy, as a way of insulting them and imbibing their power and their spirit.”

He said it was not unusual in that time period for people to consume the brain, which is seen as the seat of an individual’s identity, but it is not clear because of the lack of evidence whether this was done as an act of respect or contempt.

The distribution of cut marks seen on the skulls indicates that they were scrupulously “cleaned” of any soft tissues, and subsequently modified by the removal of the facial region. The skulls were then meticulously shaped into cups by retouching the broken edges, Bello said.

“All in all it was a very painstaking process given the tools available,” she said.

Original article:

By Gregory Katz, Associated press

yahoo news

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