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Article published by smithsonianmag.com

Strict gender norms pushed them out of a centuries-long tradition

Alewives drinking together
Three women dressed in period garb as alewives. The tall hats became a part of witch iconography. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection / Corbis via Getty Images)

smithsonianmag.com 
March 8, 2021

Editor’s note, March 17, 2021: Last week, we ran this story that originally appeared on The Conversation, a nonprofit news outlet that publishes writing by academic experts from around the world. After publishing, we heard from multiple scholars who disagreed with the framing, analysis and conclusions discussed in the article below. They argue, in fact, that contemporary depictions of witches originated in sources other than women brewers and that the transfer from women to men of the work of brewing, in various geographic and historical settings, came about for economic and labor reasons. We addressed a number of factual errors in our March 10, 2021, editor’s note, found at the bottom of the page, and we have changed the headline from its original version.

To understand the fuller context of this history, we encourage readers to also look at two blog posts from historian and archaeologist Christina Wade, linked here and here, and an essay by beer and spirits writer Tara Nurin, linked here, as recommended by the Smithsonian’s own brewing historian, Theresa McCulla, curator of the American Brewing History Initiative at the National Museum of American History.

What do witches have to do with your favorite beer?

When I pose this question to students in my American literature and culture classes, I receive stunned silence or nervous laughs. The Sanderson sisters didn’t chug down bottles of Sam Adams in “Hocus Pocus.” But the history of beer points to a not-so-magical legacy of transatlantic slander and gender roles.

Up until the 1500s, brewing was primarily women’s work—that is, until a smear campaign accused women brewers of being witches. Much of the iconography we associate with witches today, from the pointy hat to the broom, may have emerged from their connection to female brewers.

A routine household task

Humans have been drinking beer for almost 7,000 years, and the original brewers were women. From the Vikings to the Egyptians, women brewed beer both for religious ceremonies and to make a practical, calorie-rich beverage for the home.

In fact, the nun Hildegard von Bingen, who lived in modern-day Germany, famously wrote about hops in the 12th century and added the ingredient to her beer recipe.

From the Stone Age to the 1700s, ale – and, later, beer – was a household staple for most families in England and other parts of Europe. The drink was an inexpensive way to consume and preserve grains. For the working class, beer provided an important source of nutrients, full of carbohydrates and proteins. Because the beverage was such a common part of the average person’s diet, fermenting was, for many women, one of their normal household tasks.

Some enterprising women took this household skill to the marketplace and began selling beer. Widows or unmarried women used their fermentation prowess to earn some extra money, while married women partnered with their husbands to run their beer business.

Witch from Hansel and Gretel
A 1916 illustration of the witch from the German children’s fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.”(GraphicaArtis via Getty Images)

Exiling women from the industry

So if you traveled back in time to the Middle Ages or the Renaissance and went to a market in England, you’d probably see an oddly familiar sight: women wearing tall, pointy hats. In many instances, they’d be standing in front of big cauldrons.

But these women were no witches; they were brewers.

They wore the tall, pointy hats so that their customers could see them in the crowded marketplace. They transported their brew in cauldrons. And those who sold their beer out of stores had cats not as demon familiars, but to keep mice away from the grain. Some argue that iconography we associate with witches, from the pointy hat to the cauldron, originated from women working as master brewers.

Just as women were establishing their foothold in the beer markets of England, Ireland and the rest of Europe, the Reformation began. The fundamentalist religious movement, which originated in the early 16th century, preached stricter gender norms and condemned witchcraft.

Male brewers saw an opportunity. To reduce their competition in the beer trade, these men accused female brewers of being witches and using their cauldrons to brew up magic potions instead of booze.

Unfortunately, the rumors took hold.

Over time, it became more dangerous for women to practice brewing and sell beer because they could be misidentified as witches. At the time, being accused of witchcraft wasn’t just a social faux pas; it could result in prosecution or a death sentence. Women accused of witchcraft were often ostracized in their communities, imprisoned or even killed.

Some men didn’t really believe that the women brewers were witches. However, many did believe that women shouldn’t be spending their time making beer. The process took time and dedication: hours to prepare the ale, sweep the floors clean and lift heavy bundles of rye and grain. If women couldn’t brew ale, they would have significantly more time at home to raise their children. In the 1500s some towns, such as Chester, England, actually made it illegal for most women to sell beer, worried that young alewives would grow up into old spinsters.

Witches in a Graveyard with Cauldron
Tools for brewing beer—like the cauldron—became part of the popular iconography associated with witches. (Historica Graphica Collection / Heritage Images via Getty Images)

Men still run the show

The iconography of witches with their pointy hats and cauldrons has endured, as has men’s domination of the beer industry: The top 10 beer companies in the world are headed by male CEOs and have mostly male board members.

Major beer companies have tended to portray beer as a drink for men. Some scholars have even gone as far as calling beer ads “manuals on masculinity.”

This gender bias seems to persist in smaller craft breweries as well. A study at Stanford University found that while 17 percent of craft beer breweries have one female CEO, only 4 percent of these businesses employ a female brewmaster—the expert supervisor who oversees the brewing process.

It doesn’t have to be this way. For much of history, it wasn’t.

Editor’s note, March 10, 2021: This article has been updated to acknowledge that it isn’t definitively known whether alewives inspired some of the popular iconography associated with witches today. It has also been updated to correct that it was during the Reformation that accusations of witchcraft became widespread.This article was originally published on The ConversationRead the original article.

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Original article posted on https://www.heritagedaily.com

February 17, 2020

Credit : Xinying Zhou

Most people are familiar with the historical Silk Road, but fewer people realize that the exchange of items, ideas, technology, and human genes through the mountain valleys of Central Asia started almost three millennia before organized trade networks formed.

These pre-Silk Road exchange routes played an important role in shaping human cultural developments across Europe and Asia, and facilitated the dispersal of technologies such as horse breeding and metal smelting into East Asia. One of the most impactful effects of this process of ancient cultural dispersal was the westward spread of northeast Asian crops and the eastward spread of southwest Asian crops. However, until the past few years, a lack of archaeobotanical studies in Central Asia left a dearth of data relating to when and how this process occurred.

This new study, led by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, provides details of recently recovered ancient grains from the far northern regions of Inner Asia. Radiocarbon dating shows that the grains include the oldest examples of wheat and barley ever recovered this far north in Asia, pushing back the dates for early farming in the region by at least a millenium. These are also the earliest domesticated plants reported from the northern half of Central Asia, the core of the ancient exchange corridor. This study pulls together sedimentary pollen and ancient wood charcoal data with archaeobotanical remains from the Tiangtian archaeological site in the Chinese Altai Mountains to reveal how humans cultivated crops at such northern latitudes. This study illustrates how adaptable ancient crop plants were to new ecological constraints and how human cultural practices allowed people to survive in unpredictable environments.

The Northern Dispersal of Cereal Grains

The ancient relatives of wheat and barley plants evolved to grow in the warm and dry climate of the eastern Mediterranean and southwest Asia. However, this study illustrates that ancient peoples were cultivating these grasses over five and a half thousand kilometers to the northeast of where they originally evolved to grow. In this study, Dr. Xinying Zhou and his colleagues integrate paleoenvironmental proxies to determine how extreme the ecology was around the archaeological cave site of Tangtian more than five millennia ago, at the time of its occupation. The site is located high in the Altai Mountains on a cold,dry landscape today; however, the study shows that the ecological setting around the site was slightly warmer and more humid at the time when people lived in and around this cave.

The slightly warmer regional conditions were likely the result of shifting air masses bringing warmer, wetter air from the south. In addition to early farmers using a specific regional climate pocket to grow crops in North Asia, analysis showed that the crops they grew evolved to survive in such northern regions. The results of this study provide scholars with evidence for when certain evolutionary changes in these grasses occurred, including changes in the programed reliance of day length, which signals to the plant when to flower, and a greater resistance to cold climates.

The Trans-Eurasian Exchange and Crop Dispersal

The ancient dispersal of crops across Inner Asia has received a lot of attention from biologists and archaeologists in recent years; as Dr. Spengler, one of the study’s lead authors, discusses in his recent book Fruit from the Sands, these ancient exchange routes shaped the course of human history. The mingling of crops originating from opposite ends of Asia resulted in the crop-rotation cycles that fueled demographic growth and led to imperial formation. East Asian millets would become one of the most important crops in ancient Europe and wheat would become one of the most important crops in East Asia by the Han Dynasty. While the long tradition of rice cultivation in East Asia made rice a staple of the Asian kitchen, Chinese cuisine would be unrecognizable without wheat-based food items like steamed buns, dumplings, and noodles. The discovery that these plants dispersed across Eurasia earlier than previously understood will have lasting impacts on the study of cultivation and labor practices in ancient Eurasia, as well as the history cultural contact and shifts in culinary systems throughout time.

These new discoveries provide reason to question these views, and seem to suggest that mixed small-scale human populations made major contributions to world history through migration and cultural and technological exchange. “This study not only presents the earliest dates for domesticated grains in far North Asia,” says Professor Xiaoqiang Li, director of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, “it represents the earliest beginning of a trans-Eurasian exchange that would eventually develop into the great Silk Road”.

Dr. Xinying Zhou, who headed the study and directs a research team at the IVPP in Beijing, emphasizes that “this discovery is a testament to human ingenuity and the amazing coevolutionary bond between people and the plants that they maintain in their cultivated fields.”

MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR THE SCIENCE OF HUMAN HISTORY

Header Image – Dr. Xinying Zhou and his team from the IVPP in Beijing excavated the Tangtian Cave site during the summer of 2016. Credit : Xinying Zhou

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Original article in aAPNews.com, feb 13, 2021

By SAMY MAGDY

CAIRO (AP) — American and Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed what could be the oldest known beer factory at one of the most prominent archaeological sites of ancient Egypt, a top antiquities official said Saturday.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the factory was found in Abydos, an ancient burial ground located in the desert west of the Nile River, over 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Cairo.

He said the factory apparently dates back to the region of King Narmer, who is widely known for his unification of ancient Egypt at the beginning of the First Dynastic Period (3150 B.C.- 2613 B.C.).

Archaeologists found eight huge units — each is 20 meters (about 65 feet) long and 2.5 meters (about 8 feet) wide. Each unit includes some 40 pottery basins in two rows, which had been used to heat up a mixture of grains and water to produce beer, Waziri said.

The joint mission is co-chaired by Dr. Matthew Adams of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and Deborah Vischak, assistant professor of ancient Egyptian art history and archaeology at Princeton University.

Adams said the factory was apparently built in this area to provide royal rituals with beer, given that archaeologists found evidences showing the use of beer in sacrificial rites of ancient Egyptians.

British archaeologists were the first to mention the existence of that factory early 1900s, but they couldn’t determine its location, the antiquities ministry said.

With its vast cemeteries and temples from the earliest times of ancient Egypt, Abydos was known for monuments honoring Osiris, ancient Egypt’s god of underworld and the deity responsible for judging souls in the afterlife.

The necropolis had been used in every period of early Egyptian history, from the prehistoric age to Roman times.

Egypt has announced dozens of ancient discoveries in the past couple of years, in the hope of attracting more tourists.

The tourism industry has been reeling from the political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The sector was also dealt a further blow last year by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Not just metals, hierarchical societies and fortified settlements: a new food also influenced economic transformations in the Bronze Age around 3500 years ago. This is evidenced by frequent archaeological discoveries of remains of broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum L.), a cereal with small, roundish grains. A major study by the Collaborative Research Centre 1266 “Scales of Transformation – Human-Environmental Interaction in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies” at Kiel University (CAU) was published yesterday (13 August) in the journal Scientific Reports. It shows how common millet got onto the menu in Bronze Age Europe. Intensive trade and communication networks facilitated the incredibly rapid spread of this new crop originating from the Far East.

“Wheat, maize and rice now dominate our cereal farming. Millet is regarded as a niche crop suitable mainly for birdseed,” explained Professor Wiebke Kirleis from CRC 1266. As this cereal is once more experiencing increasing attention as a gluten-free food, however, it makes the results of the study even more exciting, she added.

Millet was domesticated in north-east China in about 6000 BC and quickly became a staple crop. It is a drought-tolerant, fast-growing cereal that is rich in minerals and vitamins. With a growing time of just 60 to 90 days from sowing to harvest, it was grown by both farmers and pastoralists, and was consumed by both humans and domestic animals. Over thousands of years, pastoral groups spread millet westward from East Asia. The earliest millet in Central Asia comes from archaeological sites in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Kashmir Valley, and is dated to about 2500 BC.

“In Europe, curiously, broomcorn millet has been found at many Neolithic sites, which date from between 6500 and 2000 BC, depending on the region,” said Kirleis. Is it possible that millet was domesticated in China at around the same time? Wheat, barley and our domestic animals were only introduced to Europe thousands of years after they were domesticated in the “Fertile Crescent” – a region extending from the Persian Gulf through northern Syria to Jordan. Was there a special relationship with China? Doubts about this hypothesis arose following the radiocarbon-dating (14C) of a few grains of millet in 2013. These tiny grains had infiltrated older archaeological layers through root channels and earthworm activity. When millet first appeared and was cultivated in Europe remained unknown.

A group of researchers at the Collaborative Research Centre “Scales of Transformation” (CRC 1266), led by Wiebke Kirleis, set out to answer this question. They researched not only the spread of millet cultivation in Europe, but also focused their attention on the prehistoric population’s acceptance of this exotic cereal and examined which agricultural and social phenomena were associated with this innovation.

As millet ripens within three months after sowing, it can be grown as a catch crop between the summer harvest and winter sowing of wheat or barley in central and southern Europe. Further north, it probably served as a reserve crop if late frost had destroyed spring-sown crops. Surplus grain from the extra harvest increased food security and supported a steadily growing population.

Working with almost thirty research institutions across Europe, the archaeobotanists Dragana Filipović and Marta Dal Corso from the team led by Wiebke Kirleis, together with John Meadows from the Leibniz Laboratory for Radiometric Dating and Stable Isotope Research at Kiel University and the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA) in Schleswig, radiocarbon-dated millet from 75 prehistoric sites (6th-1st century BC). The results show that millet cultivation did not begin in the Early Stone Age, but was first introduced around 1500 BC, and that the new crop spread incredibly rapidly across much of Central Europe 3500 years ago. “This indicates that there were extensive trade and communication networks during the Bronze Age. But the study also shows that millet was quickly and widely recognised as a versatile addition to the then emmer- and barley-dominated cuisine,” concluded Kirleis.

Millet evidently spread along established trade routes for bronze objects (including weapons), gold and amber. These transformation processes of food strategies and their social dimensions are a key issue for CRC 1266. Future research in CRC 1266 will examine what social dynamics were associated with the introduction of this new food in this distinct period of upheaval in European prehistory, as the highly productive and connected world of Bronze Age Europe was also a stage for conflict. Evidence of battles and numerous fortifications are testimony of this.

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Eurekalert.org

Scientific Reports

Analysing three components of ceramic cooking pots — charred remains, inner surface residues and lipids absorbed within the ceramic walls — may help archaeologists uncover detailed timelines of culinary cooking practices used by ancient civilizations. The findings, from a year-long cooking experiment, are published this week in Scientific Reports.

Led by scientists Melanie Miller, Helen Whelton and Jillian Swift, a team of seven archaeologists repetitively cooked the same ingredients in unglazed ceramic pots once per week over the course of one year, then changed recipes for the final cooking event to study whether remaining residues may represent the last meal cooked or an accumulation of cooking events over the total amount of time a vessel has been used. Recipes included ingredients such as wheat, maize and venison.

Chemical analysis of the carbon and nitrogen isotopic values of residues present in the ceramic pots, contributed by carbohydrates, lipids and proteins from the meals cooked, suggest that the remains of burnt food left within each vessel represent the final ingredients and change with each meal. The chemical composition of the thin residue layer formed on the inside surface of the cooking pot and in most direct contact with the food when cooking represents a mixture of previous meals, but most closely resembles that of the final meal. Further analysis also suggests that lipids are absorbed into the walls of the ceramic vessel over a number of cooking events and are not immediately replaced by the new recipes but are instead slowly replaced over time, representing a mixture of the ingredients cooked over the total amount of time the vessel was in use.

Analysis of all three residues reveal cooking events across different time scales for ceramic vessels and may enable archaeologists to better understand the various resources used by ancient cultures and to estimate the lifespan of pottery used in meal preparation.

 

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A few days late.original post Jun2, 2010
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On this day ten years ago…

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