Maybe Booze Catalyzed Human Culture


While the poet-saint Homer Simpson was most certainly right when he said that alcohol is the “cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems,” booze’s CV may extend even beyond that.

In a readily quaffable feature at National Geographic, Andrew Curry traces the long lineage of alcoholic beverages. You can thank our ape ancestors for eating fermented fruits from the forest floor, as that provided us a pre-adaptation for tippling; as well, booze dates back to 7,000 B.C. in China, just a brief thousand years after rice, barley, and wine were first domesticated.

According to Curry, and the rowdy band of academics he speaks with, alcohol may have been instrumental to the formation of human cultures, just as it enables social bonds today. Göbekli Tepe, the oldest temple in the world, at 11,000 years, may also have been the site of many a proto-kegger: Like hallucinogens, alcohol produces altered states, the kind that can bring you (perhaps) closer to the divine; alcohol may also have been the way to get one’s Mesolithic bros to help construct a temple in the first place.

Indeed, argues Penn biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern, who helped identify that earliest-known tipple in China, alcohol may have been a bigger driver for the agricultural revolution than bread. “The domestication of plants is driven forward by the desire to have greater quantities of alcoholic beverages,” he told Nat Geo. “It’s not the only factor driving forward civilization, but it plays a central role.” Now that’s one hell of a beer run.

Maybe Booze Catalyzed Human Culture