Sunday, October 4, 2015

Stone Age People Made White Wine

Some years ago Penn Museum archaeologist Patrick McGovern discovered that wine goes back at least 7000 years. He's giving a talk Tuesday night on ancient wine and beer. A tasting follows.

Stone Age People Made White Wine


Higgs here. I will be taking over POTA until October 26. Apparently after the 26th I will be felid non grata at : (

But in this brief time that remains let's have some fun. This post is about Penn Museum archaeologist Patrick McGovern, who has discovered that people drank wine before 5000 B.C. Here’s the first sentence from a story my co-blogger wrote about him in 1996:  

Before man invented the wheel or wrote the first word, he made wine.

Man is shorthand for humanity, BTW. The story went on to describe how a stain on an ancient pottery jar showed traces of wine. The wine was most likely white. McGovern is giving a talk about ancient wine and beer on Tuesday night at Camden County College.  

The lecture is free and a beer tasting afterwards costs $45. I can’t go to the beer tasting part because you have to be over 21 and while my age is not certain, the veterinarians estimate that I’m about 3.

Here’s what Camden County College says about Tuesday’s event:

A fundraising tasting of ancient beers with complementary food pairings will accompany a free lecture on ancient brews when Camden County College’s Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility presents “Uncorking the Past: Ancient Ales, Wine and Extreme Beverages” with expert Patrick McGovern on Oct. 16.

McGovern is the scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, where he is also an anthropology instructor.

 At 6:30 p.m., McGovern will share the discoveries he has made while following a trail of archaeological and chemical clues around the world and through the millennia. He will tell the story of humanity’s intoxicating quest for the perfect drink.

At 7:30 p.m., the beer tasting will feature three Dogfish Head beers that were created based on McGovern’s discoveries as well as foods to complement each brew.

Admission to lecture is free and open to all ages. Cost for the beer tasting is $45 per person, and only those aged 21 and older will be admitted. Proceeds will benefit Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility programming.

“Uncorking the Past” will be presented in the Connector Building on CCC’s Blackwood Campus. The campus is located at College Drive and Peter Cheeseman Road in Gloucester Township.

Visit for menu details and registration information. For other questions, contact the Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility by telephone at (856) 227-7200, ext. 4333, or via e-mail at

Read more here.

Of course the ancient pottery only shows that people were drinking wine by 7000 years ago, but alcoholic beverages could have been invented many years before that. Here’s what McGovern said in my co-blogger's story:

There's no reason to think wine drinking could not go back more than 100,000 years, McGovern said. Even primitive hunter-gatherers could have picked wild grapes and fermented them in leather bags or stone vessels.

Even some non-human animals enjoy fermented plant matter. I’m a carnivore so prefer to binge on meat. If someone invented a beverage that tasted like mackerel I might enjoy it.

Which reminds me, can I have a treat now?

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About this blog
Faye Flam - writer
In pursuit of her stories, writer Faye Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine before coming to the Inquirer in 1995. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. Her new column and blog, Planet of the Apes, explores the topic of evolution and runs here and in the Inquirer’s health section each Monday. Email Faye at Reach Planet of the at

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