Scientists have recreated an ancient mead from 2,500 years ago
Aged to perfection.
There’s aged wine and then there’s aged wine, and an alcoholic beverage based on an analysis of cauldron sediment dating back some 2,500 years is most definitely the latter.
Researchers in Milwaukee have teamed up with a local craft brewer to recreate this ancient tipple – but before you get too excited about sampling a booze relic hailing from the Iron Age, be warned: it might not be quite suited to modern tastes.
The project is the brainchild of archaeologist and anthropologist Bettina Arnold from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who uncovered the cauldron in a burial plot back in 2000, during a dig in an area of southwest Germany known as Swabia.
The burial mound, called a tumulus, was built sometime between the 7th and 5th centuries BC. The skeleton inside must have disappeared long ago due to the levels of acid in the soil, but the team suggests he was most probably a male, based on the weapons buried with him: an iron slashing sword, a helmet, and two long iron spears.
But the real prize lay at his feet – a large bronze cauldron, once full of mead. One for the road, so to speak.
“The dead man in Tumulus 17 Grave 6 had been sent into the afterlife not only with his weapons but with about 14 litres of an alcoholic beverage that he could have used to establish himself as an important person in the next world as he had been in this one,” Arnold explains on her ancient brew blog.
While this heady brew itself was missing by the time Arnold’s team discovered the cauldron – either due to natural processes of evaporation, or perhaps proving popular in its afterlife destination – the researchers carefully excavated the find to see if later analysis in the lab might reveal the drink it once contained.
Investigating a dark residue on the bottom of the vessel, “[w]e actually were able, ultimately, to derive at least some sense of what the contents were in [the] bronze cauldron,” Arnold told Bonnie North at NPR.