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  • Li Liu

Beer production and use during the Chalcolithic period of the southern Levant

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The production of alcoholic beverages is connected to a wide range of activities associated with growing social complexity. Beer production has a long history in the southern Levant, where the first evidence appeared during the later Epipalaeolithic period. However, there is meager evidence between then and the Early Bronze Age period, when advanced regional trade systems developed. To fill this gap, the current paper presents evidence for beer production and consumption based on microfossil analysis of two ceramic strainers unearthed at two Chalcolithic sites: Tel Tsaf (ca. 5200–4700 cal. BC), a settlement site in the Jordan Valley with evidence for large scale storage and long-distance ties, and Peqi‘in Cave (ca. 4500–3900 cal. BC), a burial site in the Upper Galilee. The microfossils (phytoliths, starch granules, yeast cells, and fibers) indicate that both strainers once contained fermented beverages made from Triticeae (wheat/barley), Panicoideae, and Cyperus tubers. These results suggest that beer production and consumption using strainers may have been regularly practiced during different phases of the Chalcolithic, and beer appears to have played an important role in various social settings for communication among social groups as well as between the living and the deceased.

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