Monday December 9, 2019

Archaeologists discover a 5,000 year-old beer making room in China

The tools that were recovered from the dig site suggest that early brewer were capable of using specialized tools and advanced beer-making techniques.

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Beer bottles. Image source: Wikipedia

Archaeologists in china have unearthed a 5,000 year-old brewery that had “beer-making tool kits” in underground rooms built between 3400 and 2900 B.C. This old beer making room is at a dig site in Central plain of the China. The kits that were found included things like funnels, pots and specialized jugs, their shapes suggest that they were used for brewing, filtration and storage.

It is confirmed that the brewery is the oldest beer making facility ever found in China. The tools that were recovered suggest that early brewer were capable of using specialized tools and advanced beer-making techniques.

The scientists have discovered a pottery stove which suggests that ancient brewers must have used it to heat and break down carbohydrates to sugar. For instance the underground location must have been used for both storing beer and controlling temperature.

McGovern who is known as the “Indiana Jones” of ancient fermented beverages said “All indications are that ancient peoples, [including those at this Chinese dig site], applied the same principles and techniques do today.”

This 5,000-year-old funnel for beer-making was unearthed at a dig site in the Central Plain of China. Image source: Jiajing Wang/PNAS
This 5,000-year-old funnel for beer-making was unearthed at a dig site in the Central Plain of China. Image source: Jiajing Wang/PNAS

The research team discovered ancient grains in the pots and jugs which showed evidence that they had been damaged by malting and mashing, two key steps in beer-making. On Monday the “recipe” for the 5000 year old beer was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Broomcorn millet, barley and Job’s tears, a chewy Asian grain also known as Chinese pearl barley was included in the mix of fermented.

At last real question is what did this ancient beer taste like? “It would taste a bit sour and a bit sweet” said the lead researcher Jiajing Wang, an archaeologist from Stanford University.

Most interesting fact about the discovery was the evidence of barley in the beer, as they had never seen barley in china this early before. Now barley is very common in China, nobody understands why and when it made its way there.

Barley. Image source: Wikipedia
Barley. Image source: Wikipedia

“Barley was one of main ingredients for beer brewing in other parts of the world, such as ancient Egypt. It is possible that when barley was introduced from Western Eurasia into the Central Plain of China, it came with the knowledge that the crop was a good ingredient for beer brewing. So it was not only the introduction of a new crop, but also the movement of knowledge associated with the crop” said Wang in her email to The Salt.

McGovern in his email writes that Chinese became early brewmaster. They made barley beer in the same period as “the earliest chemically attested barley beer from Iran” and the “earliest beer-mashing facilities in Egypt,” as well as “the earliest wine-making facility in Armenia.”

Wang and Her co-author suggest that beer brewing and consumption might have helped in shaping hierarchical societies in China thousands of years ago.  McGovern also believes that “an exotic ingredient” that elites could have used to impress their friends and stay in power — “much like when we serve up that $70,000 bottle of 1982 Pétrus from Bordeaux” today.

-by Bhaskar Raghavendran

Bhaskar is a graduate in Journalism and mass communication from Amity school of communication, Noida. Contact the author at Twitter: bhaskar_ragha

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Glaciers in Alaska Melting due to Climate Change

Disappearing Frontier: Alaska's Glaciers Retreating at Record Pace

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Alaska Glaciers
A sign marks where the end of the Exit glacier was in 2010 near tourists taking photos in the Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska. VOA

Alaska will soon close a year that is shaping up as its hottest on record, with glaciers in the “Frontier State” melting at record or near-record levels, pouring waters into rising global seas, scientists said after taking fall measurements.

Lemon Creek Glacier in Juneau, where records go back to the 1940s, had its second consecutive year of record mass loss, with 3 meters erased from the surface, U.S. Geological Survey glaciologist Louis Sass told Reuters.

Melt went all the way up to the summit, said Sass, one of the experts who travel to benchmark glaciers to take measurements in the fall.

“That’s a really bad sign for a glacier,” he said, noting that high-altitude melt means there is no accumulation of snow to compact into ice and help offset lower-elevation losses.

At Wolverine Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, loss was the second highest in a record that goes back to the 1960s. Sass said it failed to match the record set in 2004 only because so much of the glacier had already melted.

Chugach National Forest Alaska
Chugach National Forest ranger Megan Parsley holds photos showing this summer’s ice loss at the face of Portage Glacier, Alaska, U.S. VOA

“The lower part’s completely gone now,” he said.

Drastic melting was also reported at Kenai Fjords National Park, which former President Barack Obama once visited to call attention to climate change. There, Bear Glacier, a popular tourist spot, retreated by nearly a kilometer in just 11 months, according to August measurements by the National Park Service.

“It’s almost like you popped it and it started to deflate,” said Nate Lewis, a Seward-based wilderness guide who takes travelers into the new lake that has formed at the foot of the shrinking glacier.

Even one of the few Alaska glaciers that had been advancing, Taku just southeast of the city of Juneau, is now losing ice at a fast clip.

Particularly ominous is the high altitude at which Taku is melting, said Mauri Pelto, who heads the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. This year, the summer melt reached as high as 1,450 meters, 25 meters above the previous high-altitude record set just last year, he said.

Casting off chunks

Barack Obama Alaska
President Barack Obama views Bear Glacier on a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward, Alaska. VOA

Now that it is retreating, Taku is expected to start casting off big ice chunks, increasing Alaska’s already significant contribution to rising sea levels, according to a study co-authored by Sass and Shad O’Neel, a glaciologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. The study is scheduled to be presented at the annual conference of the American Geologic Union next week in San Francisco.

Alaska recorded its warmest month ever in July and the trend has continued.

“Alaska is on pace to break their record for warmest year unless December is dramatically cooler than forecasted,” Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center, said in a Dec. 1 tweet.

Alaska’s glaciers account for far less than 1 percent of the world’s land ice. But their melt contributes roughly 7 percent of the water that is raising the world’s sea levels, according a 2018 study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and co-authored by O’Neel.

There are also local impacts. Scientists say glacial melt affects salmon-spawning streams and harms marine fish and animal habitats. It is creating new lakes in the voids where ice used to be, and outburst floods from those lakes are happening more frequently, scientists say.

Also Read- Oxygen Loss from Oceans Dangerous for Aquatic Species: IUCN Report

Changes in the glaciers and the ecosystems they feed has been so fast that they are hard to track, said O’Neel at USGS, who measured the melt at Wolverine Glacier in September.

“Everything’s been pretty haywire lately.” (VOA)