Maybe Beer Helped Create Violent Tyranny?

I find this beer “created civilization” line going around funny. Sure, it is an easy cut and paste story for bloggers needing to fill space. And, sure, it is an easy story for a newspaper to run. But really?

Hayden told Postmedia News that “there are lots of implications” of the team’s findings, and that “brewing was just part of the picture” during humanity’s pivotal shift to settled, stable communities with enough food supplies to foster more complex cultural developments. But beer-making, he added, was one factor “that we think was important in making feasts such powerful tools for attracting people and getting them committed to producing surpluses.”

Attracting people? Getting them committed to producing surpluses? Such verbs we choose for such things. How about rounding them up, enslaving them and forcing them into labour to provide an oligarchical hierarchy based on grain monoculture with the rich rewards of being the enslavers going entirely to the enslavers. How about the slaves were perfectly happy in their outlying tribal hunter gatherer lives beyond the fields of horror filled with barley they will never taste and certainly never chose to grow. It is lovely to hope and wish and, sure, springtime is upon us giving us thoughts of baseball and everything but is there any evidence that the step towards brewing-focused agriculture in any way formed the basis what we value today as “civilized”? Maybe it just occurred as a crop contemporaneous with, say, turnips.

Did turnips found civilization? Could well be. Like mostly anything could well be. Like shackles and whips.

One thought on “Maybe Beer Helped Create Violent Tyranny?”

  1. [Original comments…]

    Alan – March 25, 2013 11:27 AM
    Apparently this view meets with Irish archaeologist approval.

    Pivní Filosof – March 25, 2013 3:29 PM
    I’ve read somewhere a scientist saying that agriculture was mankind’s worst mistake, for several reasons, but the major ones were the long term negative impact agriculture had on people’s health. Did beer contribute to that? It seems so, and agriculture spawned civilisation. Whether that is a good thing or not, it’s too late to complain now…

    Alan – March 25, 2013 4:46 PM
    I think shackles invented turnips the more that I think of it. Or the other way around.

    Jeff Alworth – March 26, 2013 1:42 PM
    Max, it was terrible for people’s health. They went from a rich diet of all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and meats–those things we omnivores evolved to consume–to one where almost all the calories were coming from grain (including beer). Not good for the body.

    Alan – March 26, 2013 4:13 PM
    I bet they had great beer, too. I once watched a show about an early English settlement uncovered by a receding mud flat that had covered it up and there were hazelnut shells everywhere. Through the transition before hunter and farmer there was plenty of good gathering. Which would have included the gathering of many fermentables. What lovely honey, berry and nut drinks they probably had.

    Anyway, just for the record, Maureen Ogle loves this conversation.

    Alan – March 27, 2013 10:26 AM
    It’s like that game where children in a circle whisper a message to each other and it transforms beyond recognition. Now this has become about how the current drinker of beer, and perhaps too much beer, is somehow more civilized.

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