A set of gold and silver pipes found 125 years ago in the North Caucasus are probably drinking straws, not a scepter, according to a re-analysis of ancient artifacts.
Russian archaeologist Nikolai Veselovsky discovered the objects in 1897 in the Maikop Kurgan burial mound in the North Caucasus. This site from the Bronze Age is of great importance, because it was determined to contain three skeletons and hundreds items, including semi-precious stones and gold beads, ceramic vessels, metal cups and weapons. 4th millennium BC the mound dates from the culture of the early Bronze Age Maikop (3700 to 2900 BC).), which were named after the cemetery.
Among these numerous items Veselovsky found eight long, thin tubes – funeral goods carefully and intentionally placed on the right side of the high-a ranked individual found buried in ornate clothing. Pipes, made of gold and silver, measure over 3 feet (1 meter), four of which were decorated with a small gold or silver bull figurine. The items were eventually moved to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, where they are kept to this day.
In his report on ancient relics, Veselovsky called the pipes “scepters” – a reasonable assumption, given the apparent status of the buried person and oh-so carefully positioning the object. It seemed convincing that these 5,000-year-old objects were used as scepters (i.e., sticks or sticks held by ruling monarchs). Research published in Antiquity now questions this interpretation, claiming instead that the objects were drinking straws. If this interpretation were correct, “these posh devices would be the earliest surviving drinking straws so far,” said Viktor Trifonov, an archaeologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg and co-author of the new work. liberation.
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Of critical importance for re-analysis was the detection of barley granules within a single straw, except for grain phytoliths (fossilized plant tissue particles) and linden pollen grains. This was taken as direct evidence that the pipes were used for drinking. And since traces of barley have been found, scientists say the drink in question was probably beer.
It is no exaggeration to suggest that the people of Maikop from the Bronze Age consumed fermented barley. The practice dates back about 13,000 years back to the time of Natufi, while large breweries began to appear in Asia during the 5th and 4th millennia BC. The idea that Maikop households drank barley beer flavored with herbs and lime blossoms is quite convincing, but as the researchers point out, they “cannot convincingly prove the presence of a fermented beverage”, so “these results should be handled with caution, as further analysis is needed.”
Importantly, the tops of Maikop straws were equipped with metal strainers, which probably had the function of filtering out impurities – a common feature of ancient beer. Scientists speculate that the drinking tubes, with a strainer topped with straw, were “designed to drink a type of beverage that required filtration during consumption,” and that this was done as a joint activity. Scientists say a large vessel found in Maikop Kurgan could hold seven liters for eight drinkers.
Straw-top strainers found in Maikop Kurgan are strikingly reminiscent of those found on Sumerian drinking straws. It is known that the ancient Sumerians from the 3rd millennium BC sipped beer from common vessels, as evidenced by archaeological artifacts and works of art depicting practice. As for the oldest evidence of drinking straws, they date from the 5th and 4th millennia BC, as evidenced by works of art is located in northern Iraq and western Iran.
Maikop straws – if it really is what they are – they are special in that the oldest surviving drinking straws are in archeological records, but they seem to originate from the Middle East, hundreds of miles away from the North Caucasus. The presence of straws so far suggests that this practice has spread to the surrounding areas.
“The findings contribute to a better understanding of the early beginnings of ritual banquets and drinking culture in hierarchical societies,” Trifonov said. “Such practices had to be important and popular enough to spread between the two regions.”
Indeed, the presence of straws in the Maikop Kurgan suggests cultural and economic ties between the regions. Moreover, scholars say that in the Caucasus in the fourth millennium BC, a “taste for Sumerian luxury and sensuality” emerged and that straws will continue to have significant symbolic significance given their use as burial objects by elite individuals.
Like this and else Archaeological finds have shown that drinking is fun, but even better – and more socially useful – when performed in the company of others.
More: How beer and drugs empowered the ancient Andean Empire.