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Early Iron Age and Late Mediaeval malt finds from Germany—attempts at reconstruction of early Celtic brewing and the taste of Celtic beer

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In this paper, we discuss specialised ditch structure from the early Iron Age settlement of Eberdingen–Hochdorf (early La Tène Period, fifth–fourth century BC), that contained large numbers of evenly germinated hulled barley grains. This malt appears to be the result of deliberate germination, given the purity of the finds and the associated unusual archaeological structure, which may have been used for germination and/or as a drying kiln for roasting the malt. The Hochdorf malt most probably was produced for the purpose of beer brewing. To learn more about the morphology of malt and the effects of carbonisation on it, experiments on modern barley grains were undertaken. Their results are compared to the ancient Hochdorf malt. Based on the excavated findings and finds as well as theoretical reflections on the early Iron Age brewing process, attempts at reconstructing the possible taste of early Celtic beer are presented. Additionally, a malt find from late mediaeval Berlin in northeast Germany is presented. A mixture of deliberately sprouted hulled barley as well as rye and oat grains, which were not germinated, was found. The three different cereals could have been used for brewing a typical mediaeval/early modern beer since the use of mixed crops for producing beer has been quite common. Because of a lack of further evidence, it remains unclear whether or not the half-timbered house in the late mediaeval town was a trading place and storehouse for malt or the brewery itself, where the malt was processed to make beer. KeywordsMalted cereals–Experiment–Taste of prehistoric beer–La Tène–Hochdorf–Mediaeval Berlin
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Early Iron Age and Late Mediaeval malt finds
from Germanyattempts at reconstruction of early Celtic
brewing and the taste of Celtic beer
Hans-Peter Stika
Received: 4 August 2010 / Accepted: 21 December 2010 / Published online: 5 January 2011
#Springer-Verlag 2010
Abstract In this paper, we discuss specialised ditch
structure from the early Iron Age settlement of Eberdingen
Hochdorf (early La Tène Period, fifthfourth century
BC), that contained large numbers of evenly germinated
hulled barley grains. This malt appears to be the result of
deliberate germination, given the purity of the finds and
the associated unusual archaeological structure, which
may have been used for germination and/or as a drying
kiln for roasting the malt. The Hochdorf malt most
probably was produced for the purpose of beer brewing.
To learn more about the morphology of malt and the
effects of carbonisation on it, experiments on modern
barley grains were undertaken. Their results are com-
pared to the ancient Hochdorf malt. Based on the
excavated findings and finds as well as theoretical
reflections on the early Iron Age brewing process,
attempts at reconstructing the possible taste of early
Celtic beer are presented. Additionally, a malt find from
late mediaeval Berlin in northeast Germany is presented.
A mixture of deliberately sprouted hulled barley as well
as rye and oat grains, which were not germinated, was
found. The three different cereals could have been used
for brewing a typical mediaeval/early modern beer since
the use of mixed crops for producing beer has been quite
common. Because of a lack of further evidence, it
remains unclear whether or not the half-timbered house
in the late mediaeval town was a trading place and
storehouse for malt or the brewery itself, where the malt
was processed to make beer.
Keywords Malted cereals .Experiment .Taste of
prehistoric beer .La Tène .Hochdorf .Mediaeval Berlin
The importance of beer in antiquity is well documented in
ancient written and iconographic sources, particularly those
from Egyptian (Samuel and Bolt 1995; Samuel 1996;
Samuel 2000) and Mesopotamian cultures (Wartke 1998).
Early inscriptions from both these regions, which list beer
as payment for work, also describe different qualities of
beer. Ancient Greek and Roman written sources also
mention beer although wine was the preferred alcoholic
drink (Antique authors cited in Lenz 1859). In fact, both the
Greeks and the Romans regarded beer as a barbarians
beverage, especially that of the Celts and Germans (Nelson
2004). Nevertheless, the recovery of malt in Roman
contexts of archaeological sites from the northern provinces
of the Roman Empire (Piening 1988, van Zeist 1991), as
well as excavated structures (Rieckhoff 1992) and docu-
ments (Binsfeld 1972) associated with beer making, suggest
that the Romans also routinely consumed beer.
Production of a good quality brew requires much
experience both in wine and beer processing (Blandino et
al. 2003). By definition, beers are alcoholic beverages,
produced by transforming starch into sugars to produce a
wort (sugared liquid), which is then fermented with yeast
(Stika 1998). Early beers differed from our modern beers in
both methods of production and taste. In antiquity, fruits
and honey were added but with different effects, depending
on the stage of processing that they were added. When
added to the already fermented brew, the fruit and honey
simply sweetened the beer. When added during the wort
stage, the naturally occurring yeasts in fruit and honey
H.-P. Stika (*)
Institute of Botanik, University of Hohenheim,
Hohenheim (210),
D-70593, Stuttgart, Germany
Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2011) 3:4148
DOI 10.1007/s12520-010-0049-5
stimulate fermentation; the proportions of the different
ingredients are what determine whether the result is a wine
or a beer.
For the most part, the taste of our modern beer derives
from the flavouring agent hops (Humulus lupulus). The use
of hops started in early Middle Ages and increased during
high and late Mediaeval Times (Behre 1999). The Nordic
Hansa trade league attained control of the export of hopped
beer in the thirteenth and fourteenth century AD and
pushed back the gale (Myrica gale)beerwhichwas
common along the North and Baltic Sea coast in the whole
first millennium (Behre 1998). During the Middle Ages,
and in early modern times, a wide range of beer additives
continued to be used; however, hops has become the
accepted flavouring, and is the only one currently allowed
by the German Beer Purity Laws. The Bavarian Purity
Lawsigned in the year AD 1516 by Duke Wilhelm IV of
Bavaria in the city of Ingolstadt is a regional regulation
concerning the production of beer with a restriction to the
use of water, barley, and hops only. Yeast was not
mentioned in this document because the relevant micro-
organisms were not known to be part of the brewing
process before Louis Pasteur discovered their role in
alcoholic fermentation. There are some earlier beer purity
orders with local relevance handed on for the mediaeval
towns of, e.g. Ulm and Munich (Krauß 1994). Beer
production is rarely identified archaeologically (van Zeist
1991; Ansorge and Wiethold 2002) in contrast with the
written sources from ancient, mediaeval, and early modern
times. This paper discusses two finds of charred malt from
barley (location of the sites in Fig. 1): the early Iron Age
site of EberdingenHochdorf (Stika 1996; Stika 2009) close
to Stuttgart in southwestern Germany and the late mediae-
val site of Fischerinsel/Cölln in Berlin (Stika et al. 2010)in
northwestern Germany.
Late Mediaeval malt finds from Berlin
Recent construction in the centre of Berlin at Fischerinsel
Nr. 12/Gertraudenstrasse unearthed a burnt half-timbered
mediaeval building. In late Mediaeval times, this locality
had been part of the town Cölln, one of the basic quarters of
later Berlin. Its central position in the mediaeval town and
the structure of the building suggest that the building might
have been a storehouse, a shop, or a craftsmans workshop.
Rescue archaeological excavations, directed by Melisch and
Sewell (2010), revealed the half-timbered house to be a
minimum of 66 m
with no subdivided rooms. The house
and an adjacent well, found in front of the house, were
dendrochronologically dated to the same period as the malt
(radiocarbon dated to the fourteenth century AD) and
connected with an all-embracing conflagration in the centre
of Cölln at 18th of August in the year 1380 AD, known by
historical written sources (cf. Melisch and Sewell, 2010).
A layer of charred grain was found lying on wooden
floorboards. It measured approximately 6 cm thick and
covered an area of at least 9 m
. In total, six archae-
obotanical sediment samples were taken from different
parts of the layer. Archaeobotanical analyses by Stika et al.
(2010) determined that the layer consisted primarily of
sprouted multirowed hulled barley (Hordeum vulgare), as
well as unmalted rye (Secale cereale), and oat (Avena
sativa; see Fig. 2), with a few additional grains of probable
common wheat (cf. Triticum aestivum). Cereal grains
dominate the assemblage, few chaff fragments were found.
Approximately 20 weed taxa were also present, primarily
Rumex acetosella,Spergula arvensis, and Chenopodium cf.
album, species that are characteristic of poor sandy soils,
partly on loamy fertile soils.
Among the identified grains, germinated specimens
included primarily barley (4,816 items) as well as a few
grains of rye (five of a total of 1,341 rye grains), common
wheat (one of a total of 18 grains), and one grain of weedy
millet (Echinochloa crus-galli). The pattern indicates that
only the barley was malted but that the barley malt
contained a minute amount of impurities, represented by
the other cereal grains. Of the six archaeobotanical samples,
five were dominated by germinated barley, while one
sample was dominated by rye, with sprouted barley being
the second most dominant species. Oat is subdominant in
four samples and rye in one.
It appears that the conflagration had caused the three
different stored crops barley malt, rye, and oat to become
mixed. A huge amount of malt, at least 80 kg, is indicated
by the archaeobotanical assemblage recovered from the
partly excavated building. With 80 kg malt, one can brew
500 l of beer with an alcohol content of around 5% abv.
The recovery of malt from the burnt mediaeval house
raised the possibility that a storehouse for malt, or else a
brewery, had been unearthed. All the basic preconditions
for brewing were present including a fireplace that was
excavated within the house. Wooden brewing containers
were not recovered, possibly due to their mixing with
structural timber, which was found on the floor of the
collapsed building.
Written sources from mediaeval and early modern times
(Tabernaemontanus 1731, reprint by Grünwald 1975, 637)
describe mixtures of cereals such as barley, rye, and oat as
common ingredients in late mediaeval beers. Hulled barley
is known to produce the best quality malt. Coarsely ground
unmalted grain can be added to the brew, when the ground
malt gets dissolved in hot water to start the sugaring of the
In former times, typical flavouring additives were
Artemisia absinthum,A. vulgaris,Hyssopus officinalis,
42 Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2011) 3:4148
Juniperus communis,Laurus nobilis,Lavandula angustifo-
lia,Majorana hortensis,Melissa officinalis,Picea abies,
Rosmarinus officinalis,Salvia officinalis, and many others
(Behre 1999, see Table 1). These were not found in the
burnt down building of Fischerinsel, possibly due to the
small number of samples taken from the layer of charred
grains. The recovery of whole grains suggested that the
malt had not yet been fermented when it was charred by the
Fig. 2 Two sprouted barley grains in dorsal view (left); one rye grain (middle) and one oat grain (right) each in ventral and dorsal view, Berlin
Mitte Fischerinsel, Late Mediaeval times
Fig. 1 Location of the investi-
gated sites EberdingenHoch-
dorf close to Stuttgart and
BerlinMitte (Fischerinsel/
Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2011) 3:4148 43
fire. It is not possible to address questions about whether
brewing was carried out in this house or if the malt was
traded for a brew elsewhere. Nevertheless, the huge amount
of malt present in the excavated area suggests a large-scale
beer brewing operation.
The early Iron Age brewery of EberdingenHochdorf
The early Celtic settlement of Hochdorf (Biel 1991; Biel
2009) dates from early La Tène period, in the fifth/fourth
century BC. Due to the well-designed structure and
frequency of uncommon finds, e.g. red-fired Attic pot-
sherds, a small bronze scale, fine wheel-turned ceramics,
Hochdorf was recognised to be more than an ordinary farm.
It was identified as a former rural residence of an early
Celtic prince associated with the nearby fortified hilltop of
Hohen Aspergclose to Ludwigsburg. This settlement is
also directly related to the rich late Hallstatt grave mound of
Hochdorf (Biel 1985), which lies half a kilometre to the
east of Hochdorf Reps, as the locality of the excavated
Hochdorf settlement site is named.
The excavated features were analysed for archaeological,
zoological, and botanical remains. Among the examined
structures were a bow-sided house, pit houses, earth cellars,
grain storage pits, fence systems, and postholes from
storage structures. A total of 250 soil samples, processed
by flotation and wet sieving, were collected and analysed
for botanical macroremains at Hochdorf and in three
neighbouring contemporaneous early Celtic sites (Stuttgart
Mühlhausen, Freiberg a.N.Beihingen, Heilbronn
Klingenberg) from middle Neckarland (Stika 1999;Stika
2009).Hulledbarley(H. vulgare) and spelt wheat
(Triticum spelta) were found to be the main cultivated
crops in the analysed region, millet (Panicum miliaceum)
was subdominant in some sites (FreibergBeihingen,
StuttgartMühlhausen, HeilbronnKlingenberg).
Among other structures, six ditches were excavated in
Hochdorf Repssite (Stika 1996; Stika 2009). They were
found to be carefully constructed structures that, in their
preserved state measured approximately 56 m long, 0.6 m
wide, and up to 1.1 m deep. All the ditches were straight,
had a U-shaped profile and absolutely straight walls and
floors (Fig. 3). As no traces of erosion were observed on
the sides, it can be assumed that the walls were supported
by wooden boards; however, no organic remains of wood
were preserved.
From three of these ditches, eight archaeobotanical
samples were collected. The archaeobotanical analysis
revealed that each of the ditches contained a different
assemblage of charred plant remains. From one ditch, only
few plant remains were recovered; the same group of
species found in the pit sediments (n=266 specimens in a
10 l volume sediment sample: cereal grains and chaff of
barley, hulled and free-threshing wheat species, as well as
segetal and ruderal wild plant species). The other two
ditches contained thousands of sprouted grains of multirow
hulled barley (H. vulgare). These assemblages were almost
purely barley, containing only a few other types of cereal
grains, chaff, or weeds. As well as the characteristics of the
ditch structures themselves, the sprouted barley grains
suggest that these features formed part of an early Celtic
brewery. To test this assumption, a number of experiments
were carried out to learn about the morphology of the
unearthed malt and the degree of its malting as well as the
general conditions during carbonisation in the Hochdorf
Experiments involving malt processing
To learn about the process of malting, hulled, and free-
threshing (i.e. naked) barley grains were germinated.
Specimens were germinated both with their glumes intact
and dorsally dehusked. After soaking overnight (10 h) in
water at room temperature (1825°C), the grains (one part
with glumes and another part dehusked) were divided into
three sub-samples and exposed to different temperature,
light and climatic regimes: darkened environmental cham-
ber with humidity control (cooled down to 10°C), a dark
and damp cellar (14°C), and in daylight at room temper-
ature (Stika 1996; Stika 2009). Sub-samples of 100 grains
were removed (after 2, 3, 4, and 5 days) from each sample
and examined with a binocular loup to assess the stage of
germination. Compared to modern malt production, the best
malt qualities were achieved under dark and cool conditions
(10°C) with constantly high humidity (80%) in the
darkened environmental chamber. After 5 days, the hulled
barley grains exhibited exterior signs of germination
(coleoptiles, coleorhizae, and germination roots developed),
and within the germ exhibited the presence of sufficient
enzymes to start the mobilisation of the starch.
In modern malt production, this is the stage of germination
at which the malting process is begun. Cooling systems,
ventilation, occasional turning, and automatic humidity
control are present-day methods used to keep all the grains
at a comparable stage of germination. Likewise, special two-
rowed hulled barley with low protein and high starch content
is grown to produce good quality malt for brewing.
To halt germination, the green malt must be dried. To
maintain the enzymes, relatively low heat drying temper-
atures (around 80°C) rather than high heat, are used. In
Central and Northern Europe, a drying kiln is used at this
stage. The dried malt can be stored at this stage.
Before brewing, the malt is coarsely ground. After
grinding, the malt is dissolved in hot water (50°C) and
44 Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2011) 3:4148
further heated up (max. of 78°C) to convert the starch into
sugars, a process that is facilitated by the enzymes that were
produced by the cereal germ during malting. The next step
is to clarify the mash, which entails separating the glumes
and remains of the grain from the pure sugared liquid. To
produce the wort, the mash is cooked with hops. After-
wards, the liquid is clarified again to remove the coarse
remains of hops, the precipitated protein and the tannins.
Fermentation is started after cooling down the sweet
(from sugar) and bitter (from hops) liquid, and adding
yeast. Two main types of yeast are used today: brewers
yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), which works at high
temperature (1520°C), floats on the brew (ale yeast, top-
fermenting yeast), the other, Saccharomyces carlbergensis,
which works at low temperature (49°C), sinks to the
bottom (lager yeast, bottom-fermenting yeast). Fermenta-
tion can take from 1 day to more than a week, depending on
the proportions of sugar, type, and amount of the yeast and
the temperature. Normally, fresh beer is matured under cool
storage conditions (Stika 1998).
Turning again to our questions about early Iron Age
malt, to assess whether the grains from Hochdorf display
characteristics of malting, charring experiments were
carried out on the modern barley malt using specimens
that were extracted during the malting experiments. Damp
and dried malt were artificially carbonised at two temper-
atures (250°C and 350°C). Moist grains that were heated
rapidly to 350°C were observed to puff up to approximately
twice their original size, while dry malt grains remained
morphologically intact throughout carbonisation. Grains
that had been left to germinate for 7 days or longer were
more poorly preserved by carbonisation regardless of being
moist or dry. Our experiments revealed that the sprouts of
all carbonised malted grains (no matter of which pre-
treatment) are prone to destruction when subjected to
mechanical agitation and handling. Unsurprisingly, no
sprouts or roots were found preserved in the Hochdorf
ditches. Only five fragmented embryos were recovered
amongst the carbonised grains. The overlaying sediments
caused mechanical pressure on the malt which likely
destroyed the sensitive charred germs. The carbonised
barley malt from Hochdorf (see Fig. 4) displays groove-
like channels or grains are concave on their dorsal sides. In
some cases, the coleoptiles and the coleorhizae became
more prominent and the germination pits are enlarged
towards the top. Other grains broke in the middle, in cross-
section, with only their apical half preserved. Most likely
the (fragile) sprouts and roots were destroyed during
carbonisation and/or by the weight of sediment that was
later thrown into the ditches when they were in-filled.
The early Iron Age Hochdorf malt remains are morpho-
logically similar to those of modern malt, after their germs
are brushed away to remove enzymes and other protein.
From results of the germination and charring experiments
and comparisons with modern malting practices, the early
Iron Age Hochdorf malt appears to have been processed
using methods designed to produce a high quality malt of
slightly and evenly germinated grains, in an uncommonly
pure (single malt) barley assemblage. Under controlled and
cool conditions, this process takes about 5 days. The fact
Fig. 3 Excavated ditch with
barley malt on the bottom,
Hochdorf Reps, early Iron
Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2011) 3:4148 45
that the grains survived carbonisation indicates that they
were charred in optimal conditions, i.e. the semi-dry malt
was exposed to low and even heat with low oxygen access.
Attempts at reconstructing early Iron Age malting
The Hochdorf malt production was done on a large scale.
As we learned from the experiments, germination is
difficult to control and malting requires that all the grains
are evenly sprouted, and in a slightly sprouted state. The
well-constructed Hochdorf ditches, with their sheltered
walls may have been used for drying the green malt as
well as for germination. The soaked barley grains were
possibly spread on plates made of woven reed, wickerwork
of willow, or textile on the ditch floor. If covered at the top,
and therefore kept dark at the bottom, the ditch could have
provided the precise, optimum conditions that are necessary
for producing good quality malt; constant low temperatures
and high humidity. Following germination, the ditch
structure could have also have served as a drying kiln;
placing the plates of sprouted barley on top of a
superstructure made of dried mud brick and a wooden
frame, would have sufficiently exposed the malt for drying.
A small fire, installed at one end of the ditch, would have
created the warm air necessary to dry the malt. Neverthe-
less, no stokehole or other hearth-related sub-structures
were found during excavation.
To explain the present state of preservation, the
following scenario is suggested: the wooden support for
the nearly dry malt accidentally caught fire due to an errant
spark; the organic plates also burned; the structure
subsequently would have collapsed, scattering the grains
over the bottom of the ditch where they were then covered
by the burning wooden frame.
The taphonomy of the excavated ditch 2202/3, which is
shown in Fig. 3, suggests this reconstruction. In this ditch, a
layer of the pure charred malt lay directly on the underlying
loess. In the upper part of the malt/grain layer, pieces of
wood charcoal were mixed among the grains. This layer
was covered by partly burnt mud brick mixed with coarse
charcoal fragments. The upper part of the overlaying in-fill
in the ditch consisted of loam, which was probably used to
fill in and to level the area after the fire destroyed the
The possible taste of Early Celtic beer
Because we have no detailed information about early Celtic
beer production techniques, either from archaeological
excavations or from written or iconographic sources, we
certainly do not know much about its taste. It might
nevertheless be possible to reconstruct the taste of early
Iron Age beer using our interpretations of the Hochdorf
excavations and additional theoretical considerations. As
the experiments on germination and carbonisation and also
comparison with modern malt production have shown, the
quality of the Hochdorf malt (pure barley grains only
slightly but evenly germinated) was quite high.
From our reconstructionof the drying kiln methods
formerly used in the Hochdorf ditches, we can infer that the
open fire produced a malt with a smoky taste, as found in a
few modern German beers (Rauchbier), while the uneven
heat in the long kiln might have produced uneven, partly
dark malt. The drying process probably worked slowly,
causing a high amount of lactic acid bacteria activity. After
drying, the malt may have been stored, possibly in dry
The first steps in the brewing process included first the
coarse grinding of the malt followed by the addition of
water to dissolve the ingredients. No special brewing
containers were found among the Hochdorf material
remains. It can be inferred that wooden containers were
probably used for mashing the dissolved malt into a pulp.
In the pulping stage, there was a reactivation of enzymes
that had been produced during germination of the barley
Fig. 4 Charred barley grains, Hochdorf Reps, early Iron Age (scale
is 0.5 mm)
46 Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2011) 3:4148
embryos, resulting in the converting of more starch into
sugars. At Hochdorf, cooking stones may have been used to
heat the mushy liquid at low temperatures in order to boost
the sugar content of the mash. Contact with the hot stones
might have caused the malt sugars to caramelise on the
surface of the cooking stones, which would have added a
special flavour to the liquid. (This type of caramelisation
effect, due to the use of the cooking stone, can be
experienced by drinking the rare stone beersproduced
by a very few breweries today.) The lactic acid bacteria
from the green malt would have fermented too, causing a
low pH level of the liquid, which helps preservation but
imparts a sour taste. After the sugaring process, the mash
would have been purified by filtering, at which stage the
barley glumes might have helped to filter out the coarse
ingredients when the pure liquid was drained. This spiced
sugared liquid is named wort today.
We do not know if the early Celtic wort was boiled before
fermentation, as is done today. Cooking stones might have
been used at this stage also, but no such evidence was found
during excavation. Most probably fermentation started spon-
taneously due to the use of yeast-contaminated brewing
equipment and/or adding honey and fruit, which again
of Pliny, Natural History 18.12.68 cit. in Lenz 1859)
indicate that the Celts intentionally used beer yeast for
baking fluffy bread. We cannot exclude that spuma
concretawas deliberately added to the wort to start
fermentation. Most probably the yeast was of the old
type(S. cerevisiae), which is used today for brewing pale
beer. This yeast works at high temperatures and floats on
top of the brew. The bottom-fermenting yeast (Saccharo-
myces carlsbergensis) needs cooling during fermentation
and was introduced to southern Germany on a large scale
in the nineteenth century.
In addition to malt and yeast, the main component in the
taste of a beer is its flavouring. Today, the more or less
intensive taste of hops generally dominates. Hops not only
improve the flavour, but also facilitate better preservation of
the beer and better digestion upon consumption. As
mentioned above, the use of hops started in the Middle
Ages. Wild hops finds are absent from early Iron Age
Hochdorf but present in the contemporaneous site of
Freiberg a.N., about 20 km from Hochdorf (Stika 1996;
Stika 2009). Statistical correspondence analyses of datasets
of 250 early Celtic archaeobotanical samples, representing
four different sites of the middle Neckarland, show that the
seeds of mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and carrot (Daucus
carota) are spatially associated with malt samples (Stika
1999; Stika 2009). Mugwort, which is particular well
known as a flavouring agent for mediaeval herbal and
medicinal beers, was used till the eighteenth century (Behre
1998). Carrot seeds are mentioned for medicinal use by
Dioskorides (cited in Lenz 1859, 571). Both spices could
have been used for the early Celtic Hochdorf beer. Another
beer additive well-known from mediaeval and early modern
times is henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), which adds flavour
and also makes the beverage more intoxicating. The Old
English word beolene, once naming the plant henbane, as
well as the Old High German word bilisaand the modern
German plant name Bilsenkrautare traced back to Celtic
linguistic roots and linguistic connections with the Celtic
god Belenosare assumed (Hegi 1964, vol 5.4, p. 2574).
A few seeds of henbane were found in the early Iron Age
Hochdorf samples but statistical correspondence analysis
shows that they have no direct connection to the sprouted
barley. We can only speculate that henbane may have been
used for flavouring the Celtic beer of Hochdorf.
To summarise, the possible taste of the Celtic Hochdorf
beer: it was probably a dark, smoky, and slightly sour. A
caramelised taste would have decreased the sourness.
Floating yeast sometimes produces a light lemon taste. If
flavouring agents such as mugwort and carrot seeds were
added, this beverage would have had a very different taste
from our typical modern beer.
Acknowledgement The author would like to thank Dr. Max Nelson,
University of Windsor, Ontario and Dr. M. Wollstonecroft, UCL,
London for discussing the manuscript and improving its English.
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48 Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2011) 3:4148
... There is an evidence of the first beer production facility in present-day Serbia. Two separate finds from Europe (Larsson et al., 2018;Stika, 2011Stika, , 1996 made us reconsider the previous interpretation of house 5 context at the Oppidum Čarnok (Medović, 2011(Medović, , 2006: the house was probably used for beer production. It has all the necessary brewing equipment (Fig. 14): a long wooden container field with barley grains with a basket full of barley grains placed on the wooden container, a low-temperature kiln structure and numerous clay pots. ...
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The archaeobotanical research of the macrobiotic remains from archaeological sites provides a valuable insight into the plant economy of the continental Celtic (Gaulish or Galatian) tribe of Scordisci, which lived around the rivers of Sava, Drava and Danube during the last three centuries before Christ. The field crop production of Scordisci was based upon cereals, grain legumes and oil crops. The importance of spelt wheat (Triticum spelta L.) in the everyday diets of Scordisci has been underestimated so far. Recent researches proved the presence of Byzantine oat (Avena byzantina K. Koch) at the Celtic tilths in the northern Balkans. Cereals were stored in mud-plastered granary baskets. The spectrum of grain legumes is as diverse as that of cereals. The latest analyses expand the list of oil plants with a new species-dragon's head (Lallemantia iberica (M.Bieb.) Fisch. & C.A.Mey.). There is also the first evidence of a beer production facility in one of the Scordisci oppida, Čarnok.
... There is also evidence for the preparation of barley beer in the sixth century BCE in Hochdorf, southwest Germany. Statistical analysis of archaeobotanical samples from over 250 locations in central Neckar showed beer additives in the form of mugworts (Artemisia vulgaris) and carrot (Daucus carota) (Stika, 2011). An interesting find is a ritually placed bronze strainer, part of bronze hoard from Ikerv ar (northwest Hungary) dated to the sixth century BCE. ...
In 2017, a luxury bronze bucket was discovered near Kladina village in the Czech Republic. The bucket is dated to the 9th century BC and it is a unique artefact, having no parallel in Europe. Stylistically, it is a "transition type" dated between the Late Bronze Age (11th–10th century BC) and the Hallstatt Period (8th–6th century BC). Detailed palynological analysis of verdigris and soil infill of the bucket identified a wide range of pollen grains belonging mainly to herbs, with bitter‐sour properties, and cereals. Subsequent chemical analysis, by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, of soil extracts revealed the presence of the compound miliacin that is a chemical marker of millet. Moreover, a starch analysis reveals the presence of enzymatically modified starch grains. These data, with the help of archaeological knowledge, indicate that the original content may have been millet‐based food/beverage with addition of herbs. We suggest that this luxury vessel, given the contents we have identified, was deposited, in the late spring/summer months of the year.
... During germination the sprout (also referred to as the coleoptile) and root of the grain will start growing; in hulled cereals, such as hulled barley (Hordeum vulgare), the coleoptile will grow underneath the hull, creating an indentation which is visible on archaeological charred grains ( Fig. 1A and B). Malt has been identified by this indentation as archaeobotanical evidence for deliberate malting in the context of beer making in 3rd millennium BCE Bronze Age sites of Archondiko and Argissa on mainland Greece (Valamoti, 2018), in a Celtic Iron Age settlement in Eberdingen-Hochdorf (Stika, 1996(Stika, , 2011, in Iron Age Mediterranean France at the site of Roquepertuse (Bouby et al., 2011) and in fifth-century Iron Age Sweden at the site of Uppåkra (Larsson et al., 2018). At all of these sites, hulled carbonized grain, either with coleoptiles or signs of coleoptile furrows, were identified. ...
Identification of prehistoric malting and partial grain germination from starch granules in charred barley grains indicating the production of beer from the early Iron Age in Denmark.
... Ils acquièrent alors une texture légèrement élastique, proche de celle du riz, et une saveur un peu sucrée. L'orge est aussi la céréale privilégiée pour la confection de bière, mais les preuves carpologiques de cet usage font encore défaut en France septentrionale et sont, de façon générale, très peu nombreuses pour les âges des métaux en Europe Stika, 2011). ...
... Einkorn, emmer and spelt are all hulled wheats (having non threshable grains), much more difficult to thresh that bread wheat or club wheat. However, these primitive wheats had several advantages over the others (Stika, 2011, Stika andHeiss, 2013). Spelt and einkorn need less nitrogen than modern crops and are very resistant to weed competition. ...
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The interdisciplinary approach to a book, initiated by Laura Kooistra, about food preparation and eating habits in the Netherlands from prehistory to modern times led to new surprising insights and questions, which are also of interest to the study of Bronze and Iron Age. In this article we elaborate on a few issues like the cultural aspects of food and the choices people made. Contrary to what is usually assumed, the farmers in the Bronze and Iron Age still used their natural environment to gather food resources like bird eggs, honey and acorns. The daily meal consisted for the most part of cereals, either as flatbread, risen bread or as stew. It is less clear what other ingredients went into these meals. Micro-botanical residue analysis (SEM analysis) and chemical residue analysis on Bronze and Iron Age pottery is a neglected area of study compared to Late Neolithic pottery. Drinking alcohol and eating meat in large quantities is related to ritual activities or festive meals as demonstrated by the large cauldrons and the iron knives found in rich chieftain graves. Metal knives, or other cutlery, are seldom found in settlement sites. It is possible they used objects made of organic material to cut up food. Studying use wear traces on flint objects or cut marks on animal bones could help to answer this question. Some suggestions are put forward for studying these food related questions but most answers are to be expected from an integrated study of food supply, food processing and the preparing of food.
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On the occasion of archaeobotanical and archaeo-zoological investigations of organic material filled in a hole of the kitchen wall of the castle Jever, county of Friesland, a lot of species were found which may have been related to food preparation and waste disposal. The material dates most probably into the 17th century (around 1640–1645). Combining invoices of the year 1706 with the botanical and zoological finds may extend the period of usage to the beginning of the 18th century. The remains attracted other beneficiaries as mice and insects whose remains and evidences (bones, coprolites, gnawing traces, parts of the bodies) build up a large portion of the investigated material. About 100 plant species, three (to four) mammals, at least twelve species of birds and six species of fish are detected. The context suggests that all documented animals were part of the menu and their remains represent slaughter and food wastes. Thus the following scenario is plausible: A niche (niches?) has been created in the porose kitchen wall, surely with a wooden boarding. When the princely holding of court left the castle again for a longer period, it was used as waste disposal. During long-er phases of vacancy several mice and perhaps birds, too, died in the niche respectively in the rooms. In addition dirt and dust accumulated, which had to be depolluted before ‘recommissioning’ – there-by the niche had properly been stuffed, which then was bricked up during restoration measures starting 1736 respectively before 1842. In the course of future restoration, it is worth to turn special attention to the walls with their interesting history.
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There have been tremendous marketing efforts and consumer interest in the so-called ancient grains. Einkorn, emmer and spelt, which are sometimes referred to as ancient wheats, are frequently included in this category, and have gained some attention among brewers. The objective of the current study was to compare the malting behavior and quality of einkorn, emmer and spelt cultivars obtained from the same growing environment. Aside from standard malt quality traits, the levels of β-amylase, protease, xylanase, wort arabinoxylans and wort phenolic acids were measured. While protein levels of the samples were higher (11.4–14.0%) than normally selected for wheat malt, the results indicated that malts of acceptable quality in terms of extract and amylolytic activity can be prepared from the three grain types. However, the ideal malting protocol will likely differ between the grains. The kernels of einkorn are significantly smaller, and steep hydration and malt modification are quicker. In terms of potential health benefits from antioxidant capacity and dietary fiber, wort from einkorn trended to higher levels of free and conjugated ferulic acid, as well as high-molecular-weight arabinoxylan.
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The detection of direct archaeological remains of alcoholic beverages and their production is still a challenge to archaeological science, as most of the markers known up to now are either not durable or diagnostic enough to be used as secure proof. The current study addresses this question by experimental work reproducing the malting processes and subsequent charring of the resulting products under laboratory conditions in order to simulate their preservation (by charring) in archaeological contexts and to explore the preservation of microstructural alterations of the cereal grains. The experimentally germinated and charred grains showed clearly degraded (thinned) aleurone cell walls. The histological alterations of the cereal grains were observed and quantified using reflected light and scanning electron microscopy and supported using morphometric and statistical analyses. In order to verify the experimental observations of histological alterations, amorphous charred objects (ACO) containing cereal remains originating from five archaeological sites dating to the 4th millennium BCE were considered: two sites were archaeologically recognisable brewing installations from Predynastic Egypt, while the three broadly contemporary central European lakeshore settlements lack specific contexts for their cereal-based food remains. The aleurone cell wall thinning known from food technological research and observed in our own experimental material was indeed also recorded in the archaeological finds. The Egyptian materials derive from beer production with certainty, supported by ample contextual and artefactual data. The Neolithic lakeshore settlement finds currently represent the oldest traces of malting in central Europe, while a bowl-shaped bread-like object from Hornstaad–Hörnle possibly even points towards early beer production in central Europe. One major further implication of our study is that the cell wall breakdown in the grain’s aleurone layer can be used as a general marker for malting processes with relevance to a wide range of charred archaeological finds of cereal products.
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In four early Celtic settlements in the central Neckar region of Baden-Wrttemberg (Germany), 250 archaeobotanical samples were collected and studied for their plant macrofossils.Hordeum vulgare L. (hulled barley) andTrilicum spella L. (spelt wheat) could be recognized as the main crops, as well asPanicum miliaceum L. (millet) in some places. Legumes andLinum usitatissimum L. (flax) were important crops. Typical field weeds dominated the wild plant remains, but some present-day grassland taxa were abundantly and frequently found. The analysis of the data set of finds of the cereal remains, field weeds and grassland plants was done by Correspondence Analysis, but no significant differences between the various groups were found. Samples dominated by remains of grassland taxa, which could indicate that there were hay meadows, were absent. Consideration of plant macrofossil results as well as archaeological, osteological and pollen analytical data shows that there is likely to have been a land management system of arable fields and grassland. The densely settled fertile central Neckar region could therefore have been intensively utilised, using all available resources. Permanent grasslands in the form of pasture on river floodplains and on dry soils were certainly present. Hay meadows, on the other hand, were not identified. Cultivated plants such asFicus carica L. (fig) andVicia ervilia (L.) Willd. (bitter vetch) as well as some field weeds suggest connections with the Mediterranean lands.
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The many excavations of medieval sites during recent years have resulted in a strong increase in archaeobotanical records including species which were used as beer additives. Since the first compilation of records by the author in 1984 relating to the two main species, namelyMyrica gale andHumulus lupulus, the number of finds has quadrupled. Distribution maps of the sites with fossil occurrence of these two species are presented and this evidence is complemented by that from written sources.M. gale seems to have been used for brewing as early as the centuries immediately before and after the birth of Christ in a small area at the Rhine estuary in the northern Netherlands. During the early and high Middle Ages there are records of this plant, in what are potentially brewing contexts, across its north-west European area of natural distribution. Written sources confirm its use in brewing as early as the tenth century. The finds ofH. lupulus indicate that this species has been used in brewing from the early Middle Ages and this hypothesis is supported by documentary evidence. Cultivation of hop began around A.D. 859. In the late Medieval period, strong competition developed between both kinds of beer, which resulted in the take-over byH. lupulus in the eighteenth century. Many other herbs of secondary importance have been used to flavour beer or to prepare medicinal beers. These are mentioned in old herbals and have been compiled in this paper. These various flavouring agents, combined with the use of all available species of cereals led to a variety of beers that is unimaginable today.
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A large number of weakly germinated hulled barley grains was found during archaeobotanical analyses from the early Celtic settlement excavations at Eberdingen-Hochdorf in southwest Germany (ca. 600 – 400 BC). These grains seem to represent deliberate germination, due to the purity of the find and its unusual archaeological context. The possibility of deliberate malting which could be connected with beer brewing is discussed. Recent germination and charring experiments show that the consistently weak traces of germination on the charred subfossil grains from Hochdorf are enough to indicate malted grains. A comparison of the archaeobotanical remains with the written and archaeological sources shows that evidence of beer brewing from excavations is very scarce. There is practically no clear proof of brewing, while written sources and indirect suggestions are abundant. Neither archaeological finds nor either written or iconographic sources give exact details about the prehistoric brewing technology of the early Celts. The archaeological finds from Hochdorf seem to be the result of deliberate malting of hulled barley for the purpose of Celtic beer brewing.
Comprehensive and detailed, this is the first ever study of ancient beer and its distilling, consumption and characteristics Examining evidence from Greek and Latin authors from 700 BC to AD 900, the book demonstrates the important technological as well as ideological contributions the Europeans made to beer throughout the ages. The study is supported by textual and archaeological evidence and gives a fresh and fascinating insight into an aspect of ancient life that has fed through to modern society and which stands today as one of the world's most popular beverages. Students of ancient history, classical studies and the history of food and drink will find this an useful and enjoyable read.
Beer was a staple food in ancient Egypt and important in all aspects of life, but until recently, very little of the brewing process has been well understood. An archaeological approach to the study of ancient Egyptian brewing has focused primarily on the desiccated remains of cereal-based, starchy beer and brewing by-products. The microstructure of these residues is outstandingly well preserved and can be studied using scanning electron microscopy. The state of the starch has been used to determine the ancient processes used for brewing. Strong evidence for malting comes from pitted and channeled starch granules present in most of the beer residues. Gelatinization indicates that cereals or cereal products were heated while moist, but the degree of heating and the level of moisture appear to have varied. Evidence is presented for different possible cereal processing methods, and the subsequent mixture of products to create the final beer. Arguments are presented against the traditional view that ancient Egyptian beer was made from bread and that dates were a standard ingredient.
Cereal grains constitute a major source of dietary nutrients all over the world. Although cereals are deficient in some basic components (e.g. essential aminoacids), fermentation may be the most simple and economical way of improving their nutritional value, sensory properties, and functional qualities. This review focuses first on some of the indigenous fermented foods and beverages produced world-wide that have not received the scientific attention they deserve in the last decades. Products produced from different cereal substrates (sometimes mixed with other pulses) fermented by lactic acid bacteria, yeast and/or fungi are included. Finally, newly developed cereal-based foods with enhanced health properties will also be reviewed.
Zur Geschichte des Bieres und der Bierwürzen in Mitteleuropa The History of Beer Additives in Europe – a Review
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