The Original drink
Mead is humanity’s oldest alcoholic beverage. Its origin could go back as far as the neolithic, some 9,000 years B.C. That is 7,000 years before wine (made with grapes) is first produced. Made exclusively from water and honey, mead fermentation comes from the natural yeasts found in honey.
The oldest archeological artefacts date mead production to the Bronze Age (around 1,800 years B.C.). Mead was consumed during spiritual rituals, in comparison to beer which was drank in the context of warlike rituals. Associating mead consumption to spiritual rituals and to immortality reveals the emergence of culture, the manifestation of nature becoming more civilized.
From Nature to Culture
French anthropologist and ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, quoting Alfred Métraux, elaborates about the origin of mead in the mythology of the Chaco natives:
“When mead was unknown, an elder had the idea of diluting honey in water, letting the liquid ferment all night. The next day, he drank a small portion, found it delicious but no one else wanted to taste it fearing that it could be poison. The elder said that he would try it because, at his age, death is of less importance. He drank and fell down as dead. But during night-time, he awoke and told everyone that it wasn’t poison. Men dug a bigger trough in a tree trunk and drank as much mead as they could prepare. A bird made the first drum, beating on it all night long and the following day, it changes onto a man.”
This indigenous myth gives credence that the creation of mead links nature to culture, all around the planet since time immemorial.