Archaeologists from Stanford University recently uncovered 5,000-year-old pottery that contained leftover traces of beer, providing the earliest solid evidence of beer production in the country. Discovered in the Mijiaya region, near the Wei River, researchers unearthed two subterranean pits built between 3400 and 2900 B.C. that contained what appear to be tools used in the brewing process, including funnels, pots, and specialized jugs.
Analysis of the residue found that a combination of Chinese and Western traditions was used to create the alcohol: broomcorn millet, tubers, and a chewy grain known as Job´s Tears (the former) mixed with barley (the latter). However, as Haaretz notes, the Mijiaya drink may only be half-as-old as the first beer to grace the bellies of the ancient Chinese.
Analysis of residue from 9,000-year-old pottery found in Jiahu indicates beer consumption as early as the Yangshao period (5000-2900 BCE), when large-scale agricultural villages were forming in the Yellow River valley. However, the finds in Mijiaya indicate that barley reached ancient China about a thousand years earlier than previously thought. Barley may have been used to make beer long before it became a staple food, postulates the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We suggest that barley was initially introduced to the Central Plain as an ingredient for alcohol production rather than for subsistence,” says Wang, who also believes that the introduction of beer in the fourth millennium BCE is associated with advance in society.