10 million years ago, a mutation in the ancestor of man, allowed him to metabolize ethyl alcohol 40 times faster.
Surprising as it may seem, drunkenness preceded the cultivation of grapes and wheat and even … the appearance of Homo sapiens. Our very distant forefathers had, in fact, a real inclination for alcohol, as is reported in a new study. „Ten million years ago, a mutation occurred in the African ancestor of humans and great apes, allowing it to metabolize ethanol – or ethyl alcohol – forty times faster“ , said geneticist Matthew Carrigan of Santa Fe College (Gainesville, USA).
A mutation that took place at the time when these primates were forced to descend from the fodder trees, these being scarce due to a drying climate. „They started feeding on fruit that had fallen to the ground … which was sometimes fermented“, the expert went on to say, adding that the ethanol intake has many advantages: it slows down metabolism, facilitates digestion and promotes fat storage“, said Matthew Carrigan, „but our distant ancestors needed to rapidly degrade ethanol“ to avoid getting drunk too quickly .
„Ingestion of ethanol has many advantages: it slows metabolism, facilitates digestion and promotes the storage of fat. However, it was necessary for our distant ancestors to quickly degrade ethanol.“
The encounter between man and the vine (Vitis vinifera) intervenes later, in Eurasia, 2 million years ago, when Homo erectus leaves its African cradle and discovers this vine climbing. He tasted the fruits of it on the side of Israel and Palestine, Anatolia, the Caucasus and Iran. Then, gathering the grapes all over Europe 500,000 years ago, As shown by the discovery of seeds on French archaeological sites in particular. “ On the other hand, it’s hard to know when our ancestors started to keep or make intoxicating beverages,“ says Patrick McGovern, professor of biomolecular archeology at the University of Pennsylvania. The skins, the wooden bowls, or the woven baskets are not well preserved…
The domestication of the vineyard would have occurred between 10,000 and 5,000 BC. “ It probably took place in southeastern Anatolia, between the Tigris and the Euphrates, in the fertile Crescent, Considered as the cradle of civilization.“
„Psychoactive plants and alcoholic beverages also had a sacred role“
Over the centuries, alcohol played a major role, perhaps going so far as to participate in the invention of writing and the founding of cities! At the site of Tell Bazi, in northern Syria, 3400 years old, each house had its „microbrewery“: giant jars of clay (200 liters) kept the trace of barley and oxalate , A chemical deposit produced by the cereal in the presence of water. For the German archaeologist Adelheid Otto of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, “ the essential nutrients, especially the vitamins, provided by the fermentation of the cereals allowed the Mesopotamians to have a correct physical growth while their diet to Base of bread and oatmeal was deficient“.
„Communicating with gods or ancestors almost always involves the use of an alcoholic beverage, be it the wine of the Eucharist, the beer offered to the Sumerian goddess Ninkasi, the Viking grog Or the elixir of Amazonian or African tribes. „They have also served to treat pain and infections“, Patrick McGovern acknowledged.