Date: 20 Mar 2014

The Origins of Inebriation: Archaeological Evidence of the Consumption of Fermented Beverages and Drugs in Prehistoric Eurasia

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Abstract

The earliest testimonies of the use of alcohol and drugs suggest that inebriation is a long-established habit, the origins of which can be traced back to prehistory. Traces highly suggestive of fermented beverages and remains of psychoactive plants have been recovered from archaeological sites throughout prehistoric Europe. This paper surveys the history of these substances from a cultural approach based on the contexts of consumption. A wide range of documents will be examined here (macrofossil remains of psychoactive plants, residues of fermented beverages, alkaloids in archaeological items and artistic depictions, among others). Considering that these sensory-altering products are mainly found in tombs and ceremonial places, they seem to be strongly connected to ritual usages. Far from being consumed for hedonistic purposes, it can therefore be argued that drug plants and alcoholic drinks had a sacred role among prehistoric societies.