Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 611–625 | Cite as

Brewing beer in wine country? First archaeobotanical indications for beer making in Early and Middle Bronze Age Greece

  • Soultana Maria ValamotiEmail author
Original Article


This paper revisits and old question “Beer or wine?” as regards the potential alcoholic drinks consumed by prehistoric societies in southeastern Europe. Archaeobotanical remains of sprouted cereal grains as well as cereal fragments from the Bronze Age sites of Archondiko and Argissa on mainland Greece, presented here for the first time, provide strong indications for the making of something similar to beer in late 3rd millennium bc Greece, opening up a series of new questions about the recipes followed in this process and their origins. Beyond the recipes themselves, the paper highlights a range of available options as regards alcoholic drinks in Bronze Age Greece, beer and wine, offering thus a more detailed approach to preferences and possible identities reflected in the choice of alcoholic drink among prehistoric societies inhabiting the southernmost tip of the Balkan Peninsula, the Aegean and mainland Greece.


Bronze Age beer Prehistoric Aegean Archondiko Argissa Alcoholic drinks Sprouted cereal grain Ancient malt 



Many thanks to the Archondiko excavators, A. Papanthimou and the late A. Pilali, for their support of the archaeobotanical study. I am deeply grateful to F. Bittmann and the Lower Saxony Institute for Historical Coastal Research in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, for making available the unpublished report by Maria Hopf and of her original material from Argissa, discussed in this paper. Prof. Harald Hauptmann kindly allowed reproduction of the Argissa House 7 in Fig. 4. Ch. Petridou helped with the Archondiko archaeobotanical material, T. Dimoula and E. Kalogiropoulou provided valuable assistance with the literature. E. Voulgari generously offered unpublished information on the Archondiko cups. A. Dimoula did the capacity calculations of the Argissa drinking cups using the software Pot_Utility1.05 developed by J.P. Thalmann in the project ARCANE, 2006 ( Helmut Kroll generously provided feedback on the archaeobotanical material from Feudvar. N. Katsikaridis and T. Bekiaris prepared Figs. 1 and 3. P. Lathiras and Chryssa Petridou helped with grinding experimental malt and with counting the sprouted cereal grains from Argissa. I. Ninou helped with editing parts of the text. I am also grateful to St. Andreou, S. Voutsaki, M. Nelsson, H.-P. Stika, K.-E. Behre, L. Crew, L. Steel, J. Jennings and J. Wang for help with the literature. Discussions over the years with D. Samuel and H.-P. Stika have been precious in shaping my ideas on prehistoric cereal foods. I am grateful to J. Rutter for his comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. V. Beer provided malt for generating the ground reference specimens. I am grateful to L. Papadopoulou and the SEM team of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki for their help with the SEM photos presented in this paper. This work has been funded by the European Research Council project “PlantCult”, Identifying the food cultures of ancient Europe, under the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (Grant Agreement No. 682529, Consolidator Grant 2016–2021). Background archaeobotanical work at Archondiko has been funded by the Institute of Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP), the British School at Athens and Μύλοι Θράκης (Thrace Flour Mills). I am also grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their very constructive comments.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology, School of History and ArchaeologyAristotle University of ThessalonikiThessalonikiGreece

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