Why Didn't North American Indians Develop Alcoholic Beverages

Easy. {sup}TM{/sup} Replace the braces with brackets, of course.

No, Late Stone age, after agricuture and “cities”. Well, at least beer and wine, don’t know about mead.

Wiki: *Beer is one of the oldest beverages, possibly dating back to the 7th millennium BC, and recorded in the written history of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.[4] The earliest known chemical evidence of beer dates to circa 3500–3100 BC.[5] As almost any substance containing carbohydrates, namely sugar or starch, can naturally undergo fermentation, it is likely that beer-like beverages were independently invented among various cultures throughout the world. The invention of bread and beer has been argued to be responsible for humanity’s ability to develop technology and build civilization[6][7][8]…As almost any cereal containing certain sugars can undergo spontaneous fermentation due to wild yeasts in the air, it is possible that beer-like beverages were independently developed throughout the world soon after a tribe or culture had domesticated cereal. Chemical tests of ancient pottery jars reveal that beer was produced about 7,000 years ago in what is today Iran, and was one of the first-known biological engineering tasks where the biological process of fermentation is used.

In Mesopotamia, the oldest evidence of beer is believed to be a 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet depicting people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a communal bowl. A 3900-year-old Sumerian poem honoring Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing, contains the oldest surviving beer recipe, describing the production of beer from barley via bread.*

Wiki: *Wine residue has been identified by Patrick McGovern’s team at the University Museum, Pennsylvania, in ancient pottery jars. Records include ceramic jars from the Neolithic sites at Shulaveri, of present-day Georgia (about 6000 BC) [1], Hajji Firuz Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of present-day Iran (5400-5000 BC)[2],[3] and from Late Uruk (3500-3100 BC) occupation at the site of Uruk, in Mesopotamia [1]. The identifications are based on the identification of tartaric acid and tartrate salts using a form of infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR). These identifications are regarded with caution by some biochemists because of the risk of false positives, particularly where complex mixtures of organic materials, and degradation products, may be present. …Little is actually known of the prehistory of wine. It is plausible that early foragers and farmers made alcoholic beverages from wild fruits, including wild grapes (Vitis silvestris). This would have become easier following the development of pottery vessels in the later Neolithic of the Near East, about 9000 years ago. However, wild grapes are small and sour, and relatively rare at archaeological sites. It is unlikely they could have been the basis of a wine industry…In Egypt, wine played an important role in ancient ceremonial life. A thriving royal winemaking industry was established in the Nile Delta following the introduction of grape cultivation from the Levant to Egypt c. 3000 BC. The industry was most likely the result of trade between Egypt and Canaan during the Early Bronze Age, commencing from at least the Third Dynasty (2650 – 2575 BC), the beginning of the Old Kingdom period (2650 – 2152 BC). Winemaking scenes on tomb walls, and the offering lists that accompanied them, included wine that was definitely produced at the deltaic vineyards.

(The Bronze Age starts around 3500 BC)

wiki: Pulque is depicted in Native American stone carvings from as early as 200 AD. The origin of pulque is unknown, but because it has a major position in religion, many folk tales explain its origins. According to one pre-Columbian legendary account, during the reign of Tecpancaltzin, a Toltec noble named Papantzin discovered the secret of extracting aguamiel from the maguey plant.[citation needed] Prior to the Spanish conquest, the Aztecs consumed it at religious ceremonies.

I’d have thought the first raised bread would more likely have been a sourdough type of thing. Outside of a clean modern kitchen, it would be quite difficult to mix dough and not have it start to ferment.

They had no need for alcohol, they were too busy smokin’ the peace pipe filled with weed. Right?

[sub]I feel a much needed lecture coming on[/sub]

The mongols did quite well making kvass in skin bags. Beer to go [made of milk, the stuff is indescribable and definitely an aquired taste :eek: ]

As far as I can see, nothing here so far answers the question. You don’t need a big farming operation or grain-harvesting operation to produce enough alcoholic beverage for personal use. As I stated in the OP (and others have defended), they certainly had fermentable grapes and other fruit to use. Tuckerfan and Cecil to the contrary notwithstanding, there’s certainly a lot of feeling among others I’ve talked to – anthropologist and Amerins alike – that Native Americans were particularly susceptible to the influence of alcohol, although whether that’s physiological or psychological, I don’t know. It’s certainly not because they thought they ought to act drunk.

Is this a fact, though - is there a cite that says Eastern Woodland natives didn’t produce mildly alcoholic beverages or something like that? Or are you assuming because you haven’t heard of it, it doesn’t exist?

I’ve read enough and talked to enough knowledgeable people that I think if such existed, I’d have heard about it by now. I’ve not come across any mentions in any references on Eastern Indians, modern or historic, that they had any sort of alcohol use. There aren’t native wordss for it, nor are there utensils and vessels associated with it, nor does it feature in their legends or histories.
I’ve read plenty of claims that they were unfamiliar with it, and that this contributed to their problems with it.

The accounts of the first European settlers make it evident that alcohol seems to have been a new thing to the Americans. And you have sites like this:


which, although not necessarliy objective, state the generally accepted belief

I think you’re mixing up koumiss, a Central Asian drink made from fermented horse milk, and kvass, a beer-like Russian drink made from rye bread. In any case, the native North Americans had neither livestock nor grain in large quantities, so it’s unlikely that they could have made their own version of either one.

The Native Americans had no large domesticated mammals, it’s true. But the relevance of Koumiss is that it’s made in small quantities, and IIRC it’s made in leather skins, so it argues against claims that Native Americans couldn’t have fermented beverages because they didn’t have large agricultural operations (not true, in any case, but, as this shows, irrelevant), or possible arguments that they lacked vessels to ferment it in.

'fraid not.

Regarding grapes and New England. the Norse travelers mentioned that North America was covered with wild grapevines …so much so that they called it “Vinland”. Indeed, they still grow wild on Cape Cod. I find it strange that the local indians (who were semi-nomadic farmers and fishermen) never got around to crushing the grapes and having the juice spontaneously ferment. I also think the stories about the indians going crazy (after drinking distilled spirits brought by the europeans) is probably exaggerated . Although alcohol (chiefly rum made from sugar cane0 was a common trade good in N. America.

Only in very bad ways. To expand on what Harmonius Discord wrote, ergotism does cause hallucinations, but unlike LSD, it doesn’t stop there. The vasoconstrictive effect of ergot can lead to gangrene and auto-amputation. Nothing like having your fingers die and fall off. It can also cause spontaneous abortions, seizures, and death.

It had some pharmaceutical uses - the aforementioned abortifacient effect and stopping post-natal bleeding - but these have fallen completely out of use, as we have much more effective and safe medications to do the same thing.

Ergotism has been blamed or implicated in the Salem Witch Trials, the fall of the Roman empire, and I’ve even read a theory that ergot contamination was one reason for the adamant rituals of Pesach among the Jews. Get rid of all the old grain to ensure that no one can eat contaminated rye or other cereals.

Ergotamine is still used against migraine headaches.

As far as I know, nobody developed a desire to use ergotic grain to induce anything. Such grain can cause extreme illness (read accounts of such outbreaks, like “The Day of St. Anthony’s Fire”) as well as visions. It’s extremely iffy stuff. Speculations about its association with Vampires, Werewolves, and the Salem Witch outbreaks are extremely speculative.

But alcohol was used across the Old World and parts of the New. I have little doubt that it was independently discovered several times. The North American Indians had plenty of opportunities to discover and exploit it, but didn’t. You can say the 'trend just didn’t catch on", but we’re talking about the possibilities of a huge group of people over large areas and long periods of time – it’s not like one teetotalling family deciding it just didn’t like the taste.

The cite of ergot was to demonstrate that unknown reasons for some things, have consequences that affect human culture for a long time. The randomness depending mostly on the climate is the reason I pick this. With no ergot and we may not have had the werewolf, witch, and vampire stories of today, with the executions in the past. Similar could be the reason for the reason alcohol shows up in one culture and not another. Luck of the draw on environmental conditions, or like I said before it just wasn’t trendy at the right time.

Seems a stretch to me, HD. I’m not at all convinced that ergot played a part in witches, vampires, and werewolves (read Paul Barber’s Vampires, Burial, and Death for a different take on one, and Chadwick W. Hansen’s Witcghcraft at Salem for the other. Werewolves I don’t know about – there’s a thread in GD about it now), and the conditions to create hallucinogenic ergotism are, as I say, a lot iffier without turning poisonous.

Alcohol, on the other hand, is a MUCH simpler proposition to produce, and to use. It’s hard for me to believe that siome combination of people and time wouldn’t have hit it off. And, once having made alcohol, it’s a skill not easily lost. Not to mention that whenm tyou make alcohol you also almost invariably get vinegar, which is also extremely useful (although not consciousness-raising). Vinegar was used in cooking throught Eurasia, but not in America, as far as I know.

“Not trendy at the right time”? Would you say the same about fire?

Forgive me, but I must:

Were they “raisons d’etre”?

I’ve said it before – I HATE raisins in cookies and cakes, but one day I’m going to make up a recipe for raisin-bearing cookies. The only reason they will exist is so that they can have raisins in them.
I’ll call them Raisin Deeters.