Humans and Alcohol: The Archaeology of a Deeply Entangled Relationship
Attitudes about alcohol exhibit a striking degree of ambivalence. On one hand, drinking alcohol is a broadly accepted and very popular activity around the world. Indeed, alcohol is by far the most widely and abundantly consumed psychoactive agent. Current estimates place the number of active consumers at over 2.4 billion people worldwide (or roughly a third of the earth’s population). Yet, alcohol has also sometimes acquired a bad reputation as a dangerous substance and caused several mass panics. Some governments and religions have even tried to ban it altogether. Archaeological evidence shows that the human relationship with alcohol is by no means recent: the practice of drinking has a very deep antiquity on multiple continents and the biological adaptation that enables humans and a few close primates to metabolize alcohol goes back at least 10 to 12 million years. This lecture presents an anthropological framework for understanding the social and cultural significance of alcohol and examines the archaeological evidence for drinking in the past, with particular attention to the nature and consequences of the wine trade in the ancient Mediterranean.
March 10 at 6:00 pm
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