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Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece (2200-1500 BC)


On the shores of the Mediterranean, Greeks and Latins are reputed to have kept beer in an inferior status compared to wine. Classical Greek texts mention beer (brutov or zuthos) as a fermented drink that cannot compete with wine. Beer is the beverage of the peoples surrounding the Greek world (Thracians, Egyptians, Anatolians) or that of the lower social classes, servants and slaves. It should be remembered that the cradle of democracy restricts the status of free citizen to only 20%-30% of its population. The other 70% are assigned to productive work, the most arduous or dangerous jobs. Slavery in the ancient Greek world is an essential economic component.The world of beer and the aristocratic world of wine seen by the Greek culture reflect a deep and irreducible social division.

Minoan and Mycenaean sites where traces of beer have been detected


Before this classical Greek age of the 5-4th centuries, things were different. Around 900-800 B.C., the peoples of the Levant, Greece and Anatolia were certainly islands of wine-growing, but in a global world dedicated to beer. Oriental and Greek peoples consumed beer as well as wine. The cultural image of these two drinks is not yet differentiated. King Midas and his male and female guests drink beer during their banquets. A royal tomb from the ancient kingdom of Phrygia in Gordion (740-700 BC) has yielded solid residues of funerary drinks. Diagnosis: beer, mead and wine analysed in 1997 (McGovern).

Palais de Knossos (reconstitution)


If we once more go back in time, we are surprised to note that beer dominates the Minoan and Mycenaean worlds, albeit portrayed as wine civilisations. To discover this, archaeologists have resorted to the scientific analysis of the residues found in cups, jars or pots of modest manufacture. In other words, ordinary vessels used in everyday life, not the prestigious decorated vases found in palaces and presented by museums all over the world.



These biomolecular analyses of residues concern two different periods: the Minoan culture in Crete (2700-1200 BCE) and the Mycenian culture in continental Greece (1650-1100 BCE)[1].

For the Minoan period, archaeologists have detected wine, beer and mead in Crete, often mixed in the same vessels. They have found traces of honey and the chemical markers specific to the fermentation of grains or grapes, respectively calcium oxalate and tartaric acid salts.