The Future Is Here
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Iron Age Europe was all about beer drinking and "competitive feasting"

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

It turns out Europe 2,600 years ago was pretty much exactly like one big college frat, with social elites vying for power and influence by throwing the most kickass parties - complete with lots of free beer.

That's one of the findings of a ten-year study of German Iron Age sites led by archaeologist Bettina Arnold of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Though these pre-Roman peoples left no written records behind to tell us their history, everything we excavated shows that these ancient Europeans were all about the drinking. Arnold and her team have found all sorts of drinking vessels in the graves around Iron Age hillforts, suggesting people's favorite mugs were so important in life that they wanted to stay together in death.


As a general rule, the more powerful you were, the bigger the drinking vessel was that you got buried with. These vessels included a gigantic, fully intact cauldron that would have been used to serve lots of alcohol at once. The excavations show that these Iron Age people imported some grape wine from the Mediterranean, but they also mixed honey-based mead. They made an ale that, because it lacked hops, would have to be drank almost immediately after it was prepared, strengthening the notion that heavy drinking was a communal activity spearheaded by the social elites.

On a non-beer-related note, Arnold and her team have been able to confirm the Roman and Greek accounts of these peoples that they wore colorful clothing and flashy belts. While most such clothing would perish after so many centuries, Arnold was able to get unprecedented detail on these garments simply by not digging them up. Instead, she removed entire blocks of Earth and analyzed these with a CT scanner. This approach kept the clothes pristine and allowed them to reconstruct pieces of metal and fabric that once combined together to make these people's best drinking attire. You can see more on that process in the video up top.


Via the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.