Chinese archaeologists have discovered 8,000-year-old alcohol remains in central China’s Henan Province, a Chinese news agency reported. Researchers told the news agency they found 8,000-year-old clay pots, which they believed to be the first evidence of Chinese use of a specific type of mold monascus for make alcohol. Monascus is a purplish-red colored mold that is used in the production of certain fermented foods in China and Japan. These foods include rice wine, red yeast rice, and kaoliang brandy. Monascus purpureus is also used as a coloring for roast duck, a recipe from the still well-known imperial region.
Archaeologists discovered the jars at the Peiligang Cultural Site. The clay pots contained a large amount of monascus – a type of fungus – with its branching, spore-bearing structures, Li Yongqiang, an assistant researcher at the Institute of Archeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Xinhua.
The history of alcohol in China dates back approximately 9,000 years. Pottery unearthed at ancient sites has been found with dried residue from brewing beer made from rice, grapes, honey and hawthorn. Alcohol production in ancient China is believed to follow a process similar to those found in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. However, legends and myths in China associate the invention of alcohol with the wine god Yidi who brewed alcohol and introduced it to Emperor Yu the Great in 2100 BC.
Peiligang Cultural Site, where the pots with monascus were discovered, is an ancient site in north-central Henan that dates back about 8,000 years to the Chinese Neolithic period. Using tools ranging from stone sickles to bone scrapers, the Peiligang culture is considered one of the oldest Chinese cultures that made pottery. Archaeologists named the culture after the place – Peiligang village in Xinzheng County – where the first of the ancient sites was discovered in 1977. According to archaeologists, the Peiligang culture had little political organization and society was egalitarian.
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