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 The value of researching Danish intoxication

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Nobiles Barbariæ

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Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: The value of researching Danish intoxication   Mon 19 May 2014, 09:20

Some recent finds in Denmark (Nielsen will be chuffed with this) have thrown new light on the ancient relationship between Nordic people and the rest of Europe in pre-Viking times, and indeed on Nordic drunkenness through the ages. In fact one of the finds in Kostræde, a small town south west of Copenhagen, is of huge importance indeed. The pit hoard (dated to between 1100 and 500 BCE) contained amongst other things a bronze strainer (the oldest such artefact yet discovered in the region), the perforations of which when chemically analysed revealed residue of wine made from grapes.

The importance of this find resides in the fact that this pre-Iron Age community, based on this evidence, was presumably trading with southern lands, grapes not being cultivable in Danish climes at the time. Further finds from later dates have corroborated this presumption and indeed the likely origin of the wine, southern France.

However this evidence of wine consumption is by no means an indication of when Nordic people developed a taste for the hard stuff. Older finds, and again Denmark leads the field with a burial of a warrior prince found in Nandrup which has been dated to around 1300 BCE, reveal a much older relationship with the crapulent arts. A jar unearthed with the warrior held the residue of a distinctive Nordic grog, one remarkably similar in composition to a potent alcohol still enjoyed in Gotland, southern Sweden, made from barley, honey, juniper, and other herbs. Similar finds have been found in many graves covering a 150 mile radius of Nandrup.

While some Danish archaeologists are reticent in drawing too firm conclusions from this research the momentum is definitely favouring those who propose that we seriously re-evaluate our earlier assessment of both the sophistication of this society and the extent of its integration with the rest of Europe. Ancient Roman and Greek texts, which had always hinted at a once vibrant economic interchange with the people of "Thule Proxima", are being re-examined in the light of these finds. Perhaps most sensationally there are increasingly conclusions being drawn regarding the actual effect of Roman expansion in the late Iron Age. Rather than "pacifying" and "civilising" Europe there is growing evidence suggesting that the Romans actually inadvertently disrupted and ultimately destroyed a complex and sophisticated network of nations, leaving us today with an image of these people as barbarians which frankly fits the archaeological evidence less and less with each new find. Terry Jones would be delighted.

And if the Danes and Swedes hadn't so revered the hootch that they buried it we might never have been the wiser. I for one will raise my glass to them!

Roman wine drinking paraphernalia unearthed in Gotland, Sweden from the first century CE, demonstrating what we now reckon was a healthy continuation of a long-standing trade rather than evidence of a Roman introduction of wine as once was believed.
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