An international team of researchers have discovered after chemical analyses, that organics absorbed and preserved in pottery jars from the Neolithic village of Jiahu, in Henan province, Central China contained a beverage of rice, honey, and fruit made as early as 9,000 years ago.
The discovery was made by an international team of researchers including the University of Pennsylvania Museum’s archaeochemist Dr. Patrick McGovern of MASCA (Museum Applied Science Centre for Archaeology). The discovery is the first direct chemical evidence for early fermented beverages in ancient Chinese culture, broadening our understanding of the key technological and cultural roles that fermented beverages played in China.
Tests conducted on the pottery from the Neolithic village of Jiahu were of particular interest, because the pottery is some of the earliest known in China. A variety of chemical methods identified compounds including those of hawthorn fruit, wild grape, beeswax and rice.
According to Dr. McGovern, the analysis of these liquids point to their being fermented and filtered rice or millet wines – known as “jiu” or “chang” according to Shang Dynasty oracle inscriptions.
The jiu and chang wines of prehistoric China were likely made by “mould saccharification”, a process that uses a combination of mould species to break down grains into sugars, before fermenting with yeast.
As many as 100 special herbs including wormwood are used today to make qu. Some have been shown to increase yeast fermentation by as much as seven-fold.