December 24, 2011


I'm often "watching" TV while working on other things.  Probably not the most productive habit, but it's how I roll.  One has to be careful when doing this because if the program you are watching is too boring then it is just another batch of white noise, too interesting and whatever project you work on suffers.

This morning I'm completely lost in the program.

Can you blame me?  It's about beer.

The Discovery Channel put together a fascinating documentary entitled "How Beer Saved the World".  I recall how last year, maybe the year before, they discovered that beer had been brewed much earlier than previously thought.  The agricultural revolution was thought to grow up around the production of barley for producing bread, but this new discovery means that beer predates bread by a couple millennia.

So let me get this straight, Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, is thought to have been formed around the production of beer?  OK, I can get behind that.

Then I'm hit with the notion/fact that our oldest form of writing, cuneiform,  may have been invented predominately as a way to keep track of beer.  Inventory, production, recipes, ect.  The show points out that the symbol for beer is "everywhere" in the archaeological record.  Evidently there were over 160 words related to beer in cuneiform.

I'm sure it is, but I don't think that the frequency of a symbol in writing means that it is the inspirational source for its creation.  Beer was probably an important resource for the Sumerians and tracked just like any other resource.

As I've said, this is a fascinating show, but I think they went a little too far in attributing beer as the source for civilization, writing, and medicine.  There is a difference between convergent technologies and causality.  Of course new advances were taken advantage of by beer and beer was used in new technologies.  It's called synergy.

Still, and good watch.  Is it beer-thirty yet?

No comments: