New biomolecular archaeological evidence for Nordic “grog,” expansion of wine trade, discovered in ancient Scandinavia

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Posted January 17, 2014
Penn Museum team finds evidence for 3,000+-year-old 'Nordic grog' tradition
Winters in Scandinavia were long and cold in the Bronze and Iron Ages, then as now—but a blazing fire was not the only thing to keep people warm. From northwest Denmark, circa 1500–1300 BC, to the Swedish island of Gotland as late as the first century AD, Nordic peoples were imbibing an alcoholic “grog” or extreme hybrid beverage rich in local ingredients, including honey, bog cranberry, lingonberry, bog myrtle, yarrow, juniper, birch tree resin, and cereals including wheat, barley and/or rye—and sometimes, grape wine imported from southern or central Europe.

Such is the conclusion based on new archaeochemical evidence derived from samples inside pottery and bronze drinking vessels and strainers from four sites in Demark and Sweden, combined with previous archaeobotanical data. The research (“A biomolecular archaeological approach to ‘Nordic grog'”) was recently published online in the Danish Journal of Archaeology (Dec. 23, 2013). Patrick E. McGovern, Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and author of Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer and Other Alcoholic Beverages (University of California Press, 2009) is the lead author on the paper, which was researched and written in collaboration with colleagues Gretchen R. Hall (University of Pennsylvania Museum) and Armen Mirzoian (Scientific Services Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau [TTB], US Treasury), with key samples and archaeological evidence provided by Scandinavian colleagues.

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