The Custom of the Land

From Gilgamesh Tablet II:30-41:
They set bread before him,
They set beer before him.
He looked uncertainly, then stared,
Enkidu did not know to eat bread,
Nor had he ever learned to dronk beer!
The Harlot made ready to speak, saying to Enkidu:
          “Eat the food, Enkidu, the staff of life.
          Drink the beer, the custom of the land.”
Enkidu ate the food until he was sated;
He drank seven jugs of beer.
His mood became relaxed and his features glowed.
          (Foster’s translation, The Epic of Gilgamesh, 14)
I suppose seven jugs of beer will do that to the uninitiated.
This is by way of an introduction to a nice article about “beer archaeologist” Patrick McGovern on the Smithsonian website. The article doesn’t really deal with the place of beer in Mesopotamian society but I always think the account of the enculturation of Enkidu fun.
It turns out that you can drink the results of some of McGovern’s academic efforts at Dogfish Head in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Apparently the brewers at Dogfish Head use gas rather than dug as to boil their brew. That just doesn’t seem right. But McGovern isn’t just a beer archaeologist; he’s a wine archaeologist too.
I’m not much into beer. I tend to drink it with Sushi and, very occasionally, some with comfort foods at a micro-brewery. I do have a couple of ounces, less than half a glass, of wine every evening and occasionally a real glass of wine at dinner for some special occasion. But for much of the ancient world, beer was one of the very symbols of civilized life.

One thought on “The Custom of the Land”

  1. McGovern’s work is pretty interesting—I’ve read his two most recent books, as well as a few miscellaneous articles. Oh, and Dogfish’s Midas Touch is mighty tasty.

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