Abstract: A Brewery in Roman Gaul


In 1983 a carved image of a workshop showing details of a busy scene with figures laboring over a variety of pots and other vessels was discovered in the excavations at the Gallo-Roman site of Grand, in northeastern France.  Lisa Kahn, a long time member of the archaeological team, was present and struck by the fact that although there was clearly a specific activity depicted, time had obscured its meaning.  Over the next several years she unraveled the mystery of this image.  The result is the identification of a brewery.  This carving and the remains of two others from the same site provide a unique glimpse into brewing in ancient Europe.  Unlike the sculptural figures and paintings of ancient Egypt, or the pictures of beer drinking in Mesopotamian art, there were no known depictions for this early beverage in ancient Europe.  These carvings, along with a few statements from ancient writers, however, now tell of an important and well-loved beverage.  In spite of the Roman prejudice against beer, the ancient peoples of Gaul clearly indulged.  This lecture explores the details of the carvings and reveals the brewing process as practiced in Gaul.  It also explains the social significance and the use of beer in religious practices in this region. 

Lisa Kahn, has replicated the ancient brewing process and produced tasty beers by similar means.  She has taught this ancient technology in college courses and has published on this subject.  She also designed an ancient brewery for the visitors’ center for a modern brewery in Israel.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Lisa C. Kahn “Beer and Brewing” in The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, ed. B. Fagan (Oxford, New York, 1996)

Max Nelson, The Barbarian’s Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe, (Routledge, New York and London, 2005)

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