Bronze Age Scandinavians imported wine

24th January, 2014 by Rupert Millar

Archaeological evidence has emerged which appears to show that Bronze Age Scandinavians imported wine to mix with other drinks.

Nordic_Bronze_AgeAccording to the Danish Journal of Archaeology, a US team from the University of Philadelphia found biomolecular and archaeobotanical evidence that wine was used in “Nordic grog” between 1100BC and the 1st century AD at three sites in Denmark and one in Sweden.

The team were investigating the ingredients used in this grog as although it was known to be a popular alcoholic drink no one was sure what was in it.

As the report explained: “If classical writers were to be believed, binge drinking was the rule here (in Northern Europe) by the late Iron Age.

“For example, according to Varro in his Chronology, the Gauls (a general Latin term for the Celtic people living in Europe at the time) were repulsed from the gates of Rome by a surprise attack when they lay in a drunken stupor after torching the city ca. 390 BC.”

It now appears to have been quite a cocktail of ingredients and it would appear that bronze age Danes and Swedes were well ahead of the trend for wine cocktails by a few thousand years.

The journal explained that the Nordic peoples seemed to prefer a “hybrid” beverage or ‘grog,’ and that they would ferment many ingredients together ranging from honey to fruit and various cereal crops.

The evidence for wine was found in three of the Danish sites at Kostræde, Juellinge and Lolland and the Swedish site at Havor on the island of Gotland.

Bronze cups and strainers dating back to 1100 BC were uncovered and trace examination found evidence of tartrates which indicated the presence of wine at one time.

There was also pine resin residue in the containers which tallies with knowledge that it was used as a preservative and increases the likelihood that the wine was imported.

At the time wine production was centred around the Mediterranean and it is thought that the tribes would have traded goods such as amber for it.

A fourth site in Denmark at Nandrup was older, dating back to 1500 BC but while traces of grog were found there (probably a type of mead), there were no traces of wine so its importation can only be dated to 1100 BC onwards for now.

As the journal concluded though, the presence of wine indicates several things which helps build a greater understanding of bronze age Europe.

To begin with it shows there were established trade routes spanning the continent and at the very least there were merchants bringing wine from the south further north.

Secondly, the fact that these Nordic peoples were keen to import wine and use it in their drinks and rituals shows it was, “of considerable cultural significance. It demonstrates the social and ceremonial prestige attached to wine.”

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