9th Experimental Archaeology Conference poster – Bartholomew

Bronze Age Alcohol Distillation 

John Bartholomew

Independent Researcher

Experimental copies of two artefacts from the Bronze Age have been shown to work as alcohol stills. Both can produce a spirit of around 35% proof from a 12% alcohol fermentation. My aim is to promote the re-examination and possible reinterpretation of objects in existing collections.

The first reported by Jozef Batora is dated to 1400BC. It consists of a ceramic bowl, 250mm in diameter, with a semi hemispherical lid, 220mm in diameter, which sits in a groove on the bowl. Vapour from the heated fermentation condenses on the inside of the lid (the condenser) and flows down into the groove on the bowl where it can drip out of a small spout built to one side. This liquid is then collected by a suitably placed receptacle. Batora suggest the possibility of this apparatus having been used to distil for aromatics or tastes. Lavender oil production is a possibility.

The second artefact is Hittite, dated to around 1800 BC. It is more complex being in appearance a lidless ‘teapot’ with a spout and handle and a further inverted spout protruding into it from underneath. Vapours pass up this spout and condense and collect in the ‘teapot’ from where the distillate can be poured out. The Bogazkoy Museum describes this as a ‘ritual’ object not a still!

Could alcohol distillation have been fairly widespread in the Bronze Age?



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