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Possible Bronze Age Drinking Straws Identified in Russia

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Russia Silver TipsST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA—Gizmodo reports that eight gold and silver tubes discovered in 1897 in a burial mound in the northern Caucasus may have been used as drinking straws, and not as scepters, as had been previously thought. The tubes were found next to one of three individuals buried in the Maikop kurgan some 5,000 years ago. When archaeologist Viktor Trifonov of the Russian Academy of Sciences and his colleagues recently examined the interior of the objects, they detected traces of barley starch granules, fossilized bits of other plants, and lime tree pollen. The residues, Trifonov explained, indicate the tubes could have been used to consume a beverage, perhaps a fermented barley beer flavored with herbs and lime flowers. Metal strainers in the tips of the straws could have filtered out impurities in the liquid, he added. A large vessel recovered from the kurgan would have held about seven pints—enough for eight drinkers to sip as a communal activity. Artwork dated to the fourth and fifth millennia B.C. depicting such communal use of straws has been found in Iraq and western Iran. “Such practices must have been important and popular enough to spread between the two regions,” Trifonov said. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Antiquity. To read about excavations of another kurgan in southern Russia, go to "Rites of the Scythians."

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