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Study Suggests Malting Makes Lasting Changes to Grain Cells

Monday, May 11, 2020

Beer Brewing MaltVIENNA, AUSTRIA—A new study suggests the process of malting creates lasting changes to grain cell structure that could help archaeologists identify microscopic evidence of beer consumption in the archaeological record, according to a Science News report. Archaeobotanist Andreas Heiss of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and his colleagues compared the cell structure of modern malted barley that had been baked in a furnace with the cell structures found in residues recovered from containers unearthed at two ancient Egyptian brewery sites. The researchers found that the outer cell walls of the grains had thinned in a similar way in both the ancient and modern samples. The team members then examined residues obtained from 5,000- to 6,000-year-old containers from sites in Germany and Switzerland where beer-brewing tools were not found. The condition of the cells in these residues suggest the grain had been malted. The residue at one of the German sites probably came from a dried liquid, which may have been beer, while the other malted foods may have been bread or porridge. To read about a Bronze Age kiln unearthed in Cyprus that seems to have been used to dry malt for beer brewing, go to "A Prehistoric Cocktail Party."

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