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The Celts in Friuli

von Cristiano Brandolini

Triskell Parnter mit ASD Insubria Antiqua

Friuli is certainly a point of reference for the early Middle Ages, for the history of the Lombards, from the Historia Langobardorvm written by Paolo Diacono, to Cividale, the first duchy of the kingdom.

But Friuli has a much older glorious history, linked to a people that has nothing to envy to the great Lombards: the Celts Carni.

The Carni were a people of Celtic language and culture settled mainly in the area that today bears their name, Carnia. There is evidence of their settlement in this area starting from the fourth century BC

Originally from the plains between the Rhine and Danube rivers, the Carni migrated and settled, around 400 BC, in today's Friuli, Styria, Carinthia and northwestern Slovenia, crossing the Alps at the Passo del Monte Croce Carnico, still unknown at the time. to the Romans, so much so that the historian Titus Livy, speaking precisely of the arrival of the Meat, writes "... per saltus ignotæ antea viæ transgressi ..." [Annales 39,45].

Even the historian Strabone, places the Oi Kàrnoi, or the Carni, "above and beyond the Veneti", therefore settled near the Adriatic Gulf, south of the Eastern Alps, linking the same Tergeste (Trieste), to the Carni defining it "Carnic village ":" ... Tergheste komès Karnikès. " [Geography VII-5,2].

They soon came into contact with the populations close to them, in particular with the Venetians and the Reti.

Carnia, Carniola, Carinthia and Carso, owe their name to these Celts who came from across the Alps.

There are many archaeological testimonies that tell us the history and habits of the Carni, coming from the necropolis of Misincinis, Paularo, Verzegnis, Amaro, Raveo, Lauco and Tolmezzo, also some silver coins were found in the church of S. Pietro of Carnia, on Plan da Vincule, dating back to the third century BC

Celtic hypogeum

in the photo, Celtic Hypogeum of Cividale (UD)

The Nordic Grog, Myth or Reality?
by Cristiano Brandolini

partner of Triskell with ASD Insubria Antiqua

Even today, if we go on vacation to the island of Gotland in Sweden, we might find in some pubs a drink similar to beer, called Grog.

But Grog today is also known to be a not very alcoholic beverage composed of water and rum, introduced into the Royal Navy on August 21, 1740. Sailors called the watered-down drink grog, inspired by the nickname of its inventor, Admiral Edward "Old Grog" Vernon, so called because of the grogram coat (grogrè in Italy) he wore.

But what was the real Grog, or Nordic Grog?

Originally, it was the ancient beverage of the Goths and had nothing to do with what the English sailors of the eighteenth century drank or with a modern beer.

Nordic stories tell us that Grog was not only an alcoholic beverage but was also used as a medicine. The Greeks called Grog by the name Proxima Thule, and some information also reached us from the northern European Celts, through Roman descriptions. An alcoholic beverage, probably fermented, composed of multiple ingredients.

In fact, little has been known about this beverage, regarding its composition and preparation.

Presumably, it was a very common beverage among the Goths and Winnili, as well as among the Vikings, but it probably also had admirers among the Celts who bordered the English Channel and had contacts in the North Sea.

Through the writings left by Greek and Latin historians, we now know for certain that the Celts and the Germanic and northern European peoples produced and consumed beer (Dionysius of Halicarnassus jokingly defined beer as a concoction of decomposed barley in water).

We know that the Celts and the Germanic and northern European peoples produced and consumed mead (Diodorus Siculus described this beverage as a wash of broad beans).

And finally, we know that the Cisalpine Gauls produced, consumed, and exported quality wine (Diodorus Siculus wrote that the rough peasants and mountaineers of the north drank their wine pure, without dilution - obviously anathema to any Roman or Greek), but as mentioned, we have scant and confusing descriptions of Nordic Grog. Fortunately, modern archaeology has been able to partly fill this gap.

In recent decades, there have been five archaeological investigations conducted between Denmark and Sweden, which have yielded important elements attributable to this legendary alcoholic beverage.

Nandrup and Egtved in Denmark, Kostræde on the island of Sjælland, Juellinge on the island of Lolland, and Havor on the Swedish island of Gotland.

In all cases, elements dating between 1500 and the 1st century BC were found.

The oldest is a vessel in a warrior burial, in a mound located in Nandrup, in the Jutland region, northwest Denmark, dating back to the Nordic Bronze Age (approximately 1500-1300 BC).

The interior of the vessel, from the base to half the body, was covered with a dark residue, of which two small samples were recovered and examined under the microscope.

This residue was entirely composed of lime and white clover pollen.

In Egtved in Jutland, in a remarkably well-preserved burial of a young priestess, a bucket made of birch bark was found, dating back to the Nordic Bronze Age (approximately 1500-1300 BC).

At the bottom of the container was a homogeneous residue whose analyses defined it as composed of cranberries, wheat grains, bog myrtle filaments, lime pollen, meadowsweet (Filipendula Ulmaria), and white clover.

In a treasure at Kostræde, southwest of Copenhagen, a metal container with a perforated bottom (filter) was found, dating from the Late Nordic Bronze Age (approximately 1100-500 BC).

This container also contained a residue inside.

A small fragment was sampled by removing it from one of the holes in the filter, evidently a residue from liquid filtration.

The filter contained residues of birch resin, beeswax, pine resin, azelaic acid (probably a derivative of oleic acid found in a variety of plants, but could also come from cereals like wheat, rye, and barley), juniper, bog myrtle, wine grapes, and eucalyptol, artemisia, blueberry, and rosemary.

In Juellinge, on the island of Lolland, southeastern Denmark, among the grave goods of a high-ranking woman, a large bronze situla was found, dating to around 200 BC.

In the burial, there were dining items for wine, including the situla, inside of which was a ladle.

Inside the situla, there was a relatively homogeneous residue at the bottom that was sampled and analyzed.

It contained residues of barley, bog myrtle, cranberries, juniper, yarrow, wine grapes, bog myrtle, and yeast.

At Havor on the Swedish island of Gotland, a long-handled bronze filter was found, typically used for wine, dating to the Roman period (1st century AD).

Also in this burial were dining items for wine, including the bronze filter. Inside the filter was a residue preserved inside and around the holes, which was sampled and analyzed. It contained birch resin, wine grapes, eucalyptol, and other unspecified plant products.

Archaeological studies, combined with biomolecular and archaeobotanical studies of the five sites in Denmark and Sweden, dated between around 1500 BC and the 1st century AD, provide a coherent picture of how the Nordic peoples conceived and produced their fermented beverages.

In general, they preferred to consume a hybrid beverage, "Grog," in which the various ingredients were or could have been fermented together, including locally available honey, locally produced fruit (such as cranberries and lingonberries), cereals (wheat, rye, barley), and sometimes wine imported from Southern Europe.

After all these analyses, it was concluded that Grog was an alcoholic, fermented beverage based on wine, linden and white clover honey (probably mead), bog myrtle, black and red cranberries, cereals (probably beer), birch and pine resin, juniper, eucalyptol, yarrow, Filipendula Ulmaria, rosemary, fruits.

A single fermentation, instead of separate fermentations of each beverage with subsequent blending, probably to maintain a better consistency of the beverage by adding at a certain point (during the fermentation process) locally available juniper berries, birch sap, possibly pine resin (unless it came through wine imported from Central Southern Europe) and herbs, especially bog myrtle and yarrow, added and mixed with the beverage as sweeteners or flavorings after fermentation or when the beverage was served.

The study also highlighted the existence of a wine trade from Southern Europe to the far north, dating back to 1100 BC, through specific trade routes and commercial exchanges across Europe, debunking what the Greeks and Romans asserted, defining the northern European territories as populated by rough barbarians.

Grog was gradually supplanted by wine from Southern Europe, but without entirely making it disappear.

Even today, on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, a kind of Grog is produced, an alcoholic beverage called Gotlandsdricka (the drink of Gotland).

It is a beer that, in addition to malted cereals and hops, contains juniper and honey, with a very sweet taste and an alcohol content ranging from 5 to 13% Vol.

Beer in ancient times
by Cristiano Brandolini

Triskell parntener with ASD Insubria Antiqua

In the famous movie “Robin Hood. The prince of thieves" played by Kavin Costner, Friar Tac explains to the children of Sherwood Forest that "... the corn was given to us by our Lord to make... beer!"
Most people, when they talk about beer, think of a recent product, imported into the current food economy by the Germans or in any case by northern European peoples, but this is not the case.
In fact, beer is counted among the oldest alcoholic beverages that man has produced. First of all, two words on the etymology of the name: the word beer comes from the Latin bibere (to drink), and the root of the Spanish word cerveza comes from Ceres, the Greek goddess of agriculture. In Celtic, beer was called brito or briton, hence the personal name Britomaro, perhaps linked precisely to the craft of producing beer.
The origins of beer date back to about 13,000 years ago, when man went from nomadic to sedentary and began to cultivate cereals such as wheat. The first evidence of the preparation of a drink similar to beer dates back to the Sumerians and therefore approximately 6,000 years ago as evidenced by the bas-relief representing barley and bread cooked and then moistened in water to form a pulp and finally a drink with the property to “make those who drank it feel good”. The production is refined by the Babylonians, then exported to Egypt, and the Egyptians themselves became great producers of beer, improving the technique and the taste of the product. The importance of beer in ancient Egypt was such that it prompted the scribes to coin a new hieroglyph that indicated the "master brewer".
Beer can be obtained from the fermentation of any cereal. Today barley is preferred, but in the past a bit of everything was used, from spelled to oats. Even today in Flanders a beer is produced, the Tripel Karmeliet, according to an authentic recipe from 1679 originating in the ancient Carmelite Monastery of Dendermonde, which foresaw the use of three cereals: barley, but also wheat and oats. Many fermentation trials conducted in the brewery have confirmed that this particular traditional combination of grains still remains the best.
In northern Italy, beer was well known even before the arrival of Etruscan and Roman wine. Already the Celts Insubri Golasecchiani, in the protohistoric age, produced beer and in some cases already with small doses of hops.
The oldest evidence of production in Europe is on Germanic soil and dates back to 800 BC. It consists of an amphora and the remains of a real brewery, found near Kulmbach in northeastern Bavaria. The finds relating to the beer of the Celts in northern Italy are few but significant. One above all is the one concerning the Golasecca necropolis of the mid-sixth century BC. excavated in Pombia (No) in 1995. Here a miraculously intact tomb has returned to the archaeologists, in addition to the classic equipment, a globular glass, the bottom of which preserved a reddish deposit similar to very fine sand. These were the freeze-dried remains of a fermented cereal-based drink, almost certainly red beer, made from barley and other cereals and hop inflorescences together with other aromatic herbs.
The use of hops as a usual ingredient in the production of beer was so far witnessed only starting from the writings of Hildegarde von Bingen, i.e. in the 11th century. The beer of the ancients was very different from what we are used to today, and perhaps we would not even be able to drink it. It was sour, smoky and very doughy in the mouth, completely flat, lacking foam and served at room temperature.
In the Middle Ages, production techniques made giant strides and the drink gradually began to become more and more similar to the one we drink today. From prehistory to the Middle Ages the brewing process was the prerogative of women only. Then this prerogative vanished as beer began to be produced in monasteries (Belgian and Dutch in primis) and therefore became a purely male activity.
The monks improved the taste and nutritional values of their beers reaching a per capita daily consumption, allowed by their rules, of 5 litres. The surpluses were sold outside and so beer also began to spread outside the walls of the convents. It didn't take long and the rulers, realizing the big profits that could be made on the beer trade, tried to steal the exclusive right from the monks to impose taxes. In 1516 William IV Duke of Bavaria promulgated the German Beer Purity Law, establishing that only barley, hops and pure water were used for production.
With the technological innovations brought about by industrial development in the 1800s, there was a definitive change in production: the steam engine made it possible to obtain maltings at low temperatures and therefore the birth of light pils-type beers, and artificial refrigeration, which allowed the consumption of cold beer even in summer. Subsequently work also began on the carbonation and therefore on the fizziness of the final product and on the use of yeasts, hitherto unknown, in fact the spontaneous fermentation of the must was seen as something magical, divine, essentially inexplicable. Today beers with spontaneous fermentations are still produced, but most of the beers we drink are produced with carefully selected yeasts.
Well, I think now is the time to go get a beer. And as is the custom in Brittany, we make our pints collide by exclaiming "Yec'hed mat" cheers"!

Meid. Nectar of the Gods or Magic Potion of Asterix?
by Cristiano Brandolini

Triskell parntener with ASD Insubria Antiqua


Close your eyes and your mind goes back to ancient times, imagine being in a sacred place, surrounded by oaks, where the druids are intent on officiating rites in honor of the divinities.
Feasting on delicious food washed down with huge drinks of mead poured copiously into huge drinking horns: here, it is with this scene that I want you to start this short journey through the history of this intriguing and very ancient drink called "mead".
Mead or mead, from the Greek hỳdor (water) and méli (honey), is the oldest alcoholic drink produced by man in Europe, and among the most used in the ancient world, before the spread of the vine, in the basin of the Mediterranean, introduced the use of wine.
In prehistoric times it spread widely throughout the lowlands of northern and eastern Europe, even in cold climatic zones.
Honey added to water are the basic elements of mead.
The bee, sacred animal and celestial messenger that transforms the sun into honey, and the sacredness of water as the lifeblood that flows in the veins of mother earth, make mead sacred to the Celts, as the essence of the divine in the union between sky and earth. In Indo-European mythology, mead is the typical drink of the afterlife, in the Celtic world as in the Germanic one, and is a symbol of immortality.
In Celtic Europe (IX-I century BC) it was drunk by the Druids and by the tribes in the four great sacred ceremonies which marked the rhythm of the seasons (Imbolc, Beltane, Lugnasad, Samonios).
The mead was such a common drink among the Scandinavians and in the Celtic culture as to be counted in numerous mythological stories and poems, such as for example in Norse mythology, where, even if not perfectly credible as of oral tradition, the mead is an element central.
And where does the famous “honeymoon” of the newly weds take its name from? From the Vikings and from the fact that for them it was common use during the lunar month following marriage, to drink mead to ensure that the future unborn child became strong and healthy but above all male!
There are many archaeological finds referring to this drink, in many princely tombs of Europe from the 6th-4th century BC containers with remains of mead were found as a reserve of the deceased for the Sidhe, the Celtic afterlife, as for example in the tomb of the prince of Hochdorf, in Germany in Baden-Wurttemberg (VI century BC), where among the extraordinary objects of the funerary equipment 17 drinking horns and a bronze cauldron, with a capacity of 500 litres, filled at the time of the deposition in the tomb, for three quarters of mead which left a considerable deposit on the bottom which has been preserved up to the present day. The decision to place this drink in the very rich Hallstatt princely burials is no coincidence, it demonstrates the symbolic value of immortality of mead, its refinement and preciousness.
Mead is described by the ancients as a foaming drink, we could say that it was their spirit; it is no coincidence that it has never been a "meal drink", but rather the ritual drink with which to sprinkle the sacrifices before the purifying fire or, thanks to its high alcohol content, the means to obtain the alcoholic intoxication to be able to approach the divine up to to meet him during religious rites; but it was also a component of the panacea, the drink that cured all ills of both body and spirit.
But when did man start producing mead? and by what procedure?
That mead is a much older drink than beer or wine can be hypothesized by thinking of the fact that in order to make wine primitive man had first of all to stop as a nomad and become sedentary, learn to cultivate cereals or vines and only after casually discovering that from the loaves, or from the juice of that bunch, he could obtain an intoxicating drink; for the mead, on the other hand, he didn't have to learn how to raise bees, but he was already collecting honey from wild swarms from time immemorial and he didn't have to build the terracotta container for fermentation, because he already had the primitive but functional skin of leather, the container par excellence of nomadic populations.
The production process is also very simple, in fact all beekeepers know that the simplest way to remove honey residues from squeezed combs is to immerse them in water: the honey dissolves instantly. Once this operation has been done, the mixture of water and honey begins to ferment immediately, naturally, by the yeasts present in the honey itself and is already drinkable.
Nowadays many French beekeepers enjoy selling mead as Asterix's drink. In the comic, as we all know, there is no mention of mead, but it is compared by today's beekeepers to the "magic potion". Indeed, upon reflection you can find similarities between the magic potion and the mead: both are boiled, in both flavoring substances are boiled, herbs and spices in the mead, and ironically a lot of other things in the magic potion, but above all both the magic potion and the mead with its high alcoholic content give the courage to face the enemy in battle.
Returned to us thanks to the numerous Celtic festivals and the rediscovery of Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian culture, the mead with different names and in different ways, has resumed to mark the seasonal passages of the solstices and equinoxes, even here in our country and has followed the Anglo-Saxons in America and Canada, giving rise to the largest artisanal mead competition, the "Mazer Cup", which takes place in the United States.
Today there are many countries that produce mead, we can find this drink called by different names from area to area, or simply due to the different spiciness they have.
For example, in Brittany it is called Chouchen or Mez, in England and Ireland there are several, the traditional one is called Mead, in Germanic and Scandinavian countries it is called Med or Met.
Nectar of the gods or magic potion, mead is and remains a drink that has always accompanied man on his earthly journey.

Raise your drinking horns and good toast to all!

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