Biotechnology/Talk

< Biotechnology

HomePage | Recent changes | View source | Discuss this page | Page history | Log in |

Printable version | Disclaimers | Privacy policy

When was brewing of alcohol invented? How did archiologists decide bread was made 5000 years ago? From fossilized bread?


I don't know about the "first brewing", but as alcohol occurs naturally (just leave some fruits in the open on a warm day; monkeys do that and get drunk), I'm not sure it would apply anyway.

The bread was probably detected by residues on some tools, and on bad teeth in fossilized skulls... I'm not sure, but somewhere I have a (German) book titled "5000 years of bread", and they probably didn't write it without some evidence. I'll look it up and remove it if it's wrong. --Magnus Manske


The reason I posted the original question was that I believe early civilization had better chance to discover alcohol making earlier than making bread. Mainly because things turn to alcohol naturally as you have pointed out, even the monkey got drunk. But making bread seemed to me required some deliberate efforts. Hence I doubt that bread making was the first application of Biotechnology when brewing seems to be a likely candidate. For one thing, bread making could not predate cooking, however, making alcohol could easily done eons before the using of fire.


I'm sure making alcohol predates bread, I'm just not sure it is the first example of "biotechnology". As you said, there is (almost) no "deliberate effort" if making alcohol by just standing there and waiting for it to happen. It seems to me it's the same as waiting for fruits to grow instead of just eating the tree. Of course, I could be wrong;) --Magnus Manske

I disagree on this point. Discovering alcohol in spoiled fruit is accidental, but collecting fruits and place them in containers and wait for them to turn into alcohol is considered brewing and in fact a deliverate effort. And of course other technologies in brewry such as distillation came much later. Planting the trees for fruits is called agriculture, it is an application of knowledge, though not nessarily technology. Along the same argument, making bread is not technology either. So you either rule out both alcohol and bread or you put alcohol first. In either case, saying bread is the first example is inappropriate.

The current definition excludes much of what we call the biotechnology industry. The gene chip, for example, is not a directed use of organisms by humans for production, but the use of technology to study DNA; however, gene chips and companies like Affymetrix that make them are considered part of biotechnology. Radioactive tracers places in the bloodstream is biotechnology. Raising chickens is a directed use of organisms by humans for production, but not what I would call biotechnology. I'd offer a better definition, but I'm not sure I can come up with a satisfactory one. How about "technology informed by modern biology, especially when used in agriculture and medicine", followed by a list of examples? - Tim