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Romans were potty for mead.

Byline: TONY HENDERSON Reporter @Hendrover

NEW research has revealed how life was made a little sweeter for the Roman troops patrolling Hadrian's Wall.

Examination of the pottery collections at English Heritage's Corbridge Roman Town and Housesteads fort in Northumberland has shown that as well as beer and wine, mead was also made and drunk.

Mead is created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits or spices, and is thought to be the world's oldest alcoholic drink.

In an age without refined sugar, the natural sweetness of honey would have been a welcome change of tipple from beer and - if it could be afforded - imported wine.

Cameron Moffett, English Heritage collections curator who carried out the research, said: "English Heritage's collections from Wroxeter Roman Town in Shropshire and Hadrian's Wall shows that mead was being made in the Roman period in Britain. Once wine started being imported honey was also used to make mulsum, a popular sweetened wine drink.

"There's evidence of mead being consumed thousands of years ago and it was the power drink of ancient Europe before wine-making had developed."

And Dr Frances McIntosh, English Heritage curator of Hadrian's Wall and the North East, said that jars for storage of honey and of mead and mulsum, plus specific lids which would have been sealed in place with wax, have been identified in the Corbridge and Housestead collections.

"Cameron's research identified 15 stoppers used to seal the jars used to make mead and mulsum, and 21 bungs used to seal the flagons and jars for temporary transport of the liquids," she said.

"It was probably also the case at Roman bases on the Wall such as Chesters and Birdoswald. While wine had to be imported, the advantage of mead was all the ingredients were to hand."

Today, with a revival of interest in craft ales and drinks like gin, mead is also making a comeback.

It was also the drink of choice for Vikings, and was given to newlyweds on what became known as their honeymoon.

Cameron said: "We've also found evidence of mead being produced and stored at Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, in the 5th and 6th centuries AD for use in great feasting events.

"It's wonderful that this very old drink is now being discovered by a new generation." English Heritage says it is selling a bottle of mead every 10 minutes and is the UK's largest retailer of the drink.

It will be offering free samples at its sites this winter, including at the Enchanted Belsay events of light trails on December 6 to 9 and 13 to 16.

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Early mead drinking pots at Corbridge Roman site

English heritage curator Frances McIntosh with early mead drinking pots

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 30, 2018
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