At last, we had come to the phase of the class where we explore one of the most important aspects of human civilization: brewing beer. I say that without any humor. Something that we had learned was that the discovery of fermentation was an indication for the beginnings of many civilizations. This powerful biproduct of yeast and sugar made it possible to store water longer, it provided necessary calories, and produced a nice sensation on top of all that. It was probably the most important discovery in the ancient world, aside from basic needs like foor, tools, and shelter.

It was really fascinating to see what went into the brewing process itself. We Boiled water and mixed in wheat and hops to extract sugar, then added malt extract and yeast so that it could ingest the sugars and create alcohol. We let it do its thing, and a few weeks later got to see a near final product. We siphoned the beer into a small keg, and poured some into pottery that we had made before. The beer at this time was flat, but a small taste and one could see it was quite delicious. We began a process of carbonation for the beer, and would have to wait another week for the final product. Meanwhile, we also experimented with a more simple process of fermentation. Like ancient Asian cultures, we mixed rice and balls filled with koji mold and yeast to try and make a sake-like drink.

During our final meeting, we got to finally see the fruits of our labor. The rice concoction was not quite like sake, but it was drinkable, contained a bit of alcohol, and tasted quite alright. As a final celebration, we got to try the beer that we had brewed, and it was fantastic. Cheers, it’s been a great ride.

-Justin Jiang

Our experience in the second phase of the Human Survival course culminated in the challenge to prepare a neolithic meal. Two tribes set out to best the other by any means possible. Grinding grain was a very tedious and slow process. Cutting the meat got to be really messy, especially since we had to use very small glass knives to to it. Smashing the squash was actually a really easy job for me though, since I had managed to find a large, heavy stone with a sort of edge to it that made it really easy to just smash away the squash. What turned out to be the more interesting part of the process was the stealing involved. Both teams became really competitive and crafty in this regard, and it was certainly a lot of fun.
It was an interesting experience in beginning to understand (to a certain degree) what older civilizations had to do just to survive. While we were preparing food and stealing for the fun of competition, ancients had to do what we did every single day, just to make it to the next. It’s been a very eye-opening experience.

-Justin Jiang

In this section in our class, we were able to make use of many materials we made in our previous class when we made the mold for oil lamps and pots for brewing beer. While I’m sure most people are going to discuss the process of making beer, i’m going to focus on the other activities we did.

One of my favorite activities was experimenting with the oil lamps we made. We figured out that in order for the lamps to burn properly, you must add a specific amount of oil. The more oil the better, since we had to insert braided string and soak it thoroughly in order for it to work. Some people had trouble, since they did not put enough oil in their lamp and their fire burned through the string extremely fast. The goal is to get the fire to linger to optimize its usage as a lamp, like they did back then before electricity. I could not imagine living without light bulbs and instead having to rely on such lamps for light.

Another activity that was more artistic, was making our own paint from rocks and painting designs onto the wall (“ancient graffiti”). For this, we needed to hammer or grind down pieces of rock into powder. It turned out either a yellow/brown or dark red. Next, we experimented to see which method worked best: mixing the powder with egg whites or simply using oil. I found that using oil was more effective for me, since my color turned out quite nicely. The person next to me was using egg whites and struggled to find a good consistency to use to paint. Some people even painted with their hands to mimic what people did back when painted art on the walls of caves.

 

Rachel Latterich

     Recently in class, we learned to make one of the more important things mankind has invented since slice  sliced bread, brewing of beer. On a more serious note, beer was important to ancient civilizations because it could be stored for longer periods of time without going bad in comparison to water so some cultures would frequently drink beer in place of water.  Beer also would have been used during celebrations or feasts as a treat of sorts.  Other ancient cultures allocated their source of beer based on the age of the recipient. For instance, an old man could have 6 beers while a young boy would be given only half a cup full.

                The process of actually brewing the beer involves a decent period of time and some patience. The ingredients involved are the hops, grain, yeast, and water. The first step was to boil the water and  create a grain tea type concoction that is used to extract the sugar from the wheat. After malt extract is added, the yeast is added in and we then pour all this into a large container. The idea in the fermentation process is the yeast eats the sugar and the end product is the alcohol. This is the part of the process that takes a good portion of time hence the patience aspect of brewing as of now we mixed carbon dioxide into the beer in a more modern method so we will be testing our beer this coming week in class.

                 The interesting part about the ancient civilizations discovering this fermentation process is how it could have been discovered. There would have been some water with just the right amount of sugars left out for a time then somebody had to be the one to, accidently or purposefully, try the strange new creation. It amazes me sometimes the things that we take for granted today that had to be discovered somehow thousands of years ago. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but if it led to beer I am not opposed to a little inquisitiveness.

Eddie Krukowski

Last week’s class was thoroughly enjoyable. For one, we started to make beer.

First, we filled an empty water tank to a few gallons strong, then added some sort of soap formula into it. Then we shook it a bit and created a cleaning formula to ensure that the beer was not contaminated during the fermenting process. Then we had an empty water tank and filled it up with water soaked with hops and wheat and whatnot. Some of us tasted it, and it was sweet with a bitterness later down your throat. Beer should taste the same minus the sweetness, as the sugar should be chemically turned into alcoholic content by the end of the process. We then sealed the tank and put it into an area with ice. Now we just have to wait for a couple of weeks to see the final result. Beer is such a common commodity, but how many people that drink it regularly have ever made their own beer? I can imagine ancient humans stumbling across the fermenting process, tasting alcohol for the first time, and hailing it as the greatest invention ever. Thus also were the first drunkards created.

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Then we had fun with our oil lamps we made weeks ago by putting them into its first practical test. We added oil into it, tore the nylon out of a string, and put a string through the oil lamp. The theory is that the string would suck the oil, and when it burns it would consume the oil instead of the string. With a few exceptions, that was how it turned out. In a dark room full with ancient oil lamps that illuminated millenniums of human life, the scene was oddly beautiful. We take many things for created and live in a world where everything is created to maximize convenience, but something the world has only gotten more complicated instead of being simplified.

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Albert Ho

In the last couple of weeks, some of the things we’ve learned are: blacksmithing, how to make cheese,and flint knapping, I actually enjoyed blacksmithing, with fire and sticks of iron as raw material. I actually expected the forging to take place within a small hovel or stone igloo of sorts, which is usually how t.v has depicted it fro what I’ve seen. It was interesting to know people added their own details by adding twists and/or engrave, especially the the loop at the end of something like a spoon or fork, which they would use to   tie something through it and have hang from their neck or somewhere it wouldn’t get lost. Flint knapping was probably a little more dangerous than forging because of the specks or chunks of rock that broke off as people created their tools for hunting or cutting. I actually tried to create an arrowhead but it’s so difficult to get the details just right, like the curved bottom and the narrowing tip and having the sides narrow and sharp because I didn’t know how and where to hit it to do so. It was fairly simple and easy to create tool by scraping one stone into the other if you didn’t mind creating a rugged tool, but something more defined was difficult. The more recent activity was brewing, which I didn’t think was simple, but actually it was, so long as you knew what to do. There things like hops, grain, water, malt, and keeping everything clean and untainted. Interesting fact, I did not realize that beer was all about the sugars and that the carbonation came from cooling it down and keeping it cool. The best part about it all is that most of the activities could be done at  home (with the exception of blacksmithing) and people could “gather” the materials (buying grain, milk, or go looking for two stones to flint) and make things out of scratch. Only difference between now and a couple of years ago, people don’t have to make or grow the “scratch” materials so it is a such quicker process than before.

 

-Jerardo Perez

Over the past five weeks, we have covered a wide array of survival techniques.  Overall, I found that creating different types of foods from simple ingredients to be the most astounding.  It is amazing to think how today, we just go to the grocery store and are able to choose from thirty different cheeses while back in the olden times, it would take a huge amount of effort, skill, and labor to produced one lump of mozzarella (which would only cost us about $2 today).  It makes me wonder how they even discovered the recipe to make milk into cheese, a completely different food product.

Another amazing human survival technique that we have learned about is blacksmithing.  The amount of equipment necessary to create such simple, small tools such as spoons and forks is ridiculous!  The process is so tedious and tasking.  It makes me so thankful to be able to have at least 20 different forks available at my home without ever having to use a fire and steel to manufacture them myself.

Every single class makes me so appreciative of the people who came before me that were able to develop the technology available today to make life so much easier.  Now, human civilization doesn’t need to spend days on end creating menial tools use everyday; we have the privilege of using our time to do something more profound with our lives. If the technology was never developed to make simple tasks such as preparing food or making metal pieces more readily available, the world we live in today would still be undeveloped and primitive.

 

-Elizabeth Lee