Date of Award

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Bettina Arnold

Committee Members

Robert J Sherman, Derek B Counts, Jennifer A Jordan, Jean L Hudson


beer, experimental archaeology, Hallstatt, Iron Age, mead, wine


Alcohol is the world’s most widely used intoxicant. As a form of embodied material culture, alcoholic beverages serve potent ritual and political functions. This dissertation examines specific types of alcohol in early Iron Age west central Europe (c. 800-400 BC), evaluating the evidence for production, distribution, and consumption of these beverages. During the Iron Age, the power of elites was linked to their political manipulation of feasts at which alcohol was a key resource, whether in the form of beer, mead, or other forms of locally produced beverages, or in the form of foreign imported wine. Each type of alcohol was obtained through different social networks and created an interconnected web of social obligations that is key to understanding these societies. This dissertation uses experimental archaeology to investigate the shelf-life of prehistoric beer as a means of determining its relative availability and value as a feasting resource. The place of beer is then compared to mead, wine, and other alcoholic drinks in a larger global context in order to generate a model of Iron Age feasting that considers the complex relationships between different alcohol types and the social networks involved in their acquisition and use. Archaeological, textual (both ancient and medieval, etic and emic), linguistic, and iconographic sources of evidence are assessed and compared. Finally, the impact of foreign imported wine on local social structure is reconsidered in light of the experimental evidence and a new model of Iron Age commensality is proposed.

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