This week, archeologists from the Russian Academy of Science determined that ancient peoples around Maikop, Russia — near the border with Georgia — may have drunk beer with long tubes, resembling straws, around 5,500 years ago.
The tubes were excavated in 1897 from a burial mound in the area, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Eight gold and silver tubes were found, measuring more than three feet long and just half an inch in diameter. Some feature small bull figurines at the end. For years, researchers had different theories about their purposes, thinking that they may have been scepters or tentpoles.
The new study, published Jan. 17 by Cambridge University’s Antiquity journal, claims that these tubes may be the oldest drinking straws in the world. “If correct, these objects represent the earliest material evidence of drinking through long tubes — a practice that became common during feasts in the third and second millennia BC in the ancient near east,” the study says.
The study deduced that the tubes were used for drinking because they had found small amounts of barley starch granules and pollen grains in the inner lining, evidence of ancient beer. Lead study author Vitor Trifonov also assumes the ornamental bulls — which slide easily up and down the tubes — were used to prop the straws on the side of a pot as the user drank.
According to CNN, a large beer vessel from the same period that was found near the straws would have allowed around eight individuals to consume up to seven pints of beer in a sitting.
“Before having done this study, I would never have believed that in the most famous elite burial of the Early Bronze Age Caucasus, the main item would be neither weapons nor jewelry, but a set of precious beer-drinking straws,” said Trifonov.