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India: The Ancient Home of Distillation?

F. R. Allchin
Man
New Series, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Mar., 1979), pp. 55-63
DOI: 10.2307/2801640
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2801640
Page Count: 9
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India: The Ancient Home of Distillation?
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Abstract

It is generally believed that the art of distillation was known to the Greeks of Alexandria before the opening of the Christian era, and later used by the Arabs for obtaining essential oils; but that the distillation of alcohol only developed in western Europe from the twelfth century A.D. In this article the author refers to the identification of certain pots as parts of stills. The pots are found in archaeological excavations in northwest Pakistan, and together with the contexts in which they occur, lead to the conclusion that the distillation of alcohol was common in that region between c. 150 B.C. and c. A.D. 350. This type of still resembles one of the two main types surviving in popular use throughout south Asia into this century. A fresh look at references to alcoholic drinks in Indian literature suggests that certain terms, hitherto not clearly understood, may refer to distillation, permitting us, in India and Pakistan, to take its history back to c. 500 B.C.

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