The First Golden Straw

golden straw

The Maykop (Maikop; Majkop) culture was an Early Bronze Age culture in the region of southern Russia and the north-western Caucasus between 4000 – 3200 BC. The eponymous site is the town of Maykop, Russia, where a large kurgan (mound) was excavated in late 19th century.

In 1897, archaeologists discovered a set of eight roughly 5,500-year-old “sceptres”  in a large kurgan with three compartments. Each chamber of the kurgan held the remains and grave goods of an individual from the Maykop culture (dating 3700 – 2900 BC). The “sceptres” themselves are about three foot long (1 meter) golden and silver tubes of which some are decorated with tiny bull figurines. 

In 2020 scientists re-interpreted the sceptres from the Maykop kurgan. They argued that the objects’ purpose was likely for drinking, and emphasized the taste for Sumerian luxury and commensality in the Caucasus in the fourth millennium BC to underline their arguments.  They believe that the “sceptres” were used to drink beer from a communal vessel. Communal beer drinking was a common paractice during feasts in the third and second millennia BC in the ancient Near East. The long tubes had elaborate tips, so to speak integral filters for removing impurities while drinking. 

These “sceptres” represent the earliest known evidence of drinking straws in the world, and they were used for sipping beer.


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