Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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This Dung's For You Volume 54 Number 6, November/December 2001
by Eric A. Powell

While staying in an isolated village in the Orkney Islands this summer, archaeologist Merryn Dineley was happy to speak with a journalist about ancient cereal processing. As part of her research, Dineley brews beer using a Bronze Age recipe in pots created with materials and techniques available some 3,500 years ago. The clay pots are fired under an improvised kiln of sawdust, seaweed, and cow dung. Sensing a cute story, the journalist filed her copy with the Glasgow Herald, which ran a short item. Then the British weekly Observer picked it up and the dung hit the fan.

When Dineley emerged from her stone cottage two days later, she was shocked to find the Observer reported that her beer was brewed with animal excrement. Dineley's alleged "Dung Beer" immediately became a fixture on websites all over the world devoted to news of the bizarre. Fielding several media inquiries, Dineley tried to control the damage, but found that press interest faded when reporters learned the beer was brewed from barley, yeast and Orkney Island herbs. "You can't make beer out of dung," says Dineley, still bemused by the affair, "I thought everyone knew that."

© 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America