January 2023: Dr. John Arthur

Beer - A Global Journey Through the Past and Present
Dr. John Arthur, Ph.D., USF, St. Petersburg

Ancient and contemporary beers from the Near East, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas document the remarkable influence Indigenous beers have had in shaping the development of food production, state level societies, and is an essential food for contemporary Indigenous societies inspiring their social and economic actions. In the past and present beer was and is more than an intoxicating substance, it was and is an essential food integral to maintaining good health. Control over the technological knowledge and resources to produce beer created space for status differentiation and its use as capital motivated laborers. Beer also serves to unite people and connects the living with their ancestral past. This talk explores present and past non-industrial beers highlighting its significance in peoples’ lives through four themes: innovating new technologies, ensuring health and well-being, building economic and political statuses, and imbuing life with ritual and religious connections.

Dr. John W. Arthur is Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Dr. Arthur was awarded the USF St. Petersburg Frank E. Duckwall Florida Studies Professorship (2020-2022) and was named a fellow in the illustrious Explorers Club. Dr. Arthur is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. He has worked in Ethiopia since 1995 conducting ceramic ethnoarchaeological and Holocene archaeological research. Recently, he was part of a NSF sponsored research project that discovered a human burial dating to 4,500 years ago and led to the extraction of ancient DNA, sequencing for the first time an African ancient genome. This discovery was published in the premier journal Science (2015), with subsequent publications in the journals PNAS (2021) and Nature (2022). Dr. Arthur also has worked with the Gamo community in southern Ethiopia understanding the importance of beer in their daily and ritual lives. While investigating household ceramic assemblages in Gamo, he discovered how to interpret beer production in the ancient past, which has been documented in places such as Ethiopia, Sudan, United Kingdom, France and Mexico. Dr. Arthur has been invited to give talks in Japan, France, and Germany as well as prominent American institutions such as Rice University, Stanford University, and New York University. His new book, Beer – A Global Journey Through the Past and Present (2022) has been published by Oxford University Press. In addition to his Ethiopian research, Dr. Arthur has been excavating the shell mound at the Weeden Island site in Pinellas County, Florida. Dr. Arthur also serves as the President of the non-profit organization, Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education.