We may have beer to thank for, well, all of civilization. For years, archaeologists have suspected that when Stone Age people domesticated cereals—which eventually led to farming and settling—they were actually turning the grains into beer more often than food. One researcher tells LiveScience the evidence is getting stronger. It took hours of hard work to make grains edible, yet sites in Syria suggest that Stone Age people went as much as 40-60 miles out of their way to obtain grains.
The likeliest reason: They were turning them into beer that they could bring along to community feasts, which were essential for "creating debts, for creating factions, for creating bonds between people, for creating political power, for creating support networks, and all of this is essential for developing more complex kinds of societies,” says the archaeologist—and “beer is sacred stuff in most traditional societies," making it an ideal feast component. "Feasts are reciprocal," he explains. "If I give you something like a pig or a pot of beer, you're obligated to do the same for me or even more." (Read more beer stories.)