Tonight while looking through Friar Diego de Landa’s writings about his experiences in Mesoamerica during the Conquest, I found an interesting observation:
The Indians are very dissolute in drinking and becoming intoxicated, and many ills follow their excesses this way. . . . Their wine they make of honey and water and the root of a certain tree they grow for the purpose. . . .(
It’s just an interesting tidbit given that some anti-Mormons have criticized the Book of Mormon for its references to wine and to honey bees, stating that these things were not known in the Americas before Europeans brought them. While the bees issue is rather silly since the text only mentions them in an Old World context, it is nevertheless interesting to see de Landa providing his first-person observation of a wine made in part from honey as a significant part of Native American culture in Mesoamerica.
The quote comes from page 35 of Friar Diego de Landa, Yucatan Before and After the Conquest, translated by William Gates (New York: Dover Books, 1978), originally published as Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan, 1566, first published in English in 1937 as Publication No. 20 of the Maya Society, Baltimore.
Nov. 26 update: It’s a tangential issue, but one reader sent me a note about the recent excavation of an ancient beer brewery in Peru. Corn and berries were apparently used in the brew. For those of you interested in the role of alcohol in the ancient Americas, this may be quite interesting.