Archaeologists uncover evidence of ancient pub in central Europe
In the northeast of Slovakia, along the country’s border with Poland, lies an enchanting region known as Spiš. Castles and ruins dating back thousands of years dot the landscape. Their importance is impossible to ignore, seemingly covering every ridge of the hilly landscape. However, it is much easier to overlook the abundance of history hidden beneath the earth. This is what drew archaeologists to a small village here in October of last year. For six months, they dug and dusted below the town hall of Spišské Vlachy (pop. 3,457). And for the first time, we have an idea of what they found.
As recently reported by the local local newspaper, scientists have discovered evidence of a 1,600-year-old colony. The evidence first came in the form of an uncovered coin depicting Emperor Constance II. He ruled Rome between 337 and 361. The currency of this era indicates that a civilization flourished here since the period of migration which directly resulted in the decline of the Roman Empire.
But fans of modern speakeasies will likely be more intrigued by another set of salvaged objects: tiny kitchen ceramics suggesting the underground space was once used as a pub. And there are other clues in the architectural layout of the space to reinforce the assumption.
On the one hand, an oven with a wide opening was found towards a corner of the room, indicating that the area was used to receive guests. Archaeologists were also able to isolate an entrance to a cellar where beer and wine were kept. As of yet, it’s unclear exactly when this layer was used as a community gathering space, but it could have been as recently as the mid-1700s. A treasure trove of Polish and Hungarian coins recovered from excavations reveals that alcoholic beverages were purchased here during this period. But it may have been used this way for hundreds of years until then.
We already have a good idea of what bars were like in Roman times. The well-preserved physical remains of taverns have been excavated in many parts of southern Europe. They even had places dedicated to drinks. Wine bars called popinae offered a succinct selection of fermented grapes, as well as small snacks that today would be called tapas. The water points were frequented by commoners and provided a safe space for socialization as well as for less salty antics.
In Spišské Vlachy, they probably would have preferred medovin wine. Slovak mead, brewed from honey and water, is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in the world. In fact, the earliest forms of this liquid might have occurred naturally in tree hollows where rainfall and hives converged in the right ratio to encourage fermentation. Fittingly, the style that has lasted to this day is a 13-15% alcohol drink brimming with pine needles and rainforest tones.
It’s not hard to imagine former townspeople tying one up, a pint of the local specialty in hand. And thanks to the tireless work of modern excavators and curators, we’ve got a better idea of what a prime pub looked like in this rustic corner of the Slovak countryside. Hopefully the archaeologists toasted their latest find with a healthy dose of Medovin.