I learned a little bit about fermentation when I was researching From Pemmican to Poutine. I know that the process goes back thousands of years and was almost certainly discovered by accident (as so many things are). So I love this story about a microbiologist in Quito, Ecuador who was able to bring back to life yeast that had been scraped from the inside of 1,300 year old storage pots found in a burial site in Quito.

The containers were used by the Quitus and Ipias peoples to brew a drink called chicha. Yeast biologist Javier Carvajal Barriga discovered that the yeast used was a previously unknown strain and named it C. theae, which means tea.

Aside from the connection to Ecuador, where I lived for a year as a teenager, I’m also very interested in the 20 bodies found in the burial site. All bodies are wrapped in textiles that are wonderfully preserved. You can see from the photo that the textiles are whole, the weave structure is intact, and even some of the dye remains. I hope that these textiles are not undervalued and discarded in all the excitement over this new/ancient yeast.

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