Dr. Patrick E. McGovern is the Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Anthropology. His academic background combined the physical sciences, archaeology, and history–an A.B. in Chemistry from Cornell University, graduate work in neurochemistry at the University of Rochester, and a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Archaeology and Literature from the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Department of the University of Pennsylvania.
Over the past two decades, he has pioneered the emerging field of Molecular Archaeology. In addition to being engaged in a wide range of other archaeological chemical studies, including radiocarbon dating, cesium magnetometer surveying, colorant analysis of ancient glasses and pottery technology, his endeavors of late have focused on the organic analysis of vessel contents and dyes, particularly Royal Purple, wine, and beer. The chemical confirmation of the earliest instances of these organics–Royal Purple dating to ca. 1300-1200 B.C. and wine and beer dating to ca. 3500-3100B.C.–received wide media coverage. A 1996 article published in Nature, the international scientific journal, pushed the earliest date for wine back another 2000 years–to the Neolithic period (ca. 5400-5000B.C.).
His research–showing what Molecular Archaeology is capable of achieving—has involved reconstructing the “King Midas funerary feast” (Nature 402, Dec. 23, 1999: 863-64) and chemically confirming the earliest fermented beverage from anywhere in the world—Neolithic China, some 9000 years ago, where pottery jars were shown to contain a mixed drink of rice, honey, and grape/hawthorn tree fruit (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 101.51: 17593-98). Most recently, he and colleagues identified the earliest beverage made from cacao (chocolate) from a site in Honduras, dated to ca. 1150 B.C., and an herbal wine from Dynasty 0 in Egypt.
He is the author of Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton University Press, 2003), and most recently, Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages (Berkeley: University of California, 2009). In addition to over 100 periodical articles, McGovern has also written or edited 10 books, including The Origins and Ancient History of Wine (Gordon and Breach, 1996), Organic Contents of Ancient Vessels (MASCA, 1990), Cross-Craft and Cross-Cultural Interactions in Ceramics (American Ceramic Society, 1989), and Late Bronze Palestinian Pendants: Innovation in a Cosmopolitan Age (Sheffield, 1985). In 2000, his book on the Foreign Relations of the “Hyksos,” a scientific study of Middle Bronze pottery in the Eastern Mediterranean, was published by Archaeopress.
As a Research Associate in the Near East Section of the Museum, he has also directed the Baq`ah Valley (Jordan) Project over the past 25 years (described in a University Museum monograph, The Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages of Central Transjordan, 1986), and been involved with many other excavations throughout the Middle East as a pottery and stratigraphic consultant. A detailed study of the New Kingdom Egyptian garrison at Beth Shan, an older Museum excavation, also appeared in 1994 in the Museum Monograph series, entitled The Late Bronze Egyptian Garrison at Beth Shan.
As an Adjunct Professor in the Anthropology Dept. at Penn, he teaches courses on Molecular Archaeology.