(LIVE SCIENCE) – Slender gold and silver tubes crafted during the Bronze Age are the world's oldest drinking straws, a new study finds.
Archaeologists found the 3-foot-long (1 meter) metal tubes in 1897 while excavating a burial mound known as a kurgan from the ancient Maikop (also spelled Maykop) culture in the northwestern Caucasus, which primarily includes modern-day Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and parts of southern Russia. Until now, scientists couldn't decipher the tubes' purpose. The new research suggests that people would have used the tubes, some of which are attached to tiny bull figurines, to drink beer with buddies from a communal vessel.
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"The fine tubes are not as simple as they seem at first glance," study first author Viktor Trifonov, an archaeologist at the Institute for the History of Material Culture at the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, told Live Science in an email. "Even [the] exquisite bull figurines attached to them can be both a decoration and a technical element for balancing the device."