The historical basis for the production of mead can be extended to over 6000 years BC. Since mead is produced mainly from fermented honey, the propensity for myths and legends abound all over the honey-bee colonizing world.
Archaeological studies of ancient Northern Chinese sites yielded pots of a certain drink which consisted of honey, rice, and other organic fermenting agents. This could very much be the oldest possible account of mead production on records.
To fully understand the story of mead production, we have to go back to the production of honey right from the bees.
The ancient honeybees were good for gathering nectar from plants and making use of the collected nectar in propagating their population and keeping fuelling their metabolism. The just separated honeybees had to specialize their nectar to be less prone to fermentation by typical yeast colonies since the fermentation made the sugar unsuitable for their use.
By reducing the water content of their nectar and increasing the osmotic pressure, they were able to arrive at the thickly sweet, gooey substance we have now and call honey. But, the yeast was just as resilient as the ancient bees as they evolved a strain to adapt to the osmotic conditions of honey, and in the presence of water, ferment the honey to give us mead.
For the human aspect of the history, there are possible references to the ancient hunter-gatherers of the African rain forests. After the massive lumbering elephants had passed through the forests, breaking off the tops of the giant tropical trees, the hollow created within the trunks haven and conduit for the bees to colonize and make their honey.
With the altering temperatures and seasons of the African climate, the rains fall into the honey filled hollows, and the right temperatures allow for the most resilient yeasts to successfully ferment the honey. This sits there, waiting, and when the ancient human species came around to gather honey, they got a drink of intoxicating water.
All this was before the invention of alcohol of any kind, and Mead is about the first known alcoholic drink to man. These ancient men, living some 20,000 years ago, are supposedly the first known mead-drinkers and makers. They took this knowledge with them as they wandered to the newer continents, colonizing Europe and the Mediterranean.
Mead has been a subject of so much myth and legend. Due to its being the first ever know intoxicating drink, mead has been attributed to being the drink of the gods in a majority of Greek mythology. Loki and Odin, the great Norse gods, have been linked to getting their energy from this magical drink. And even at the time of its decline due to the invention of grape and other fruit wines, this wine remained a mainstay in most European monasteries.
The term honeymoon is believed to have been gotten from the one moon endless supply of mead or honey wine given to newly married couples to aid fertility and ensure the birth of a firstborn son.