(CNN)This may be the world's oldest surviving evidence of supersize thirst quenchers. Mysterious scepters found in an ancient burial mound could actually be giant drinking straws -- and they were used to consume mass quantities of beer.
King Tut's tomb had a scepter. This ancient burial had something entirely different
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The gold and silver straws, each measuring about 3.6 feet (1.1 meters) long, are over 5,000 years old. While these straws sound comically long, with Dr. Seuss-like proportions, researchers believe they were used to drink beer from communal vessels during banquets to honor the dead.
The fancy straws, four of which were decorated with bull figurines, include punctured metal pieces to filter out impurities in the beer, like sediment or husks.
The straws, along with one of the beer vessels, were found at the Maikop kurgan, a prehistoric burial mound in the northern Caucasus in Russia. The vessel was so large that it would have enabled each of the eight drinkers to down seven pints apiece.
The mound was first excavated by archaeologist Nikolai Veselovsky, a professor at St. Petersburg University, in the summer of 1897. Within the mound, Veselovsky found graves belonging to elite members of Bronze Age society, including the remains of three people and hundreds of special objects.
Within the largest burial chamber were the remains of one individual wearing what was once a "richly decorated garment." Hundreds of beads, semiprecious stones, gold, ceramic vessels, metal cups made from precious metals, weapons, and tools were included in the grave.
And then, there was a set of eight gold and silver tubes at the right hand of the skeleton. Veselovsky assumed they were decorative scepters and that the perforations at the tip of each one was once used to attach ornaments or horsehair.
In the fall of 1898, Veselovsky moved all of the material from the mound to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, presenting the collection to Tsar Nicholas II and the Romanov family during a special exhibition.
Over the last century, other researchers have debated the real purpose of the "scepters." One sugg