Mead is an alcoholic drink made from honey. It can be in two basic forms - lower alcohol often with bubbles, similar in form to beer or cider - or higher alcohol which is more in the style of a wine. In fact, mead is not a wine since it contains no grapes, and it is no more honey beer than cider is apple beer.
For many, mead is any alcoholic drink that contains some honey.
On that basis, cheap wine with a bit of indifferent honey stirred in with a load of sugar syrup to sweeten it would be mead.
For us this isn't good enough. For us, and other real mead makers, a drink can only be called mead if the alcohol is created from fermenting the honey. Where flavours are added, they would be natural fruits or spices or natural extracts.
There is evidence for mead dating back more than 6000 years. Not bottles of mead, but pots with residues of yeast, pollen, fruit. Of course this may not be 'mead' as we know it. But many people believe this indicates the production of an alcoholic drink based on honey.
It seems to have arisen wherever there is honey produced. So, across most of the temperate zones of this planet.
Alcohol has long been associated with ritual and celebration. Whether it was to raise the consciousness to the realm of the spirits or to welcome the new baby to the tribe. Things haven't changed that much, although the options have increased.
Mead lost ground to imported wines and easily made and transported beers. But it has always been there and is currently enjoying a major resurgence across the developed world, especially in the US.