Wine Traces Found in Oldest Cellar

wine

If wine is supposed to get better with time, then these must have been the most delicious wines ever.

On Friday, an archaeological team of researchers working on an archaeological site in Israel presented information on a place where wine traces from the oldest cellar were discovered. The 3,700 year old palatial cellar was full of jars that once held a wine-like brew in them. During a six-week dig, the team spent time retrieving these jars by working in shifts throughout the day and night during July and August.

The wine, which was probably brewed in 1700 B.C., was probably made using juniper berries, cedar oil, honey, and resins. The wine was likely used for a banquet hall that would be located not too far from where the cellar was discovered in the Canaanite city named Tel Kabri that has ruins dating back to that time.

Eric H. Kline, of Georgetown University, says that this finding was a great process.

“This is a hugely significant discovery,” he said. “It is a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in its age and size.”

Archaeologists suggest that the banquet hall was located in a palace, where rulers had a grand feast. The wine was probably consumed by foreign guests and the people of Kabri who were wealthy, where they also ate goat meat.

The jars contained no wine and were broken, perhaps during an earthquake that happened around 1600 B.C. There were 40 jars discovered, and were estimated that they could hold 2,000 liters of liquid at a time, or almost 3,000 bottles of red and white wine. In addition to the ingredients, archaeologists found that the wine also contained traces of cinnamon and mint, which were the same ingredients used to make medicinal wines in ancient times. The team had to work quickly to test the residue left behind because it would have been contaminated by the oxygen outside the storage cellar.

Dr. Andrew Koh of Brandies University, another member of the archaeological team, noted that the recipe to make the wines stayed the same.

“This wasn’t moonshine someone was brewing in their basements, eyeballing the measurements. This wine’s recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar.”

The archaeologist team found two doors in the cellar storage room, one that led to a south end and another that goes west. They concluded that these were doors that led to more storage rooms, but they will not able to find out until 2015 when they can go back.

What was significant about this finding is the fact that the city of Tel Kabri had not been built over after the earthquake. The jars were covered with thick mud and debris. The ruins have been untouched, making it a great location to do research. There had been discoveries made inside of tombs, but this marks the largest discovery in the city so far.

The wine traces found in the oldest cellar was announced Friday at the American Schools of Oriental Research in Baltimore.

By Renayle Fink

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New York Times

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