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Archaeologists discover largest, oldest wine cellar in Near East: 3,700 year-old store room held 2,000 liters of strong, sweet wine

Date:
November 22, 2013
Source:
Brandeis University
Summary:
Archaeologists have unearthed what may be the oldest -- and largest -- ancient wine cellar in the Near East, containing 40 jars, each of which would have held 50 liters of strong, sweet wine.

These 3,700-year-old jars were discovered in an ancient palatial wine cellar unearthed by researchers at Tel Kabri in July 2013. The team worked in day and night shifts to excavate a total of 40 intact vessels during its six-week dig.
Credit: Eric H. Cline, George Washington University

Would you drink wine flavored with mint, honey and a dash of psychotropic resins? Ancient Canaanites did more than 3,000 years ago.

Archaeologists have unearthed what may be the oldest -- and largest -- ancient wine cellar in the Near East, containing forty jars, each of which would have held fifty liters of strong, sweet wine. The cellar was discovered in the ruined palace of a sprawling Canaanite city in northern Israel, called Tel Kabri. The site dates to about 1,700 B.C. and isn't far from many of Israel's modern-day wineries.

"This is a hugely significant discovery -- it's a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in age and size," says Eric Cline chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of at The George Washington University. Cline and Assaf Yasur-Landau, chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa, co-directed the excavation. Andrew Koh, assistant professor of classical studies at Brandeis University, was an associate director.

The team's findings will be presented this Friday in Baltimore at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

Koh, an archaeological scientist, analyzed the jar fragments using organic residue analysis. He found molecular traces of tartaric and syringic acid, both key components in wine, as well as compounds suggesting ingredients popular in ancient wine-making, including honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins. The recipe is similar to medicinal wines used in ancient Egypt for two thousand years.

Koh also analyzed the proportions of each diagnostic compound and discovered remarkable consistency between jars.

"This wasn't moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements," Koh notes. "This wine's recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar."

Important guests drank this wine, notes Yasur-Landau.

"The wine cellar was located near a hall where banquets took place, a place where the Kabri elite and possibly foreign guests consumed goat meat and wine," he says.

At the end of the season, the team discovered two doors leading out of the wine cellar -- one to the south, and one to the west. Both probably lead to additional storage rooms. They'll have to wait until 2015 to find out for sure.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brandeis University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Brandeis University. "Archaeologists discover largest, oldest wine cellar in Near East: 3,700 year-old store room held 2,000 liters of strong, sweet wine." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131122084543.htm>.
Brandeis University. (2013, November 22). Archaeologists discover largest, oldest wine cellar in Near East: 3,700 year-old store room held 2,000 liters of strong, sweet wine. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131122084543.htm
Brandeis University. "Archaeologists discover largest, oldest wine cellar in Near East: 3,700 year-old store room held 2,000 liters of strong, sweet wine." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131122084543.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

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