An Ancient Cellar Has Yielded Up The Remains Of 4,000-Year-Old Wine

Harvesting Shiraz grapes at vineyards in central Israel. Today’s modern Israeli wine industry can trace its roots back thousands of years. David Silverman/Getty Images

A Bronze Age palace excavation has found the remains of wine in the cellar.

Wine production, distribution, and consumption are thought to have played a role in the lives of those living in the Mediterranean during the Middle Bronze Age (1900-1600 BC) but little
archaeological evidence is available.

During the excavation of the Middle Bronze Age palace in modern-day Israel, the researchers found 40 large storage vessels in an enclosed room located to the west of the central courtyard.

An organic residue analysis using mass spectrometry revealed that all of the relatively uniform jars contained chemical compounds indicative of wine.

The authors also detected subtle differences in the ingredients or additives within similarly shaped wine jars, including honey, cedar oil, juniper and possibly mint, myrtle, and cinnamon.

The researchers suggest the detection of these additives indicates that humans at the time had a sophisticated understanding of plants and skills necessary to produce a complex beverage which balanced preservation and palatability.

According to the authors, these results may contribute to a greater understanding of ancient viticulture.

The study by Andrew Koh from Brandeis University and colleagues is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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