"This wasn't moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements," says Andrew Koh. "This wine's recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar." (Credit: Brandeis)

Ancient jars held 2,000 liters of strong, sweet wine

Archaeologists have discovered a 3,700-year-old storeroom, once full of wine flavored with mint, honey, and dashes of psychotropic resins.

They 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.

They discovered the cellar in the ruined palace of a sprawling Canaanite city in northern Israel, called Tel Kabri. The site dates to about 1,700 BCE and isn’t far from many of Israel’s modern-day wineries.

(Credit: Brandeis)
The jar fragments contained molecular traces of tartaric and syringic acid, both key components in wine. (Credit: Brandeis)

“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 of at George Washington University, co-director of the excavation with Assaf Yasur-Landau of University of Haifa.

‘This wasn’t moonshine’

Andrew Koh, an archaeological scientist at Brandeis University, 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,” notes Koh, assistant professor of classical studies. “This wine’s recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar.”

Wine cellar for banquets

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.

The team will present their findings this Friday in Baltimore, Maryland, at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

Source: Brandeis University

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2 Comments

  1. Smeagol

    So nobody wants to expound on the psychotropic ingredients? the only interesting part of the entire article and it’s ignored, i want to know what they were tripping on in their wine!

  2. maureen martin

    I agree with the previous writer. A booze high of any kind appears preferable, to the powers that be, over any type of mind expanding substance. Wonder why that is?

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