8000-Year-Old Pottery Shards Reveal Traces of The World's Oldest Wine

14 November, 2017, 19:20 | Author: Oscar Goodwin
  • Ceramic pottery fragments from two sites about 30 miles south of the Georgian capital Tbilisi contained residues that yielded chemical signatures of grapes and wine

Judging by a rare archaeological find, the world of winemaking - from California to France and all locations in between - may trace its roots back thousands of years to the mountainous Caucasus country of Georgia.

Prior to this, the earliest evidence for grape wine in the Near East (Western Asia and the Middle East) was found in Iran, near the Zagros Mountains, dating to 5400-5000 B.C.

Previously, the earliest evidence of wine-making was from pottery dating from about 7,000 years ago found in north-western Iran. What's more, it was decorated with blobs that the researchers say could be meant to depict clusters of grapes.

"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine exclusively for the production of wine, "Phys.org quoted Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and the Archaeology Centre at the University of Toronto, and co-author of the study". Testing of the Georgian pieces showed evidence of a slew of acids from wine that had been made inside the erstwhile vessels.

Mr Batiuk said the wine was probably made in a similar way to the qvevri method today "where the grapes are crushed and the fruit, stems and seeds are all fermented together".

The earliest evidence of winemaking has been traced back 8,000 years to Georgia by an worldwide team of scientists.

In 2011, a wine press and fermentation jars from about 6,000 years ago were found in a cave in Armenia.

The excavation sites in Georgia are about 50 km south of the capital of Tbilisi and comprise of two ancient villages.

Researchers used a combination of mass spectrometry and chromatography techniques to identify the compounds found in wine in the ancient jar fragments.

Researchers also found three organic acids associated with wine - malic, succinic and citric - in the residue from the jars.

While there are thousands of cultivars of wine around the world, nearly all derive from just one species of grape, with the Eurasian grape the only species ever domesticated.

"When we pick up a glass of wine and put it to our lips and taste it we are recapitulating that history that goes back at least 8,000 years", said Patrick McGovern a co-author of the study from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of archaeology and anthropology, who also worked on the earlier Iranian discovery.

Wine has been used as a "social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity" throughout the ages.

Batiuk thinks that the drinking and offering of wine played an important role in many aspects of life in the ancient Georgian society from medical practice, to celebrations of births and deaths and everyday meals.

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