Bronze Age cellar reveals sophisticated winemaking

Andrew J. Koh/Brandeis University

Bronze Age cellar reveals sophisticated winemaking

As early as the Bronze Age, people in the Mediterranean and Near East used clay tablets to document wine production and consumption. But scientists had little direct archaeological evidence to paint an exact picture of how wine was consumed during the period. That changed in 2013, when researchers excavating the remains of a Canaanite palace at Tel Kabri in Israel uncovered 40 large ceramic jars, pictured above, in a storage room dated to the Middle Bronze Age (1900 to 1600 B.C.E.). Organic residue analysis showed that the jars contained acids present in unripe grapes and red wine, the team reports today in PLOS ONE. Many of the jars also contained herbal additives such as honey, juniper berries, and perhaps mint. Based on the location of the cellar and the amount of wine stored, researchers suggest that the Canaanite king served wine—then an expensive commodity—at banquets to show off his power and prestige. Ancient “bartenders” would bring vintage into the cellar and mix it with ingredients like honey, before serving it to elites feasting in another building.

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