Archaeologists Unearth Large Ancient Israeli Wine Cellar
November 22, 2013

Archaeologists Unearth Large Ancient Wine Cellar in Israel

[ Watch the Video: Archaeologists Pop The Cork On Ancient Wine Cellar In Israel ]

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Archaeologists have discovered the largest, oldest wine cellar dating back to about 1,700 BC not too far from many modern-day wineries in the Near East.

The ancient wine cellar, containing forty jars of what would have been fifty liters of strong, sweet wine, was discovered in the ruined palace of a Canaanite city in northern Israel.

"We dug and dug, and all of a sudden, Bessie's friends started appearing—five, 10, 15, ultimately 40 jars packed in a 15-by-25-foot storage room," stated Eric Cline chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at The George Washington University. "This is a hugely significant discovery — it's a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in age and size.”

Researchers analyzed the jar fragments by using organic residue analysis and found molecular traces of tartaric and syringic acid, both key components of wine. They also discovered 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.

"This wasn't moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements," Andrew Koh, assistant professor of classical studies at Brandeis University, said in a statement. "This wine's recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar."

Assaf Yasur-Landau, chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa, said that it was the important guests who would have drank this wine.

"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.

The 40 jars have a capacity of about 2,000 liters, which means the cellar could have held the equivalent of nearly 3,000 bottles of red and white wines.

"The wine cellar and the banquet hall were destroyed during the same violent event, perhaps an earthquake, which covered them with thick debris of mud bricks and plaster,” the researcher said.

The archaeologists also discovered two doors leading out of the wine cellars that could lead to additional storage rooms. However, this discovery was made towards the end of the season so they will be waiting until 2015 to find out where exactly these doors lead.

The team presented their findings in Baltimore on Friday at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research.