January 11, 2011

World’s Oldest Wine Press Unearthed In Armenia

A team of archeologists have discovered the oldest wine press in the world--at a several thousand year old site in southern Armenia--the National Geographic Society announced on Tuesday.

According to Reuters Health and Science Reporter Maggie Fox, UCLA archaeologist Hans Barnard and colleagues used "biochemical techniques to identify a dry red vintage" dating back 6,000 years. The wine was found at a caveside cemetery near the Iranian border, said Fox, along with a wine vat, wine-stained pots, grape remains, and a drinking bowl.

The cave contained an approximately three-foot basin that was positioned so that its contents could be drained into a deep vat, and is the same location that the world's oldest known leather shoe had previously been discovered, according to BBC News. Barnard and his associates published their findings online in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

"We believe the wine was made there for ritual activity," UCLA's Gregory Areshian, co-director of the excavation site, told USA Today's Dan Vergano on Tuesday. "But the people living outside the cave in the region likely made wine all the time," he added, citing evidence of the expertise needed to craft the wine vats and pots, according to Vergano.

"This was a relatively small installation related to the ritual inside the cave. For daily consumption they would have had much larger wine presses in the regular settlement," Areshian added in a separate interview with Fox. "We also know that still, in the villages in the vicinity, the culture of wine is very old and traditional."

According to BBC News, Patrick McGovern, the scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, said that the size of the discovery implies "that the Eurasian grape had already been domesticated 6,000 years ago."

The British news organization notes that the earliest remains similar to the Armenian ones were discovered in a European tomb and date back some 5,100 years.

Image Courtesy Gregory Areshian/UCLA/National Geographic Society


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