A team of archaeologists working in Israel have made a remarkable discovery that shows the sophistication of an earlier civilization as they uncovered what could be the most expansive and oldest wine cellar in the Near East. The dig project is a collaboration between universities and directed by Eric H. Cline of the George Washington University (GWU) and Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa. Andrew Koh of Brandeis University is co-director.
An astonishing find
The team found the ancient wine cellar at the 75-acre Tel Kabri site, a section of a Canaanite city located in northern Israel. Initially, the group found a 3-foot-long jar and as they continued to investigate the surrounding area, they found dozens more jars "packed in a 15-by-25-foot storage room." Researchers say this is the equivalent of approximately 3,000 bottles of wine. About 40 jugs were found, and it is estimated the objects are 3,700 years old.
"This is a hugely significant discovery-it's a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in its age and size," said Dr. Cline, chair of GW's Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, according to a GWU press release.
The ruins at this location were reported to date back to 1700 B.C.
Experts say the location where the jars were found are in the vicinity of what is believed to have been a former banquet hall in a palace where elites gathered. Theory is the members of ancient-time high society would gather to dine and drink. It is also believed foreign guests may have also been entertained in the former structure which had long been destroyed.
"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," said Dr. Yasur-Landau, who is the chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa, the GWU press release shared.
Remnants of wine
While no liquid has survived these environmental conditions, experts conducted analysis to attain more information. To determine the contents of the large jugs, Dr. Koh, an assistant professor of classical studies at Brandeis University, analyzed the organic remains contained in the jars and found remnants of tartaric and syringic acids, along with other trace ingredients that point to wine. A Wall Street Journal report noted experts suggest grapes were one of the ingredients due to the presence of tartaric. The combination of ingredients are similar to other known recipes from 2,000 years ago in Egypt. At some point, it is hoped the wine can be recreated.
What's next for the project?
Before the current dig concluded, two more doors exiting the wine cellar were discovered. It is believed there are potentially more storage rooms contained in these ruins. Will these doors open to a treasure of more information, perhaps containing more remains from an earlier time to further illuminate past traditions and cultural practices?
Researchers believe there is a lot more to be potentially found at the dig site; however, they will not be able to find out until 2015 when the next dig is scheduled to take place. The digs occurring at this site have been ongoing since 2005, reported Business Week.
Findings were presented in Nov. 2013 in Baltimore, Md. at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. At this time, the findings have not yet been reviewed in any peer journals.