Brandeis Researchers Discover First Bronze Age Wine Cellar (UPDATE)


Brandeis University researchers have discovered a prehistoric wine cellar during a Bronze Age palace excavation.

Wine production, distribution, and consumption are believed to have played a role in the Mediterranean and Near East during the Middle Bronze Age (1900-1600 BC), but enough archaeological evidence about Bronze Age wine was not available to support the hypothesis.

During a 2013 dig of the Middle Bronze Age Canaanite palace in present-day Israel, the researchers unearthed 40 large storage vessels in an enclosed room located to the west of the central courtyard.

The researchers conducted an organic residue examination of all the relatively identical jars using mass spectrometry.

They found that the jars comprised of chemical compounds indicative of wine. The researchers also identified subtle differences in the ingredients or additives within uniformly shaped wine jars including honey, storax resin, terebinth resin, cedar oil, cyperus, juniper, and possibly mint, myrtle, and cinnamon.

The findings suggest that humans living at the time were well-versed with plants and skills essential in the manufacturing of a beverage that balanced preservation, palatability, and psychoactivity. The discovery presents a sophisticated understanding of ancient viticulture and the Canaanite palatial economy.

"Based on the nature of the room, it was anticipated from the beginning that residue samples extracted and studied under virtually identical circumstances with minimal variability would have the potential to reveal new and significant insights from both a scientific and archaeological perspective."

"We believe this study will not only change our understanding of ancient viticulture and palatial social practices, but also the manner in which we approach organic residue analysis (ORA) as an integrated, qualitative, and interdisciplinary exercise that is as field dependent as it is laboratory intensive," Researcher Andrew Koh said in a press release.

The finding is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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