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A VERY OLD TOAST! 3,700-year-old wine cellar found

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Does wine really improve with age . say 3,700 years? Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient cellar in northern Israel that gives clues as to early wine making procedures.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Unearthed in the ruined palace of a Canaanite city in northern Israel, Tel Kabri, new excavations found three-feet jars kept in what appeared to be a storage room.

As expected, no actual wine have survived the millenia. However, an analysis of organic residue trapped in the pores of the jars suggest they had contained wine made from grapes. Experts suspect that the beverage was sweet, strong and medicinal.

"We were absolutely surprised," Eric Cline, archaeologist at George Washington University says. As part of the expedition involved in the excavation, Cline says "We thought we were digging outside the palace walls when the jars came up."

Presented last week in Baltimore at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research, scientists have yet to publish their discovery. Some archaeologists says this makes it hard to judge the validity of the claims.

The biggest mystery about the oldest known wine cellar, which held about 700 jars was uncovered in the tomb of Pharaoh Scorpion I in Egypt. As there were no wild grapes in Egypt, so where did the Egyptians get their wine?

Scientists say they probably imported it from the Canaanites. More than 5,000 years ago, "it was the Canaanites who really developed the wine making culture and took it to Egypt," Patrick McGovern, an authority on ancient wine at the University of Pennsylvania says.

The winemakers of Canaan could have taken their expertise northward, setting the stage for wine making to develop in Greece, Italy and other parts of Europe. "The Canaanites had the ships-they took their wine culture with them," McGovern added.

Kabri, the town, dates back to 1700 B.C. Researchers know that a city called Hazor, about 50 miles away, had contact around this time with Mesopotamia, a region encompassing modern-day Iraq, and ruled by Hammurabi.

"The components of the wine match the textual description of wine in Mesopotamia," said Dr. Cline.

Detective work in the lab will enable modern man what the ancient wine might have tasted like. Focusing their efforts on fragments close to the base of the jars, scientists say this material would have been in contact with the stored wine and absorbed some of it. They extracted the organic residues trapped in the pores and analyzed them chemically.

A few days before the excavation was completed, the archaeologists discovered two doors leading out of the wine cellar. If those lead to other storage rooms with more wine jars, it may be possible to get an even better fix on what the wine was like. With further samples, scientists may even be able to recreate the flavor of the 3,700-year-old wine.

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