Largest and Oldest Wine Cellar of the Middle East Unearthed
Archaeologists have unearthed what may be the largest and oldest wine cellar in the Middle East in Tel Kabri, Israel. The massive cellar contained forty jars, each of which would have held fifty litres of wine – that is 3,000 bottles’ worth.
The cellar was found in the ruined palace of an ancient Canaanite city in northern Israel and dates to 1,700 BC. The discovery promises to give further insight into the life and culture of the ancient Canaanites, a group that dominated what is now Israel and Lebanon.
"This is a hugely significant discovery -- it's a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in age and size," says Eric Cline chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of at The George Washington University.
Historical data from the era describe herbal wines, but this is the first true evidence of its existence. The wine was found to be preserved and spiced with honey and herbs, including juniper, mint, cinnamon bark, and myrtle. It also contained resins which would have been used for preservation. The contents were remarkably consistent across all the jars, which suggests that the producers were following a strict recipe.
The wine was found in a storage room measuring 5 by 8 metres, which was next to a large hall that archaeologists believe was used for banquets. Cattle bones and other signs of meat consumption were found nearby. Doors from the storage room may lead to at least one other storage chamber, which has yet to be excavated. It appears that the palace was destroyed in around 1600 BC by a sudden cataclysm, probably an earthquake.
The recipe for the wine is similar to medicinal wines used in ancient Egypt for two thousand years and would have had a distinctive turpentine flavour – perhaps not too pleasing to the modern palate!
The term "recipe" caries some implications about the level of the civilization. A strict recipe implies some pretty accurate quantitive measurement and accurate qualitative measures which, intern, imply some sophisticated palates and "universal" judgements, for the local, and possibly the society. That the wine cellar was found in the ruins of a palace helps picture the hoi polloi drinking the less than perfect examples of the art--table wine? Let's see what is behind the other door soonest.