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Canaanite Wine Cellar discovered at Tel Kabri

Trove of Ancient Wine Found in Bronze Age Canaanite Palace Could Fight Cancer


Last year, archaeologists discovered a huge hoard of storage vessels in a 6,000 square metre Bronze Age palace at Tel Kabri, located in what is now Israel. Known to be the largest wine cellar to ever be discovered, it is also the oldest known wine cellar within the known East, dating back to between 3,600 and 3,900 years. Now, a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE has revealed the results of an analysis conducted on residue found inside the jars, showing up the biomarkers of wine as well as a complex mixture of herbal additives. According to an article published in J Space News, ancient alcoholic beverages have shown potential in the fight against both lung and colon cancer.

The organic residue analysis using mass spectrometry revealed that the beverage included ingredients and additives such as honey, storax resin, terebinth resin, tartaric and syringic acid, cedar oil, cyperus, juniper, and possibly mint, myrtle, and cinnamon.

“This wasn’t moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements. This wine’s recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar,” said Brandeis University chemist Andrew Koh. The researchers suggest that humans at the time had a sophisticated understanding of plants and skills necessary to produce a complex beverage that balanced preservation, palatability, and psychoactivity.

Wine cellar at Tel Kabri

Wine cellar at Tel Kabri. Credit: Prof. Eric H. Cline and the Tel Kabri Excavation.

From the moment the first alcoholic beverages were discovered, man has used it as a medicine. Apart from the stress relieving, relaxing nature that alcohol has on the body and mind, alcohol is an antiseptic and in higher doses has anesthetizing effects. But it is a combination of alcohol and natural botanicals, which creates a far more effective medicine and has been used as such for thousands of years. It is the origin of the most famous toast, “Let’s drink to health”, which exists in many languages around the world.

Professor Patrick McGovern, Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, has spent the last two decades researching how ancient alcoholic beverages can be used in the fight against modern day diseases such as cancer. His research has shown that these ancient alcohols show significant anti-cancer activity. In particular, Professor McGovern’s research has found that certain additives in these ancient alcoholic beverages have shown positive activity against lung and colon cancer, and his plan for the future is to test against lung cancer in animal models.

Through different fields of scientific endeavour coming together, the discovery of the wine vessels in Tel Kabri not only sheds light on ancient wine production and palatial social practices of the time, it also has the potential to aid in future medical practices.

Featured image: Canaanite Wine Cellar discovered at Tel Kabri. Credit: Prof. Eric H. Cline and the Tel Kabri Excavation.

By April Holloway



Well It's made from grapes.

angieblackmon's picture

not to be the immature one, but the whole time i was reading this all i could picture was a snotty old man in a super fancy restaurant ordering a bottle of the finiest wine from this time period...p.s. i know nothing about wine! :)

love, light and blessings


Also remember that everything was organic back then and personal stress was less constant so cancer was probably a rare condition. I think the additives in the wine served other purposes by those who created it. Just my guess. The anti cancer qualities are secondary is my guess.

rbflooringinstall's picture

That's an interesting article but I'm not suprised. One of the most common themes amongst finds and research of ancient times is how we were a million times healthier back then than we have been in a long time.

Peace and Love,


The man spent 20 years researching. You spent two minutes being a worthless troll.


aprilholloway's picture


April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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