Ancient wine a sophisticated swill

NEW YORK — Scientists have uncovered a 3,700-year-old wine cellar in the ruins of a Canaanite palace in Israel, and chemical analysis shows this is where they kept the good stuff.

Samples from the ceramic jars suggest they held a luxurious beverage that was evidently reserved for banquets, researchers said.

“It’s not wine that somebody is just going to come home from a hard day and kick back and drink,” said Andrew Koh of Brandeis University. He found signs of a blend of ingredients that may have included honey, mint, cedar, tree resins and cinnamon bark.

The discovery confirms how sophisticated wines were at that time, something suggested only by ancient texts, said Eric Cline of George Washington University. He, Koh and Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa in Israel spoke to reporters Thursday before their work was presented Friday at a meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

The wine cellar was found this summer in palace ruins near the modern town of Nahariya in northern Israel. Researchers found 40 ceramic jars, each big enough to hold about 13 gallons, in a single room. There may be more wine stored elsewhere, but the amount found so far wouldn’t be enough to supply the local population, which is why the researchers believe it was reserved for palace use, Cline said.

The unmarked jars are all similar as if made by the same potter, Yasur-Landau said. Chemical analysis indicates that the jars held red wine and possibly white wine, Koh said. No liquid was left, and he analyzed residues he had removed from the jars.

Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania, an expert in ancient winemaking, said the discovery “sheds important new light” on the development of winemaking in ancient Canaan, from which it later spread to Egypt and across the Mediterranean. He said the chemical analysis would have to be published before the ingredients of the wine could be assessed.

Curtis Runnels, an archaeologist at Boston University, called the finding significant not only in showing the sophistication of the wine, but also in suggesting that it was meant specifically for palace use. He noted that the chemical analysis showed each jar held wine from the same recipe, showing the “consistency and control you’d expect in a palace.”

More in Local News

Everett pastor’s life was inspired by Rev. Billy Graham

The first crusade Brian Harpell ever attended was when the Christian evangelist came to his hometown.

Water to be shut off for some homes, districts next week

The pipe closing will affect mainly the Snohomish and Monroe areas.

Section of W. Marine View Drive will be closed Saturday

A footbridge is being torn down between Everett Ave. and the Naval Station entrance.

Bicyclist suffers critical injuries in crash

A trooper says the man was not wearing a helmet.

Front Porch

EVENTS Series on mental health wraps up Sno-Isle Libraries’ “Issues that Matter”… Continue reading

Fugitive Watch

The state Department of Corrections’ Everett office has felony warrants for the… Continue reading

Boy, 15, pleads guilty to kicking death of teen in Marysville

The victim’s family opposed the 2nd-degree manslaughter charge, saying the death was a murder.

Expect more snow, ice Friday morning

The slick conditions made for some snarled commutes Thursday, and could do the same later.

Northshore School District bond for new elementary now passing

As of Tuesday, the $275 million proposal was comfortably above the 60 percent supermajority.

Most Read