Israeli archaeologists are claiming to have unearthed a wine cellar that is older than the bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls at a site in northern Israel.
American and Israeli archaeologists digging over the summer at a site known as Tel Kabri, located in northern Israel in the ruins of what used to be a northern Canaanite city, discovered the remains of 40 large jars near the banquet hall of a palace where the city-state's leaders and guests used to feast. The findings were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Baltimore, Maryland.
Although the liquid that once sat in each jar has long vanished, chemical analyses performed on the jars' residue found they contained remnants of wine ingredients, including tartaric and syringic acid residues, as well as various spices and sweeteners, including mint, honey, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins. According to the New York Times, this recipe for wine was similar to medicinal wines used in Egypt for 2,000 years and would taste similar to a modern-day Greek wine.
"The wine cellar was located near a hall where banquets took place, a place where the Kabri elite and possibly foreign guests consumed goat meat and wine," Yasur-Landau, co-director of the project and chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa, said a press release. "The wine cellar and the banquet hall were destroyed during the same violent event, perhaps an earthquake, which covered them with thick debris of mud bricks and plaster."
Archaeologists reportedly had to work quickly once they removed the jugs from the cellar, as they risked contamination from the outside air. In a teleconference with reporters, Dr. Andrew Koh of Brandeis University who also participated in the excavation project, said that the traces of tartaric acid found on the jars by organic residue analysis were "a surefire marker" of grape juice or wine.
The wine jars could hold a total of 8,453.5 cups, meaning the 15 by 25 foot storage room where the jars were found could have held the modern day equivalent of 3,000 bottles of wine. The wine jugs have been dated to be older than both the bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls by hundreds of years, with the cellar having an estimated date of 1700 B.C.
"This is a hugely significant discovery," Eric H. Cline, the other co-director of the Tel Kabri excavations, said in a statement issued by George Washington University to the New York Times. Cline is the chairman of the department of classical and Near Eastern languages and civilizations at the university. "It's a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in its age and size."