Archaeologists find largest, oldest near east wine cellar in israel

Monday, 25 November, 2013
Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu
The Land of Milk and Honey also is the Land of Wine, not only today with wines that have won world prizes but also 3,700 years ago, according to a new discovery by a US-led archaeological team.
American and Israel archaeologists have unearthed in Israel what is believed to be the largest and older wine cellar in the Near East.

Archaeologists have unearthed what may be the oldest — and largest — ancient wine cellar in the Near East, containing forty jars, each of which would have held fifty liters of strong, sweet wine, archaeologists from George Washington, Brandeis and Haifa universities announced late Friday, The amount of wine estimated to have been stored in the cellar would fill approximately 3,000 modern bottles, and there probably are other wine cellars waiting to be unearthed.

The cellar was discovered in Tel Kabri, located near the northwestern coastal city of Nahariya and the site of a ruined palace of a sprawling Canaanite city in northern Israel and dating back to about 1,700 B.C.

The archaeological site is located near many of Israel’s modern-day wineries, such as Carmel Mizrachi in Zichron Yaakov, near Haifa.

“This is a hugely significant discovery — it’s a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in age and size,” said Eric Cline, chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of at The George Washington University.

He teamed up with excavation co-director Assaf Yasur-Landau, chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa, co-directed the excavation. Andrew Koh, assistant professor of classical studies at Brandeis University, was an associate director. Koh, an archaeological scientist, analyzed the jar fragments using organic residue analysis. He found molecular traces of tartaric and syringic acid, both key components in wine, as well as compounds suggesting ingredients popular in ancient wine-making, including honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins. The recipe is similar to medicinal wines used in ancient Egypt for two thousand years.

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