60-Second Science

Puckish Wine Cellar Found After Serious Aging

This past summer, at a 3700-year-old Canaanite city called Tel Kabri in northern Israel, archaeologists found what appears to be the oldest known wine cellar. Cynthia Graber reports.

At a 3700-year-old Canaanite city called Tel Kabri in northern Israel this summer, archaeologists found something shocking—and delicious. Near an apparent banquet area, they broke through to an ancient storage room. Inside were forty ceramic jars. And inside those were the remnants of herbal, sweetened wine. Which means that the room could be the world’s oldest and largest known wine cellar.

The scientists sampled the jugs’ residues—analytically, that is. They found the remnants conformed to the same recipe, containing compounds that suggest honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins. These beverages were thus similar to ancient Egyptian wines.

Each jug held 50 liters—about 13 gallons, for a total of more than 500 gallons. Just enough to provide lubrication for palace celebrations of goat meat.

The results were discussed at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. [, pages 20–21]

The Tel Kabri site was once a thriving city a few miles from the Mediterranean. Researchers have not found written records, so they know little about who lived there. The site was buried, perhaps by a natural disaster, and abandoned. Survivors left the wine entombed, thus choosing discretion over vino.

—Cynthia Graber

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.

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