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14 November 2017, 07:30 | Israel Caldwell
'World's oldest wine' found in 8000-year-old jars in Georgia
A team of Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (GRAPE), a joint undertaking between the University of Toronto and the Georgian National Museum found pottery fragments of ceramic jars at two early Ceramic Neolithic sites (6000-4500 BC) called Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, almost 50 kilometres south of the modern capital of Tbilisi.
That honour belongs to the long-ago people of Jiahu in the Yellow Valley of China, where researchers previously found evidence of an even earlier kind of wine production dating back to around 7000 BCE.
The oldest of the jars was dated at about 8,000 years old, which makes it the earliest artifact showing humans consuming juice from the Eurasian grapes.
"The infinite range of flavours and aromas of today's 8,000-10,000 grape varieties are the end result of the domesticated Eurasian grapevine being transplanted and crossed with wild grapevines elsewhere over and over again", says archaeologist Stephen Batiuk from the University of Toronto.
Pottery from a site in Georgia has tested positive for traces of wine.
Large jars called qvevri, similar to these excavated ones, are still being used for modern-day wine-making in Georgia, according to David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum.
The team of researchers hailed from the United States, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Israel, and Georgia.
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The team analyzed 18 shards from pottery jars uncovered in recent years from multiple sites across Georgia, as well as samples from a 1960 excavation.
The jars, which the scientists dug up in the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, contain residue from wine once stored inside.
In 2011, a wine press and some fermentation jars from around 6,000 years ago were found in a cave in Armenia, proving that wine-making is an ancient process.
But this heady drop wasn't the wine we know and love today, and incorporated hawthorn fruit, rice, and honey mead, in addition to grapes.
"As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopoeias, cuisines, economies, and society in the ancient Near East", he said. These decorations, the researchers hypothesize, represent grapes.
It's not clear whether the ancient Georgian vintners were using a domesticated form, but it's possible because they apparently made lots of wine, he said. The inside of the jars, dating back as far as 5,980 BC, were coated with chemical traces of wine.
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