Evidence of the world's oldest known winemaking has been uncovered in the nation of Georgia, with a chemical analysis of Stone Age pottery jars fingerprinting an ancient drop going back some 8,000 years. The researchers said that the decorations possibly represent 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. "Georgia is home to over 500 varieties for wine alone, suggesting that grapes have been domesticated and cross-breeding in the region for a very long time".
"The wine was probably made similarly to the traditional qvevri method in Georgia today, where the grapes are crushed and the fruit, stems, and seeds are all fermented together", Batiuk said.
The ancient people of Georgia may have stored 300 liters of wine in the massive jars measuring about three feet tall with small clay bumps that are clustered around the rim.
GRAPE represents the Canadian component of a larger worldwide, interdisciplinary project involving researchers from the United States, Denmark, France, Italy and Israel. They have been working for the past four years to re-analyze archeological sites that were found decades ago.
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The excavation sites in Georgia are about 50 km south of the capital of Tbilisi and comprise of two ancient villages.
It's unbelievable to think that 8,000 years ago the world's earliest winemakers were producing something very similar to the wine we consume today - and what's even more startling is it hints we probably had lots more in common with these ancient ancestors too. According to the BBC, some of the jars were also illustrated with images of men dancing and clusters of grapes. "The domestication of the grape apparently led eventually to the emergence of a wine culture in the region".
"Alcohol had an important role in societies in the past just as today", he said. "This methodology for identifying wine residues in pottery was initially developed and first tested on a vessel from the site of Godin Tepe in central western Iran, excavated more than 40 years ago by a team from the Royal Ontario Museum led by fellow U of T researcher T. Cuyler Young".
McGovern, who co-authored the 1996 Nature study that placed the earliest evidence for grape wine in Iran, said the search for the truly oldest artifacts will continue. However, these traces dated back from 5400 to 5000 BC, also in the Neolithic period.