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Bronze Age Canaanite wines found in Galilee

The ancient's knowledge of wine making, their level of sophistication in growing grapes for wine, and their use of additives for flavoring wines has been hinted at by ancient writers but no physical evidence of the Bronze Age wine maker's craft has been found until now. Andrew Koh from Brandeis University and colleagues reported a complete chemical analysis of wine vessels found during a 2013 excavation of a Middle Bronze Age Canaanite palace in Israel. The research was published in the Aug. 27, 2014, edition of the journal Public Library of Science.

Kabri wine cellar with numbered jars (looking southeast).
Kabri wine cellar with numbered jars (looking southeast).Andrew J. Koh et al. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106406.g001 open access journal

The palace is located in western Galilee at the Kabri Archaeological Project five kilometers east of Nahariya, Israel. The 40 wine vessels that were found in a wine cellar date from between 1,600 B.C.E. and 1,900 B.C.E. The similarity in the shape of the vessels and chemical analysis indicates that all the wine that was stored in these vessels came from the same vineyard.

Organic residue analysis proved that all of the vessels contained wine. No liquid wine was found. The additives and adulterants found in different pots of wine included honey, storax resin from the bark of trees, terebinth resin from tree bark, cedar oil, cyperus an extract from a papyrus-like river plant, juniper, mint, myrtle, and cinnamon. The additives enhanced flavor, produced longer storage capability, and may have added to the psychoactive effects of the alcohol in the wine.

The analysis confirms ancient descriptions of the sophistication of wine making in the Bronze Age from Mesopotamia and Egypt. The find indicates that the Canaanites and most of Middle Eastern Bronze Age peoples possessed a level of sophistication in botany, pharmacy, chemistry, and wine making that were never known before. The chemical analysis agrees with the ancient’s description of wine varieties in other regions of the Middle East even down to the additives. This indicates that a transfer of knowledge in wine making was an active part of Bronze Age relationships between nations and states.