Oldest and possibly largest wine cellar found in northern Israel

While none of the wine remained in the jars, researchers found traces of ingredients like honey, mint and juniper berries.
By Ananth Baliga  |  Nov. 22, 2013 at 10:33 AM
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Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Archaeologists have found possibly the largest and oldest collection of wine, in the northern Israeli city of Tel Kabri, dating back to 1700 BCE.

The cellar was discovered in the ruined palace of the Canaanite city and contained forty jars, each holding 13 gallons of sweet, strong wine. The site is close to modern-day wineries found in Israel.

"This wasn't moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements," said Andrew Koh, assistant professor of classical studies at Brandeis University. "This wine's recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar."

While none of the wine survived the 3700 years it took to be found, Koh analyzed fragments of the jars to ascertain their contents. He found traces of tartaric and syringic acid, both key elements in wine making and other ingredients such as honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins.

What astounded Koh was the precision achieved among the jars and how there was consistency between the contents of each jar.

"The wine cellar was located near a hall where banquets took place, a place where the Kabri elite and possibly foreign guests consumed goat meat and wine," said Assaf Yasur-Landau, who co-directed the excavation.

The team's findings will be presented this Friday in Baltimore at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

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