Oldest Winery Excavated in Armenia - January, 2011

Until recently, the global community was essentially clueless about the historical importance of the Armenian Highlands. Until recently, western academia was essentially clueless about the vastly important archeological treasures that the Armenian Highlands hid under its ancient soil. The information that I have been posting within this unique blog is only now gradually beginning to receive international exposure. There is no doubt that human civilization started within the Armenian Highlands. I am confident that the entire world will eventually come to the understanding that the Armenian Highlands was where mankind first walked onto the pages of history.

Arevordi

***

Earliest Known Winery Found in Armenian Cave

World's oldest, or earliest, known winemaking equipment, including a wine press (picture), as identified by a UCLA/National Geographic Society excavation

Ancient Vat Hints at Man's First Winery: http://online.wsj.com/video/ancient-vat-hints-at-mans-first-winery/32430D60-3B20-4663-953C-B1016B6AEEA4.html?mod=googlewsj

As if making the oldest known leather shoe wasn't enough, a prehistoric people in what's now Armenia also built the world's oldest known winery, a new study says. Undertaken at a burial site, their winemaking may have been dedicated to the dead—and it likely required the removal of any fancy footwear. Near the village of Areni, in the same cave where a stunningly preserved, 5,500-year-old leather moccasin was recently found, archaeologists have unearthed a wine press for stomping grapes, fermentation and storage vessels, drinking cups, and withered grape vines, skins, and seeds, the study says. "This is the earliest, most reliable evidence of wine production," said archaeologist Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). "For the first time, we have a complete archaeological picture of wine production dating back 6,100 years," he said. The prehistoric winemaking equipment was first detected in 2007, when excavations co-directed by Areshian and Armenian archaeologist Boris Gasparyan began at the Areni-1 cave complex. In September 2010 archaeologists completed excavations of a large, 2-foot-deep (60-centimeter-deep) vat buried next to a shallow, 3.5-foot-long (1-meter-long) basin made of hard-packed clay with elevated edges. The installation suggests the Copper Age vintners pressed their wine the old-fashioned way, using their feet, Areshian said. Juice from the trampled grapes drained into the vat, where it was left to ferment, he explained. The wine was then stored in jars—the cool, dry conditions of the cave would have made a perfect wine cellar, according to Areshian, who co-authored the new study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Wine Traces

To test whether the vat and jars in the Armenian cave had held wine, the team chemically analyzed pottery shards—which had been radiocarbon-dated to between 4100 B.C. and 4000 B.C.—for telltale residues. The chemical tests revealed traces of malvidin, the plant pigment largely responsible for red wine's color. "Malvidin is the best chemical indicator of the presence of wine we know of so far," Areshian said. Ancient-wine expert Patrick E. McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, agrees the evidence argues convincingly for a winemaking facility. One thing that would make the claim a bit stronger, though, said McGovern, who wasn't involved in the study, is the presence of tartaric acid, another chemical indicator of grapes. Malvidin, he said, might have come from other local fruits, such as pomegranates. Combined with the malvidin and radiocarbon evidence, traces of tartaric acid "would then substantiate that the facility is the earliest yet found," he said. "Later, we know that small treading vats for stomping out the grapes and running the juice into underground jars are used all over the Near East and throughout the Mediterranean," he added.

Winery Discovery Backed Up by DNA?

McGovern called the discovery "important and unique, because it indicates large-scale wine production, which would imply, I think, that the grape had already been domesticated." As domesticated vines yield much more fruit than wild varieties, larger facilities would have been needed to process the grapes. McGovern has uncovered chemical and archaeological evidence of wine, but not of a winery, in northern Iran dating back some 7,000 years—around a thousand years earlier than the new find. But the apparent discovery that winemaking using domesticated grapevines emerged in what's now Armenia appears to dovetail with previous DNA studies of cultivated grape varieties, McGovern said. Those studies had pointed to the mountains of Armenia, Georgia, and neighboring countries as the birthplace of viticulture. McGovern—whose book Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages traces the origins of wine—said the Areni grape perhaps produced a taste similar to that of ancient Georgian varieties that appear to be ancestors of the Pinot Noir grape, which results in a dry red. To preserve the wine, however, tree resin would probably have been added, he speculated, so the end result may actually have been more like a Greek retsina, which is still made with tree resin. In studying ancient alcohol, he added, "our chemical analyses have shown tree resin in many wine samples."

Ancient Drinking Rituals

While the identities of the ancient, moccasin-clad wine quaffers remain a mystery, their drinking culture likely involved ceremonies in honor of the dead, UCLA's Areshian believes. "Twenty burials have been identified around the wine-pressing installation. There was a cemetery, and the wine production in the cave was related to this ritualistic aspect," Areshian speculated. Significantly, drinking cups have been found inside and around the graves. McGovern, the ancient-wine expert, said later examples of ancient alcohol-related funerary rituals have been found throughout the world. In ancient Egypt, for example, "you have illustrations inside the tombs showing how many jars of beer and wine from the Nile Delta are to be provided to the dead," McGovern said. "I guess a cave is secluded, so it's good for a cemetery, but it's also good for making wine," he added. "And then you have the wine right there, so you can keep the ancestors happy." Future work planned at Areni will further investigate links between the burials and winemaking, study leader Areshian said.

Winemaking as Revolution

The discovery is important, the study team says, because winemaking is seen as a significant social and technological innovation among prehistoric societies. Vine growing, for instance, heralded the emergence of new, sophisticated forms of agriculture, Areshian said. "They had to learn and understand the cycles of growth of the plant," he said. "They had to understand how much water was needed, how to prevent fungi from damaging the harvest, and how to deal with flies that live on the grapes. "The site gives us a new insight into the earliest phase of horticulture—how they grew the first orchards and vineyards," he added. University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Naomi Miller commented that "from a nutritional and culinary perspective, wine expands the food supply by harnessing the otherwise sour and unpalatable wild grape. "From a social perspective, for good and ill," Miller said, "alcoholic beverages change the way we interact with each other in society."


***

The ancient-winery study was led by UCLA's Hans Barnard and partially funded by the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)

Perhaps a Red, 4,100 B.C.

In Armenia, Scientists Find Oldest Known Winery; A Big Vat for Treading Grapes

Scientists have discovered the world's oldest known winery, secreted amid dozens of prehistoric graves in a cavern in Armenia, an international research team said Tuesday. Outside a mountain village still known for its wine-making skill, archaeologists unearthed a large vat set in a platform for treading grapes, along with the well-preserved remains of crushed grapes, seeds and vine leaves, dating to about 6,100 years ago—a thousand years older than other comparable finds. On three pot shards, researchers from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, found a residue of malvidin, a pigment that gives grapes and wine a dark red hue.

The ancient seeds belonged to a domesticated grape variety, known as Vitis vinifera vinifera, that is still used to make red wine today, the team reported. "It looks like this cave complex was used during the Copper Age as a cemetery and a place of ritual," said UCLA archaeologist Gregory Areshian, who was co-director of the excavation effort. "The production of wine could be related to those rituals." The find, funded by National Geographic and to be reported Tuesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science, is evidence that the quest for a decent red may be as old as civilization itself. The team involved archaeologists from the U.S., Armenia and Ireland's University College Cork. "For this time and period, it is a very surprising discovery of advanced large-scale wine production," said biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern, of an authority on the origins of fermented beverages at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the project.

A Prehistory of Wine

No one knows who first made wine or domesticated wild grapes, but vintners today produce about 6.6 billion gallons of wine every year. Recent archaeological discoveries suggest that the art of fermenting wine is a biotechnology breakthrough as old as civilization itself.

  • 9,000 years ago – World's oldest known fermented beverage, a rice wine made with honey and fruit, from traces on pottery shards found in the village of Jiahu in northern China.
  • 7,400 years ago – Earliest chemical evidence of grape wine, unearthed at Hajii Firuz Tepe in the Zargos Mountains of Iran.
  • 6,500 years ago – Earliest evidence of mashed grapes in Greece and of wine production in Europe.
  • 6,100 years ago – Earliest known winery, found in Armenia, including a basin for squeezing, fermentation jars and the remains of crushed grapes, leaves and vines.
  • 5,100 years ago – Earliest evidence of medicinal wine in Egypt, from jars encrusted with wine residue found in tomb of Pharaoh Scorpion I.
  • 5,000 years ago – World's oldest known wine press, found in the ruins of Vathypetro in Crete.
  • 4,000 years ago – Earliest documented mention of wine, in a Sumerian clay tablet that, in ancient cuneiform, recorded a receipt for jugs of wine.
  • 3,300 years ago – First evidence of white wine in Egypt, from traces in jugs found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen.
  • 3,000 years ago – Oldest known surviving sample of Chinese rice wine.
  • 2,200 years ago – Chinese grape wine first produced, when domesticated European grapes are introduced to Asia.
  • 1,686 years ago – Oldest known surviving bottle of wine, sealed in a glass amphora by ancient Romans and buried in a stone sarcophagus in Germany; unearthed in 1867, it is still sealed and on display.

Source: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Journal of Archaeological Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science News, Archeology.

No one knows exactly who invented the biotechnology of grape wine. In northern China, villagers made fermented rice wine as early as 9,000 years ago. The advent of grape wine, though, can be traced to the Middle East through Egyptian tomb paintings, Sumerian clay tablets and the ancient Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, arguably the oldest known work of literature. The Bible's Book of Genesis credits Noah as the first to plant a vineyard, make wine, and become intoxicated. The earliest chemical evidence of grape wine, dating to about 7,400 years ago, was found on pots unearthed at Hajii Firuz Tepe in the Zargos Mountains of Iran. Through an extensive gene-mapping project in 2006, Dr. McGovern and his colleagues analyzed the heritage of more than 110 modern grape cultivars, and narrowed their origin to a region in Georgia, adjacent to present-day Armenia.

The winery cavern, called Areni-1, was originally surveyed during the Cold War era by defense planners from the Soviet Union who were looking for cave shelters deep enough to withstand a nuclear attack. Not until 2007, however, did archeologists explore the complex of 39 caves nestled in a steep canyon at the head of a narrow fertile valley, long planted with orchards and vineyards. As the Scientists made exploratory trenches dstarted to make exploratory trenches across the cave floor, theyand broke through a thick crust of hardened sheep dung into several layers of remarkablywell-preserved textiles, leather and wooden artifacts, dating to a time when metal tools were starting to replace stone implements and the wheel was first coming into use. The researchers have excavated six graves, of the dozens identified so far in the cave.

They excavated the wine vat, which can hold 14 to 15 gallons of liquid, in September. They also found storage jars, a drinking cup and bowls. Other finds included the earliest known leather shoe, dating to about 5,500 years ago, a discovery announced in June. "The cave was never looted and never disturbed," said Dr. Areshian. "It gives us this wonderful preservation of artifacts and organic remains."

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704458204576074141252276326.html?mod=rss_Food_and_Drink