Pottery fragments from 8,000-year-old jars unearthed near the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, are the earliest evidence of wine-making in the Near East, bringing the tradition back nearly 1,000 years earlier than thought, researchers said on November 13, 2017.
During this era, the latter part of which coincided with the Stone Age, people were beginning to farm, domesticate animals, make polished stone tools, crafts and weaving, researchers said. But now, an worldwide team of researchers say the practice actually began around 6,000 BCE in the South Caucuses, on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
Researchers were performing the excavations at two Neolithic sites situated close to Tbilisi, the capital.
Before stumbling upon these ceramic jars, the oldest evidence related to the existence of wine came from today's Iran, in the Zagros Mountains. "The Eurasian gravepine that now accounts for 99.9% of wine made in the world today, has its roots in Caucasia".
"The horticultural potential of the south Caucasus was bound to lead to the domestication of many new and different species, and innovative "secondary" products were bound to emerge".
Winemaking is more ancient than it was earlier thought. Other evidence indicating the presence of wine included ancient grape pollen found at the excavated sites - but not in the topsoil - as well as grape starch particles, the remains of a fruit fly, and cells believed to be from the surface of grapevines on the inside of one of the fragments. Older remnants of winemaking have also been found at the Jiahu site in China's Henan province, dating back to 7,000BC, but the fermented liquid appeared to be a mixture of grapes, hawthorn fruit, rice beer and honey mead.
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The jars were most likely for storing wine in these areas as they depicted images of grape clusters and a man dancing.
Some of these jars were pretty big - a comparable jar uncovered in a nearby site holds 300 litres (79 gallons), which could have held the contents of 400 wine bottles today.
He explained, "Wine is central to civilization as we know it in the West".
It's fantastic 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. It also shows the first attempts at farming and at domestic activities. "There's far greater sophistication even in the transitional Neolithic than we had any clue about".
The results, published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal that for eight of the fragments, including the two previously unearthed, the team found traces of tartaric acid - a substance found in grapes in large quantities.
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