Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


7 September 2014

Wine and herbal residues found in Bronze Age palace cellar jars

Popular Archaeology, 27-08-2014

Wine and herbal residues found in Bronze Age palace cellar jars

In 2013, while excavating within the palace ruins of Tel Kabri, a 75-acre ancient Canaanite city site in northern Israel that dates back to 1700 BCE, a joint American-Israeli team came across a three-foot-long jar. They later christened it “Bessie.” The single find by itself was nothing remarkable. But they kept digging. “We dug and dug, and all of a sudden, Bessie’s friends started appearing – 5, 10, 15, ultimately 40 jars packed in a 15-by-25-foot storage room,” said excavation co-director Dr. Eric Cline, chair of George Washington University’s Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. “This is a hugely significant discovery – it’s a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in its age and size.”

The 40 jars, each of which could have held 50 liters, had a total capacity of about 2,000 liters, meaning the cellar could have held the equivalent of nearly 3,000 bottles of red and white wine. This places the cellar among the largest ancient wine cellars in the world. The finds were made while they were digging an area adjacent to and west of a monumental building first excavated in 2011, a one-of-kind structure that was lined with precisely-shaped orthostat blocks. “This is the largest concentration to date of restorable pottery found anywhere in the palace of Kabri and the only place on site where we have found an entire room still full of artifacts,” writes co-director Yasur-Landau and colleagues in their preliminary report. Yasur-Landau is chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa.

The study details are published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE: Koh AJ, Yasur-Landau A, Cline EH (2014) Characterizing a Middle Bronze Palatial Wine Cellar from Tel Kabri, Israel. PLoS ONE 9(8)

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