Archaeologists discover largest, oldest palatial wine cellar
Leah Burrows, Brandeis University news, 22-11-2013
Would you drink wine flavored with mint, honey and a dash of psychotropic resins? Ancient Canaanites did more than 3,000 years ago. Andrew Koh, associate professor of classical studies, was part of a team that unearthed the oldest – and largest – palatial wine cellar in the Near East, containing 40 jars, each of which would have held 50 liters of strong, sweet wine. The cellar was discovered in the ruined palace of a sprawling Canaanite city in northern Israel called Tel Kabri. The site dates to about 1,700 B.C., and isn’t far from many of Israel’s modern-day wineries.
Koh partnered with members of the Brandeis chemistry department to analyze the jar fragments using organic residue analysis. Collaborating with professors Barry Snider, Christine Thomas, Casey Wade and Isaac Krauss, Koh found molecular traces of tartaric and syringic acid, both key components in wine. They also identified compounds suggesting ingredients popular in ancient wine-making, including honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins. The recipe is similar to medicinal wines used in ancient Egypt for 2,000 years.