Characterizing a middle bronze palatial wine cellar from Tel Kabri, Israel

Andrew J. Koh, Assaf Yasur-Landau, Eric H. Cline

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Scholars have for generations recognized the importance of wine production, distribution, and consumption in relation to second millennium BC palatial complexes in the Mediterranean and Near East. However, direct archaeological evidence has rarely been offered, despite the prominence of ancient viticulture in administrative clay tablets, visual media, and various forms of documentation. Tartaric and syringic acids, along with evidence for resination, have been identified in ancient ceramics, but until now the archaeological contexts behind these sporadic discoveries had been uneven and vague, precluding definitive conclusions about the nature of ancient viticulture. The situation has now changed. During the 2013 excavation season of the Kabri Archaeological Project, a rare opportunity materialized when forty large storage vessels were found in situ in an enclosed room located to the west of the central courtyard within the Middle Bronze Age Canaanite palace. A comprehensive program of organic residue analysis has now revealed that all of the relatively uniform jars contain evidence for wine. Furthermore, the enclosed context inherent to a singular intact wine cellar presented an unprecedented opportunity for a scientifically intensive study, allowing for the detection of subtle differences in the ingredients or additives within similar wine jars of apparently the same vintage. Additives seem to have included honey, storax resin, terebinth resin, cedar oil, cyperus, juniper, and perhaps even mint, myrtle, or cinnamon, all or most of which are attested in the 18th century BC Mari texts from Mesopotamia and the 15th century BC Ebers Papyrus from Egypt. These additives suggest a sophisticated understanding of the botanical landscape and the pharmacopeic skills necessary to produce a complex beverage that balanced preservation, palatability, and psychoactivity. This new study has resulted in insights unachievable in the past, which contribute to a greater understanding not only of ancient viticulture but also of Canaanite palatial economy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere106406
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume9
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 27 Aug 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology

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