Time and again, excavations in the Middle East document not only exhibits of earlier cultures, but also finds that bear witness to their food, pleasure or even medicine. It has been proven that the tradition of viticulture and the consumption of wine-like beverages was part of the life of the peoples in this region long before the Roman Empire – this is currently confirmed by the excavation of a “wine factory” several thousand years old.
IRAQ (Dohik) – Archaeologists have recently found the remains of an approximately 2700-year-old “wine factory of industrial scale” in northern Iraq. Italian excavation director Daniele Morandi Bonacossi told the press, “We have found fourteen plants that were used to press the grapes and extract the juice, which was then made into wine.” According to him, it was the first discovery of this kind in Iraq.
According to him, the site is located near the ancient capital of the Assyrian king Sargon II. (721-705 BC) near today’s major city of Mosul in the north of the country. The team of Italian archaeologists and colleagues from the Department of Antiquities in Dohuk in the autonomous Kurdish regions of northern Iraq also found ancient reliefs in a former irrigation ditch.
Especially in the area of today’s Iraq, numerous advanced civilizations such as Sumer, Akkad, Babylon and Assyria emerged during antiquity. They left behind, among other things, their writing as well as the first large cities. However, due to the political chaos that has lasted for decades, the archaeological sites are often looted and the loot sold to international collectors.
3700 year old wine cellar discovered
Even older in date is a find made by a team led by Assaf Yasur-Landau of Israel’s University of Haifa, which in 2013 discovered a wine cellar that was more than 3700 years old. The archaeologists made their find in the ruins of an ancient Canaanite palace in Tel Kabri in northern Israel. Traces of tartaric and syringic acid – both typical ingredients of wine – were found in the remains of vessels. According to further traces, the upper class of that time enjoyed their wine spiced with mint, honey, cinnamon, juniper berries and resin. These ingredients were already known to the ancient Egyptians at the time of the Pharaohs, who used them to make wines for medicinal purposes.
Authochthonous grape varieties
It has been known for a long time that in the region known as the “Middle East”, wine cultivation and aging was known and used. Vines were cultivated here thousands of years ago. Today we know of ancient authochtonous grape varieties such as Botooni, Dabuki, Jandali, Shami, Bairuti, Salti Khdari, Hamdani, Baluti, Darawishi, Shami, Baladi or Zaini, from which the Phoenicians and later the Jesuits used to press wine, then finally found their current cultivation home in Palestine and Israel.