NEW YORK — Scientists have uncovered a 3,700-year-old wine cellar in the ruins of a Canaanite palace in Israel, and chemical analysis of samples from the ceramic jars suggest they held a luxurious beverage that was evidently reserved for banquets, researchers said.
Andrew Koh of Brandeis University found signs of a blend of ingredients that may have included honey, mint, cedar, tree resins and cinnamon bark.
The discovery confirms how sophisticated wines were at that time, something suggested by ancient texts, said Eric Cline of George Washington University. The work of Cline, Koh and Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa in Israel was presented Friday at a meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research.
The wine cellar was found this summer in palace ruins near the modern town of Nahariya in northern Israel. Researchers found 40 ceramic jars, each big enough to hold about 13 gallons, in a single room. There may have been more wine stored elsewhere, but the amount held in the containers found so far wouldn’t be enough to supply the local population, which is why the researchers believe it was reserved for palace use, Cline said.
Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania, an expert in ancient winemaking, said the discovery “sheds important new light” on the development of winemaking in ancient Canaan, from which it later spread to Egypt and across the Mediterranean.