Wine, a key ingredient for many get-togethers, has long been central to a various civilizations, but how long is now under revision. Previously, the earliest finding, dating back approximately 7 000 years, had been made in north-western Iran, but research just published
in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ shows even earlier consumption.
The findings show that this important cultural achievement occurred earlier than previously known, in the southern Caucasus region on the border of eastern Europe and western Asia. Until now, the oldest wine-making evidence had come from pottery from the Zagros Mountains in northwestern Iran dating to 5 400-5 000 BC.
Some of the pottery jars, approximately 80 cm tall and 40 cm wide, bore images of grape clusters and a man dancing. They were discovered in two Neolithic villages, called Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, about 50km (30 miles) south of Tbilisi, researchers said. The villages were perhaps once home to around 60 people each and consisted of small mudbrick houses. The villagers harvested wheat, raised sheep, goat and cattle, and used simple tools made of bone and obsidian.
‘We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine solely for the production of wine,’ the BBC
quotes co-author Stephen Batiuk, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto as saying.
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The quantity of wine our ancestors quaffed is uncertain, although the dancing man decoration could provide a small clue, what does seem to be clear is that the method of wine-making in the region in which the find was made remains similar. The researchers analysed residues in large jars called qvevri, to establish that the chemicals indicated the presence of fermented alcoholic beverage made from grapes. These are similar to the modern ones, still used for wine-making in Georgia said David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum, who helped lead the research. The team explains the wine was probably made in a similar way to the qvevri method today, ‘where the grapes are crushed and the fruit, stems and seeds are all fermented together’.
‘Wine is central to civilization as we know it in the West,’ Batiuk added. ‘As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopoeias, cuisines, economies and society in the ancient Near East.’
In 2011, a wine press and fermentation jars from about 6 000 years ago were found in a cave in Armenia, and the world''s earliest, non-grape based wine is believe to be a fermented alcoholic beverage of rice, honey and fruit found in China and dating to about 7 000 BC.