Archaeologists uncover one of world’s oldest wine cellars

Media Credit: Zach Dunseth, a GW alumnus, clears away dirt and debris from ancient wine jars in the ruins of a Canaanite city. Photo courtesy of Eric Cline
Media Credit: Zach Dunseth, a GW alumnus, clears away dirt and debris from ancient wine jars in the ruins of a Canaanite city. Photo courtesy of Eric Cline

Surrounded by 75 acres of ancient ruins in northern Israel, a team of researchers led by a GW professor made a big discovery: a 2,700-year old cellar that held the equivalent of 3,000 bottles of wine.

Eric Cline, an archaeological expert in Near Eastern civilizations, said the wine cellar is one of the world’s largest and oldest. It began when the team unearthed a three-foot-long wine jug, which they named “Bessie” – and then they found three dozen more containing residue of both whites and reds.

“We’ve read about these types of wine cellars. We grew up studying them in graduate school. But that is only attested from clay tablets, and now we think we’ve actually found one,” Cline said.

The researchers, which includes American and Israeli researchers, will present their findings at a conference in Baltimore on Friday.

Excavation of the Canaanite Palace began in 2005, and Cline said student researchers from GW and other universities helped clear the site in two shifts.

Andrew Koh, a professor of classical studies at Brandeis University, said he found evidence of both red and white wine that had been sweetened with honey and was flavored with mint, cinnamon and juniper berries.

He called the size and quality of the findings unprecedented and that he would work to better identify the recipe for the wine.

Assaf Yasur–Landau, who co-led the dig from the University of Haifa in Israel, said the wine cellar and the banquet hall seemed to be “destroyed during the same violent event, perhaps an earthquake,” because the walls were caked with thick debris of mud bricks and plaster.

Before leaving, the team discovered two doors leading out of the cellar, which they will search through when they return to the site in 2015.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.