New discovery shows our prehistoric ancestors were making wine 8000 years ago

Earliest Evidence Of Wine-Making Found In Ancient Relics From Georgia

The world's earliest evidence of grape wine-making has been detected in 8,000-year-old pottery jars unearthed in Georgia, making the tradition nearly 1,000 years older than previously thought, researchers said Monday. Georgia is one of the flawless environments for such undertakings, as it hosts about 500 species and varieties of grapes used only for wine, together with many others cultivated for fruits.

Georgia, which has a long heritage of winemaking, is positioned at a crossroads between Western Asia and Eastern Europe, and the grape identified in jar fragments excavated from two Neolithic-era villages is Vitis vinifera - aka the "Eurasian grapevine", from which almost all kinds of modern wine originate.

As innovative as this early viticulture was, though, it wasn't the first time ancient humans mashed grapes into a fermented liquid and made a decision to drink it.

But the study's lead author, Patrick McGovern, a scientific director at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia who also co-authored the 1996 Nature study that placed the earliest evidence for grape wine in Iran, said the search for the truly oldest wine artifacts will continue.

The Neolithic Period (around 15,200 BCE to 2,000 BCE) was characterized by the beginning of farming, the domestication of animals, the development of crafts such as pottery and weaving, and the production of polished stone tools.

(A) Representative early Neolithic jar from Khramis Didi-Gora.

The jars were most likely for storing wine in these areas as they depicted images of grape clusters and a man dancing.

To explore whether winemaking was indeed a part of life in the region, the team focused on collecting and analysing fragments of pottery from two Neolithic villages, as well as soil samples.

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Researchers used a combination of mass spectrometry and chromatography techniques to identify the compounds found in wine in the ancient jar fragments.

The results, published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal that for eight of the fragments, including the two previously unearthed, the team found traces of tartaric acid - a substance found in grapes in large quantities. The researchers said that the decorations possibly represent grapes. This finding makes it the oldest know evidence of wine-making in the world, at 6000 BC in the Neolithic period. Moreover, there are none of the telltale signs that the pots were used for syrup-making, while grape juice would have fermented within a matter of days.

This "discovery dates the origin of the practice to the Neolithic period around 6,000 BC, pushing it back 600-1,000 years from the previously accepted date", according to the study.

"The wine was probably made similarly to the traditional qvevri method in Georgia today, where the grapes are crushed and the fruit, stems, and seeds are all fermented together", Batiuk said.

In the world of top drops there's aged wine and then there's 8,000 year-old wine.

"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine exclusively for the production of wine", said co-author Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate at the University of Toronto.

Excavations in the Republic of Georgia by the Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (GRAPE), a joint undertaking between the University of Toronto (U of T) and the Georgian National Museum, have uncovered evidence of the earliest winemaking anywhere in the world. "They have been saying for years that they have a very long history of winemaking and so we're really cementing that position".

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