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Archaeologists Find Largest, Oldest Near East Wine Cellar in Israel

The Land of Milk and Honey also is the Land of Wine, not only today with wines that have won world prizes but also 3,700 years ago, according to a new discovery by a US-led archaeological team.
American and Israel archaeologists have unearthed in Israel what is believed to be the largest and older wine cellar in the Near East

American and Israel archaeologists have unearthed in Israel what is believed to be the largest and older wine cellar in the Near East
Photo Credit: Eric Cline of The George Washington University

Archaeologists have unearthed what may be the oldest — and largest — ancient wine cellar in the Near East, containing forty jars, each of which would have held fifty liters of strong, sweet wine, archaeologists from George Washington, Brandeis and Haifa universities announced late Friday,

The amount of wine estimated to have been stored in the cellar would fill approximately 3,000 modern bottles, and there probably are other wine cellars waiting to be unearthed.

The cellar was discovered in Tel Kabri, located near the northwestern coastal city of Nahariya and the site of a ruined palace of a sprawling Canaanite city in northern Israel and dating back to about 1,700 B.C.

The archaeological site is located near many of Israel’s modern-day wineries, such as Carmel Mizrachi in Zichron Yaakov, near Haifa.

“This is a hugely significant discovery — it’s a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in age and size,” said Eric Cline, chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of at The George Washington University.

He teamed up with excavation co-director Assaf Yasur-Landau, chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa, co-directed the excavation. Andrew Koh, assistant professor of classical studies at Brandeis University, was an associate director.

Koh, an archaeological scientist, analyzed the jar fragments using organic residue analysis. He found molecular traces of tartaric and syringic acid, both key components in wine, as well as compounds suggesting ingredients popular in ancient wine-making, including honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins. The recipe is similar to medicinal wines used in ancient Egypt for two thousand years.

Koh also analyzed the proportions of each diagnostic compound and discovered remarkable consistency between jars.

“This wasn’t moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements,” Koh noted. “This wine’s recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar.”

Yasur-Landau said, “The wine cellar was located near a hall where banquets took place, a place where the Kabri elite and possibly foreign guests consumed goat meat and wine.” The team discovered two doors leading out of the wine cellar—one to the south, and one to the west, and pending more digging in two years, it is assumed that  both doors probably lead to additional storage rooms.

A large part of the palace was destroyed approximately 3,600 years ago as a result of an earthquake or some other disaster, according to the archaeologists.

Dr. Koh told reporters that the presence of tartaric acid  means it was used for grape juice or wine, and several ingredients are the same as those found in winemaking recipes that previously have been found in ancient texts from ruins in what is now Syria,

Luscious grapes grown in Israel are recorded in the Biblical narrative of the “12 spies” who traveled from the Sinai Desert after the Exodus to the area of Hevron to report back to Moses what the People of Israel could expect when entering. The grapes and pomegranates that the spies brought back from the Hevron area supported the promise that Israel indeed is a land of “milk and honey,” but 10 of the spies also said that the local Canaanites were giants living in fortified cities. The report sent fear into the Children of Israel who rebelled against their mission, for they were punished to remain in the desert and die by the end of 40 years after leaving Egypt, except who were under the ago of 20 at the time of the Exodus and except for the two spies who tried to persuade the people that they could overcome Canaan with God’s help.

Fine wines have been become a booming industry in recent years, with the grapes of the southern Hevron Hills and the Golan Heights being used for dry wines considered some of the best in the world.

About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.


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11 Responses to “Archaeologists Find Largest, Oldest Near East Wine Cellar in Israel”

  1. Nathan Katz says:

    Where did they get their corkscrews 3700 years ago?

  2. Unbelief caused the Israelites to not enter into God's rest. The same thing is happening today. Jesus is our rest.

  3. Loren Gee says:

    Why do you feel the need to post your nonsense on a Jewish site? We are not Christians, we do not want to be Christians and you Christians have persecuted us for nearly 2,000 years now.

    Go away and take your Christ with you. LEAVE US ALONE ALREADY!

  4. Loren Gee says:

    CliffandKim Hart – We believe in talking directly thank you very much. It was good enough for Abraham, Moses, Solomon, David and Issac, it's good enough for us too.

    From Israel it is a local call

  5. Some are waiting for His second ooming while the rest are still waiting for His first coming . This is ironical

  6. Loren Gee I apologize for the comments of evangelicals that feel it is their duty to save Jews from eternal damnation by annoying them into conversion. I'm not an evangelical, but I grew up in one of their churches, and I know how they can be. This article was on wine, however, so I'll link the evangelicals to the topic. According to my "pentecostal education" which teaches that drinking alcohol is a sin even in small quantities, Jesus and his followers only drank grape juice. I had so many moments of disbelief in some of the nonsense I was taught growing up, and to be honest, them saying that everybody back then drank grape juice, not wine, was the least of them. I heard a sunday school teacher tell the class that the the 3rd commandment (of the 10 commandments) instructs followers not to use "curse" words, so I asked him a simple question. I said, "So, you're saying that when somebody uses the word "sh*t", they're using the name of the Creator in vain? I told him that was blasphemous, and that the Creator's name is not synonymous with "sh*t". What do you expect from people who treat the first day of the week as the Sabbath, breaking another commandment?

  7. Earl Mann says:

    Loren Gee, it was also 'good enough' for Jesus… :)

  8. Loren Gee says:

    Earl Mann – it seems to me at least that for the Christians it's a matter of maturity.

    We have always sat at the adults table and talked directly.

    Christians are like children at the kids table having to have somebody speak for them.

    Very bizarre

  9. Earl Mann, the ten commandments are pretty clear that you shouldn't worship any idol or false god, including men. It also says to honor the Sabbath, which is the last day of the week, not the first. Virtually every Christian is in violation of those two commandments, and those are the "good" Christians…we won't get into all the murders and massacres committed in the name of Christ. We won't talk about how American Christians flaunt themselves in the house of the God with jewelry, make-up, and expensive clothing, including preachers who flaunt their wealth in direct violation of Paul's instructions to the church that clergy should live a life of poverty and humility . Not all Christians are hypocrites, but America is full of them. When I was a child, they told us that satanism takes religious symbols and inverts them, like an upside-down cross, but who took the week and turned the first day of the week into the last? Who took a man and turned him into a god? And explain this to me…if God is merciful, why would he make it nearly impossible for most people to get to Heaven? After Jesus, if you didn't confess your faith in Jesus, you were condemned, right? This includes people who never had the chance to hear the gospel, not to mention, the people who've spread the gospel for 2000 years were often spreading it through the use of force (murder, massacre, torture, etc.), and so why should their victims be held accountable for not trusting a religion of murderers?

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