Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ancient grapes found in Greece

Part of the purpose of this site is to present regular summaries of archaeology news. Today, there is an interesting story from The Discovery Channel website. A team of archaeologists working in northern Greece at a site called Dikili Tash have found the remains of grape seeds and crushed grapes in one of the houses there. The site dates to the Neolithic period, around 4500 B.C. It's not clear whether the grapes were being gathered to make wine or simply used for their juice. Probably the former, as wine was being made in Iran a millenium earlier. The grapes were either picked from wild vines or were in the earliest stages of domestication. It's possible that the cultivation of the grape was motivated specifically by the desire for greater alcohol production. Some scholars think wheat may have been first cultivated in order to make beer, not bread, although there is really no evidence for this.


H Lime said...

This is very interesting. Is there a long history in ancient wines of adding secondary fruits to add sweetness to these bitter, wild grapes? When was the changeover from bitter and wild to "domesticated" grapes?

Re your site: More, more, more I say! The net needs a good purveyor of archaeology news who can tell the average man/woman what's important and why.

Keep it coming!

H Lime

Scott de Brestian said...

H Lime,

Finding evidence this early is unusual, and I don't know that we can pin down the chronology precisely. The earliest evidence for wine, from Iran, comes from residues in storage jars, so can't tell us if the grapes were domesticated. Egyptian Old Kingdom reliefs show winemaking, and I think it's safe to say the vine was domesticated by 3000 B.C., and probably quite a bit earlier.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum, where I work has a web site discussing the history of wine.

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