ACCORDING to the ancient Greeks, wine was first discovered by Dionysus, and proved so popular that he was rewarded with godhood. The ancient Persians credit it to a woman who had been banished from the presence of the legendary King Jamshid. Despondent, she wandered into a warehouse where she found a jar containing the remains of some spoiled grapes. Thinking this was as good a method of suicide as any, she drank the liquid. The effect was not quite what she had expected.
For archaeologists, as opposed to mythmakers, untangling the history of wine is particularly hard, partly because the product is perishable and partly because the technique is simple enough to have been invented independently by early settlers in different parts of the world. It did not help that, until recently, archaeologists would wash any ancient pottery they unearthed in hydrochloric acid to strip off any accumulated gunk, which also removed any organic compounds that might have given a clue about what was once stored in the pots.
Fortunately, bits of wine-stained pottery still turn up. As reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds at two sites have pushed the origins of large-scale winemaking back to 6,000 BC, half a millennium or more before the previous date. A team of researchers led by Patrick McGovern from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of…Continue reading
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