Washington: Archaeologists have unearthed what may be one of the world`s oldest and largest wine cellar - a 3,700-year-old store room that held 2,000 litres of strong, sweet wine - in Israel.
The cellar, containing forty intact jars, each of which would have held fifty litres of wine, was discovered in the ruined palace of a sprawling Canaanite city in northern Israel, called Tel Kabri.
The site dates to about 1,700 BC and isn`t far from many of Israel`s modern-day wineries.
"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 at The George Washington University.
Cline and Assaf Yasur-Landau, chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa, co-directed the excavation which found the cellar in July this year.
Andrew Koh, assistant professor of classical studies at Brandeis University, US, analysed 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 analysed 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. This wine`s recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar," Koh said.
Important guests drank this wine, noted Yasur-Landau.
"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," he said.
The team also discovered two doors leading out of the wine cellar - one to the south, and one to the west. Both probably lead to additional storage rooms.