Washington: Researchers have unearthed what could be the largest and oldest wine cellar in the Near East.
The group made the discovery at the 75-acre Tel Kabri site in Israel, the ruins of a northern Canaanite city that dates back to approximately 1700 B.C.
The excavations at the vast palace of the rulers of the city are co-directed by Eric H. Cline of the George Washington University (GW), and Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa, with Andrew Koh of Brandeis University as associate director.
As researchers excavated at the site, they uncovered a three-foot-long jug, later christened "Bessie."
Dr. Cline, chair of GW`s Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, said that they dug and dug, and all of a sudden, Bessie`s friends started appearing-five, 10, 15, ultimately 40 jars packed in a 15-by-25-foot storage room.
He said that this is a hugely significant discovery-it`s a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in its age and size.
The 40 jars have a capacity of roughly 2,000 liters, meaning the cellar could have held the equivalent of nearly 3,000 bottles of reds and whites.
Dr. Yasur-Landau, chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa, said that 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 that the wine cellar and the banquet hall were destroyed during the same violent event, perhaps an earthquake, which covered them with thick debris of mud bricks and plaster.