Sweet and Spicy Libations: Wine in the Ancient Near East

By Brian Lemay No comments

–of wine later on this evening. So I’m very pleased to introduce
our speakers tonight, Andrew Koh and Joseph Green. Andrew Koh is assistant
professor of classical studies at Brandeis. He received his PhD
In art and archaeology of the Mediterranean world from
the University of Pennsylvania in 2006, during which he
was an associate member of the American School of
Classical Studies at Athens from 2003 to 2004 and an
exchange scholar at Stanford University’s Archaeology Center
and Department of Classics from ’05 to ’06. He currently serves as the
co-director of graduate studies in the Department of
Classical Studies at Brandeis and is a Florence Levy Kay
fellow in their Department of Chemistry. He’s also a faculty
member with the Center for Materials Research in
Archaeology and Ethnology at MIT. He’s the author of two books,
Wreathed in a Fragrant Cloud: Reconstruction a Late Bronze
Age Aegean Workshop of Aromata, published in 2008,
and another work is in preparation for the
University of California Press called Residual History:
Perfumes, Potions, and Purple Dye in Antiquity. That will be a finalist
for the alliteration in archaeology prize as
soon as it’s published. From 2012 to ’13 he
worked on the development of the exhibition “Dead Sea
Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times” in collaboration with the
Boston Museum of Science. And since 2003 he’s
served as the director of archaeochemistry research
in the Eastern Mediterranean project and since ’09 has serve
d as the associate director of the Haifa-GW-Brandeis
Kabri archaeological project in Israel. And as of this year he’s
been appointed the director of the Brandeis at Petras
archaeological field school in Crete. I’m exhausted just reading
all these achievements. How do you do all this? In 2013 Andrew was
part of a research team that discovered what
is believed to be the oldest and largest wine
cellar in the ancient Near East– and you’re in for a treat
to hear about that tonight. So he’ll share with us tonight
how this discovery was made and what it tells us about the
people who lived in the Near East during the
middle Bronze Age– so that’s 1900 to 1600 BCE–
and the wine they enjoyed. And I might just add that
Andrew and I in another life were both on the
faculty at Tufts University many years ago. So I can tell you,
you are, indeed, in for a special evening. The next speaker is someone I
have the privilege of working with every single day, so
I know what a fantastic scholar and colleague he is. Joseph Green is the deputy
director and the curator of the Harvard Semitic Museum. He received his PhD From the
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
at the University of Chicago in 1986. He served as the assistant
director of the Semitic Museum from ’94 until 2012. Between ’90 and ’93 he worked
as the director of publications for the American Schools of
Oriental Research Punic project and Ashkelan
excavations, as well as the curator of publications
for the Semitic Museum. From ’87 to ’88 he
served as director of the Jordan Department of
Antiquities’ cultural resource management project, part of
the American Center of Oriental Research, United States Agency
for International Development. Since 2012 he has been a member
of the advisory committee for the Museum Studies
Program here at Harvard in the Division of
Continuing Education and he’s also been a
member of the Standing Committee on Archaeology
at Harvard since 2010. Tonight Joe will
place the discovery of the seller in context of
the social and cultural history of wine’s emergence in
the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean world. So we will have
our two speakers, we’ll have a few
minutes for questions– they will serve on our panel
in those chairs afterwards– and then we’ll hear a little
bit about the tantalizing wines that you will all be able to
experience right next door in the Harvard Semitic Museum. Please join me in welcoming
Andrew Koh and Joseph Green. [APPLAUSE] It’s a pleasure to
always see Peter. I want to thank everybody
who’s been involved in organizing this event. I know there were a
lot of moving parts and that, in itself, is
a remarkable achievement. Just to get into it, our story
starts– believe it or not– in 2013, as was mentioned,
in the month of June. And this is really
almost immediately after the discovery–
let’s say several days after the vessel we fondly
call Bessie, for reasons. As you’ll see,
there are a couple of other vessels poking
above the ground. People always ask, did
you ever take a picture when only the top of
Bessie was revealed? And honestly, we didn’t
want to take a picture because what happens is when
you are excited about a find, it ends up being the only find. So we kind of held off and
this, as far as we know, is the first picture
we have of what will become the wine cellar. Before we talk
about June of 2013, we actually have
to go back a little further and talk about the
impetus behind this study. It’s been going on for
approximately a decade, an extension of my dissertation
research– this whole idea and concept of
Mediterranean trade throughout antiquity,
but especially during the Bronze Age. I focus in particular on
the second millennium BC and there are some
intriguing questions that come to the
forefront right away. You can see two of the
major ones listed– for one, how do we reconstruct this
early trade in commodities and how did this early trade
help define later activities? So while we’re going to
zoom in on this wine cellar, it is, in fact, part of a larger
picture that I’ll touch upon and I’m sure Dr Green will then
continue with the second half of today’s presentations. So, as many of you know,
early Mediterranean trade was quite robust. We know definitely
by the year 2000 or so there were at least
localized areas of trade. This is the network, as it’s
loosely called, throughout most of the Bronze Age. We’re fairly certain
that most ships did not go across the whole circuit, but
at least at certain times some of them might have, like
the Uluburn shipwreck, which many of you know. Our focus will be on two
areas, the southern Levant– in southern Tunisia,
now northern Israel– and the eastern part of Crete. To go into the genesis
of this project, it starts at the University
of Pennsylvania Museum, where as a graduate student, I
was fortunate enough not just to reside in
the Mediterranean section or the Egyptian
section, but I was lucky enough to traverse the
different sections and noticed these vessels
that people have noticed throughout the ages,
throughout the years, like a Mycenaean
stirrup jar, a Cypriot Bilbil and a Tell
el-Yahudiyeh juglet from Egypt and the
southern Levant. But many people have
not, in fact, studied their contacts, and that’s
something I realized would be a great discovery. But not just that’s
been done in the past, in terms of what they might
have contained and move on, but actually to
embed it within a larger narrative of this trade network
and social economy, structure, et cetera. And with that, I
did some background into the nature
of organics trade, because that really is my
speciality versus metals and other kinds of
stone and whatnot. I focus more on organic. Though they don’t
preserve as well, I always felt that it
was an under studied area that we can learn a lot. And as my wife
points out, in fact, Mediterranean pharmacopoeia
is still a major product on the market today. This is actually product
she uses, apparently. I don’t know anything
about it but what is interesting– I did,
because of this research, look at some of the products. And what’s fascinating
is it’s called Moroccan but it’s made in Israel,
as some of you might know. So once again, tracing back this
kind of Mediterranean context to these organics. But it comes down
to the question of what direct evidence do we
actually have from antiquity? That is, ultimately, what
we’re trying to get at. So in 2003 I started
the ARCHEM project. It’s different from
what’s been done for approximately 20 years. Believe it or not,
organic residue analysis, as we call it now, really
started around 1990 using the latest instruments
like GC-MS. If you really want to press your definition
of organic residue analysis, you can go back
many generations. A perfect example is
in the Egyptian section of the university museum there’s
is a bowl from the Middle Kingdom with these dried up
dates, apparently, in it. And if you look at the
note, in handwritten style, it says apparently
dates as verified by a research assistant
or student researcher and there’s, like,
a big chunk missing and I wonder how they
actually verified it’s dates. I’m assuming by consumption,
which I hope not. I have some of my
graduate students here and they’re all
shaking their heads. But you can argue that’s organic
residue analysis– much more primitive. And I’m happy to say what we
do with the ARCHEM project is more sophisticated. So in addition to
extracting residues in the field, what I
proposed to do originally to set it apart
from past studies is also construct a
library of these residues. So rather than just
analyzing a couple of samples and say, yea, nay,
it had wine, I felt that to get
the true value out of this research we had
to ask archaeologically relevant questions. And that leads us back
to the site of Kabri. And our focus for
tonight in this story is this western area that we
now know as a wine cellar. For those who don’t know
the site, to orient you this is kind of what we think
might have been the smaller courtyard. For those of you who know the
site of [? Mari, ?] which had some decoration, as well,
there might have been a larger courtyard down here
like at [? Mari ?]. The throne room. The other building,
in addition to the wine cellar I’d point out,
is the so called orthostat building, which we think
plays into this story. What we’re doing
next year, in 2015, is excavating what we think
is the rest of– well, at least an additional
portion of– the storage area of the Middle Bronze
palace that you see here in front of you. The original goal was to
figure out the western extent of the palace proper. And we thought it would be
approximately right here, but in fact, it
just keeps on going. So we have a lot of
work ahead of us. And here is the wine
cellar with Bessie. And as you can see, it
is remarkably preserved. In fact, it is certainly
the best preserved room in the entire site that’s
yet been discovered. And we were, once
again, fortunate that holding our breath we
were able to exhale when, in fact, Bessie
wasn’t an anomaly but in fact, there were
39 or so extra vessels. This is kind of looking
to the southeast– some of you have seen it
in the publication– and there is this chamber here,
which we’re trying to figure out does it extend further
to the east or not, and we’ll figure
that out next summer and also excavate another
room to the south. But what are some of the
characteristics of this field research? As I pointed out,
this is not just done in museums after the fact. Many of the past studies
analyzed residues from vessels that were excavated
generations ago– mended, glued, washed. You get results like
nicotine, glues, sunscreen. I knew that if we could
integrate this process early on, I felt that we would
get the best results. The more pristine the
sample, the better result you’re likely to get. That’s not surprising. Also, I wanted to
be comprehensive. I wanted to kind of control
what we were trying to study. Rather than just waiting in
the lab for an archaeologist to send random samples they
think is interesting to you, I actually wanted to hold
more of the initiative, go into the field, and
comprehensively sample different assemblages. And finally, for reasons of
preservation end permitting, I felt that a non destructive
process would be the best. So what are we looking for? We’re ultimately
looking for this. I got this– my students, they
kind of cringe when I usually tell the story– but this
is from a blog, something like I hate my roommates. In fact, I love these roommates
or whoever these occupants are because if the room was cleaned
out or they were fastidious we would get poor results. But we’re looking for
vessels that are typically used for a singular kind of
purpose– wine storage, perfume manufacture. Because, in fact, if
you have a kitchen you get a mixture of results. Because what the residue
analysis will tell you is what these vessels
contained in the past, but they won’t tell
you in what order and at what time of
the vessel’s lifetime that it actually
contained those organics. So it can complicate things. I typically at this point refuse
to analyze basins and frying pans because you’ll get
a mixture of results and ultimately, what
can that tell you, other than they ate food? So we extract as pristine
samples as possible in these contexts
and ultimately go through this process
of storing them in files for future analysis. At Kabri it was
complicated by the fact that we had– even though
we discovered Bessie the first week, we only
have five weeks or so left. We did the math in our
head and we realized we weren’t going to finish. After a week or so we
were going to slow. So we did was we
pulled everybody from every other
area, brought them in, and we did double shifts. So the original group dug
in the morning, as usual, the other new participants
would stay at the field school, process the finds, and
return in the mid afternoon and continue excavations
until dinner time. And because of
this technique, we were able to excavate properly
all the vessels the day before the season ended. And as you can see
here in the bottom, I’m taking the
sherds for sampling– being able to control,
once again, what sherd I wanted to take and
what seemed most promising. So to be able to add the element
of control and consistency to the whole process. Once I return to the field,
I extract the residues myself with the help of my students
as soon as possible. But this whole process at Kabri
took approximately two to three weeks from taking these
vessels out the ground to going to the Brandeis
Department of Chemistry and putting them through the
GC-MS. So as far as I know, it’s very rare that samples
get processed that quickly. They then get filtered
into 20-millimeter vials and here we have this
library– 10,000 or so residues by my last count. The next step
after extraction is to put them through
instrumentation and it’s not by grad student
consumption in this day and age. After you put them
into smaller vials you put them through
a GC-MS. Here’s my dissertation instrument,
our instrument in Crete. And finally, a two-
or three-year-old instrument that I
currently use at Brandeis, thanks to the department there. What we found with
the jars at Kabri were these nicely preserved
samples, nicely defined peaks. We had a suspicion that based
upon how Middle Bronze Age palaces functioned, the nature
of the room and the vessels, that these certainly
had to contain liquids. So the two candidates,
more often than not, when you have this
quantity of liquids is going to be
olive oil or wine. And now, looking at these
chromatagrams right away, I can usually tell immediately. If you have olive oil you
get all these fatty acids in the middle and
when you get something more dispersed like this
it’s typically wine. Of course, I can’t just look
at it and say it’s wine. We can’t get published that way. We need to have some
standards so we get things like syringic acid, put it
through the same exact process, prepare it the same way,
and then you compare them. The peaks should
match up in time, but then you also look
at the mass spectrum and look at the
fragments and then voila, you have syringic acid. It gets a little bit more
complicated than that, as you’ll see, because
yes, syringic acid can occur in trace
amounts– perhaps in soil and other plants. But when you
everything together– the nature of the jar, the
nature of a palace like this, certainly it’s hard
to deny that when you have syringic acid, which
is derived from [? avidin. ?] That it’s a marker for red wine. To make sure that 100 years
from now people don’t say, well, these bozos found the
only wine cellar intact and they didn’t do their
best we invested, in addition, to new techniques
like high quality light or not like the
things from planes that you saw many years ago, but
we have people at the cutting edge being able to do two or
one millimeter accurate LiDAR analyses and after that
we have a nice mapped room for posterity. This isn’t a bad image, but
in fact, if you zoom in, you’ll see that each of
these are discrete points accurate to two millimeters. It’s kind of difficult
to tell, but you can see every crack, every wave,
and all the articulated jars. And that’s how we were able
to publish, in fact, where each sherd came from. What do the results tell us? Well, going way back to the
beginning of my research, I knew that past studies
took very few samples and they were variable. Not only were there
many variables, but sometimes the variables
weren’t even though. Where did the body
sherd come from? Where does the sherd
even come from? It came maybe from a
tertiary context in Amarna. Well, we always
know that when we have those type of uncertainties
that it’s an unhealthy platform for research. So in addition to finding out
what the wine cellar contained, what this room contained,
I want to go beyond that and use it as a case
study in how organic residue analysis
might tell us more. Ultimately, what we found
out is that, in fact, 32 of the 32 jars tested
contained tartaric acid, which is a maker for
wine— red or white– and then also 29 of the
32 had syringic acid. So at least 29 had red wine,
possibility the other three had white wine. We’re still trying to
investigate whether, in fact, it is white wine. People say, are you just trying
to make spectacular headlines? Not really. If we were going to make
spectacular headlines, we would have probably
jumped out and said, we have the oldest example
of white wine ever found. We’re not to do that
until we’re more certain. So we were able to conclude
that this was, in fact, a wine cellar. And there was a good
deal of consistency between the many jars,
even within the same jars, because in at least one example
on a whim, I took two samples. I ended up taking a sample
from down here, which is similar to every
other vessel and I took that sherd
right there, which is around halfway up the body. And the results–
here we are– this is from higher up in the body,
4322 is from near the base. As far as I know, nobody’s
ever done a study like this. And what I found out
is yes, the top sherd has syringic and tartaric
acid but in fact, they’re in lesser quantity
and we’re missing a lot of diagnostic compounds. So when we have
past studies done, when they claim to have
found these compounds, it’s usually with a
total lack of context in terms of the vessel itself. So I could ratios and
when you look at the way that these different
diagnostic compounds compare to tartaric and syringic
acid, you in fact, see that there’s a great deal
of consistency– more than, perhaps, we ever imagined. And the final step
of the process is trying to interpret what
these compounds came from. Because though we
can find things like cedrol and moronic
acid, it doesn’t tell us what the ancient commodity
was that it came from. But with good research,
you can reasonably propose what they came from–
not just from the chemistry and biochemistry, but
also from other methods I’ll show you in a second. So this is a nice chart
of the chemical occurrence of potential additives. The reason why I show it
to you is, in fact, you’ll see that many
vessels don’t contain some of the diagnostics. And what I propose is that
there’s a reason for that. The other clues we have
to support our research is documentation, such as, for
instance, the Ebers papyrus and later on, Plutarch talks
about this whole process of preparing kyphi. First mentioned in
the Pyramid Texts without, really, too much
context, but definitely by around the 15th
century BC we have a good idea of how it’s used. And you’ll notice
that Plutarch mentions that it’s a potion, as well. So it has reason to be consumed. And of course, Mari just
to the north of Kabri. We have references
to different types of wine and additives quite
reminiscent of our own wine cellar. So our conclusion is that it
is a wine cellar that contained resonate or herbal wines and
that were fairly consistent and of good quality. As we know, wine–
especially back then– was not just consumed by anyone. Unlike beer, there are
significant constraints of when you can actually
produce wine and storage and other types of things I’m
sure we’ll hear, hopefully, more about in the
coming minutes. What else can we conclude? I pointed out those different
instances of these additives. What I think now is, based
upon the consistency, I don’t think it’s random
due to preservation but there’s a
rationale behind it. Is there any
pattern between what was contained in these
jars and their location? And I think there is
a significant pattern. For one, the jars that
contained just wine with a dearth of additives, they
pretty much occur right here. There are two entrances
and a platform right here, and this is the entrance
facing the palace. So what I propose is that the
wine was brought in this way and that they were
lined up over here. These jars contained not
just the wine, but additives in various states of quantity. And underneath 26, there
is that installation you saw from the aerial photo. What almost certainly is
going on here is in addition there are small vessels
and dippers and bowls. This must have been where
after they brought in the wine, they perhaps added these
different types of herbs. In an interesting twist,
these are the jars that didn’t have syringic acid. Perhaps it could be
due to preservation, but as these jars
get conserved we’re hoping that there’s some
kind of marker on them that might distinguish
them from the others. Then our argument for
it being white wine will become much stronger. Over here in this little
antechamber and these jars, as well, you can see
the covered entrance so they didn’t go back in after
what we think is an earthquake. These are the jars that had
pretty much every ingredient. So you see the pattern here–
the jars are brought in, they’re triaged there,
and then at certain times they’re processed with this
platform and these dippers. Perhaps they’re cooled
down, some maybe water added to them– we don’t
know– and then they’re brought in this way and stored. And as you’ll see
in a second, there is then a path that
goes straight to what we think is a banqueting area. The orthostat building I
pointed out at the beginning, this was taken in 2011 before
the wine cellar was discovered. This is looking to
the south so the wine cellar’s to your right. And if you go out
that one entrance you end up right
around here, and this is the orthostat
building and this seemed to be a storage
room connected to this. There was one jar I
did test in 2011 that did contain tartaric acid. So we think this
was a media storage area for some kind of
feasting that occurred in the orthostat building. And based upon
final analysis you can see this is the
orthostat building. This was one area
we dug further down and that’s where we
found a concentration of all kinds of animals. If you look at these two areas,
venison, sheep, and goats. There’s an entire bull. So there’s some kind of feasting
activity being done here, probably connected to the
wine cellar that you can see. This is all Late Bronze
Age representations of wine drinking but
you can see, perhaps, what was going on in
this orthostat building. What are the next steps
here, as I wrap up? Well, there’s an intriguing
twist to what is being found. What we didn’t realize is
that in Israel the vineyards kind of went out of use
after the Islamic incursion. And for around a
millennium there really were no working, active
vineyards of any size. And it was in the 19th century
that Baron de Rothschild, using great varieties imported from
his chateaus in Bordeaux– sometimes we think via
India, of all places– that viniculture was we
established in the Galilee. We also have a Ptolemaic papyrus
that describes an estate just around 10 miles or so the
southeast of Kabri, which we think is modern day
Bi’ina, and this papyrus mentions that 80,000 vines
produced wine of good quality. Glaukias, the writer, states
that he can’t distinguish these wines from Chios. We’re not sure if
he’s just being nice, but what we’re proposing is, in
fact, it’s not just low quality wine but there’s a certain
high quality to the wine being produced just in the
backyard of Kabri. Salvage excavations in the
tell right next to Bi’ina revealed, in fact,
that there was a major site for viniculture–
vats, all kinds of elements connected to
viniculture, we think. And the finds just continue
all the way back to EB1B. So we think that this was
traditionally a wine production area and we’re now trying
to connect it to Kabri. So if grape DNA can be
isolated next summer– it’s actually
going on right now. We saved all the soil
from inside the jars, they’re being sieved. We’re looking for
grape pips, anything that would produce DNA. Then we could compare it
to feral grapes, perhaps, that are located
near [? Carneal ?] and also in European vineyards. And we hope, then,
to find varieties that are more closely
related to what was being used to produce the Kabri wine. One of the first things
that usually people ask me– I just gave a talk at
a synagogue last spring and the first thing
they ask is can you help them produce better wine. I’m not sure if that
will actually happen or not, but if we can
perhaps find a variety that over centuries acclimated
to the Levant, rather than the Atlantic
coast of France, we suspect there might be
better material grapes that could produce wine that is
particular to the southern Levant. And just quickly
you can see Kabri’s at the head of the
spring and there is the state that’s mentioned
in the [? Xenon ?] papyrus. So next summer we’ll go
through the countryside and hopefully find
some feral grapes. Before Dr. Green comes
up, I wanted to connect it to what we’re doing now. So you can see this map of
the Phoenician activities and here we are at Kabri. In addition to being in
the Galilee next summer, I’ll take students to
east Crete and we’ll also look for varieties
there that perhaps we hope that the Phoenicians
brought 3,000 plus years ago. We know people– Herodotus
mentions a Phoenician trader there and a
purple dye dealer, and we think that’s connected. And we’re collaborating with
the Mondavi Wine Institute at UC Davis and also
Woods Hole to try to proceed with the next steps. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Thank you, Peter, for that
introduction and Jane, for your overall production and
plugging the [? literature. ?] And thank you all for
coming this evening. I hope you’ll come
away with a greater appreciation of ancient wine
and a contemporary appreciation of modern wine. Now, Andrew has covered
the second millennium pretty thoroughly,
so let me turn now backward in time
first to prehistory, the sixth and
fifth millennium BC and then to the Iron Age
of the first millennium BC and beyond that to the late
antiquity of Byzantium. So hold on tight. We’re going to take
this at a gallop. Let’s see now. This is Andrew’s control. Let me see if I can
figure out how to do this. There we go. Just a bit of a
reminder of our locale. The Mediterranean
region– on the north is Europe, on the
south if Africa. Beyond that is the Middle East. Note the locations of the coasts
and islands, the mountains and the rivers because they’re
very important in understanding the distribution of wild grape,
Vitis vinifera sylvestrus, wine grapes of the woodlands. And you’ll see here that
it hugs the coastlines. It goes up into the river
valleys, covers all of Italy, all of Greece, a bit
around the Black Sea, and down into the Levant. It doesn’t like high mountains
so it’s not up in the Alps. It doesn’t like dry places so
it’s not down in the Sahara. And it doesn’t like heat, so
there’s this dashed line here below which it does
not occur, from about the tip of [INAUDIBLE] here in
North Africa all the way across to the Carmel point. Know that there’s
no distribution in the Nile Valley,
in the Dead Sea rift, there, or in Mesopotamia. Theses are places where
people brewed and drank beer not because they were low
class, but because they had lots of grain which they could
turn into a shelf stable stored item which actually
had some caloric content. In a place where
bread is made daily and won’t keep because it
doesn’t have preservatives, beer does. Now, where did wine come
from within this range of wild grapes? The presumption, of course, is
that people found wild grapes and somehow domesticated
them and turned them into domesticated
groups, as they did with other wild progenitors
of cultivars– wheat, barley, sheep and goat. Well, there is the Noah
hypothesis, and Noah, you know, famously, was the builder
of the ark with saved a certain part of mankind
from the great flood. And he made landfall on top of
Mount Ararat, which is right there– southern Caucasus. Now, there’s a famous
sequel to the Noah story in which Noah is– and there
you see Ararat by a Russian Orientalist painter. And here you see the
curse of Ham and Canaan. This is the sequel in
which Noah is credited with being either
the first vintner, or at least the first
person to plant a vineyard, although the translation of
the verb is somewhat unsure. He gets drunk. He’s lying in his tent
with no clothes on and his sons, Shem,
Jephthah, and Ham, understand what’s happened. Shem and Jephthah are
properly circumspect and they cover up his nakedness,
but not before Ham has caught sight of him. And in reaction to this,
Noah curses not Ham, but his son Canaan. And this whole description
here sounds a lot like a justification
for a later status quo in which Canaan and
Israel are at loggerheads because in the Iron Age. But that’s a biblical
interpretation I want to
[? entertain us ?] with now. There is, of course–
biblical stories make great fodder for
painters, and here you see Bellini’s interpretation,
giving Ham the sort of leader and with a Shem and Jephthah
with their eyes firmly closed. Now, this is prehistory. If we fast forward into
the third millennium, after the mention of the
ultimate domestication of grape, and it’s
production as wine, we come to another one of these
trade networks of which Andrews has spoken. This one is of the
third millennium and the two nodes on
this trade network are Byblos, in what
is now modern Lebanon, on the coast of Phoenicia–
and just for simplicity’s sake, Abydos, one of the necropoli
of the Egyptian Old Kingdom. There were other
stops along the way, but these two are places
where early discoveries were made about the connections
between these two regions. This third millennium–
late fourth into the third millennium,
between 3500 BC and about 2000 BC can be called the dawn of
civilization– lots of writing, urbanization,
impressive public works like temples and fortifications,
massive royal tombs appropriately appointed
with royal goods for the royal afterlife. And in the Old Kingdom of Egypt,
one of those goods was wine. Now, here at Abydos,
at this cemetery at Umm el-Qa-ab, the
mother of pot sherds, was found a certain
kind of vessel. You see here’s Byblos, the
Phoenician node, and at Abydos was found a certain
kind of ware like this. This jar is about 17
centimeters high– that’s not quite 6 inches. And this is the route by
which some of that material came early on in the
early Bronze Age, from around 3,500 to 3,000 BC. It came over land and evidence
of a donkey caravan trade has been found archaeologically
along the north coast of Sinai. Later on, trade picked
up considerably. It was carried by sea from
Byblos down to the Nile delta, ultimately to Abydos. One of the early
excavators at Abydos discovered these jars,
and in large quantities, in the royal tombs. He understood immediately
that these were not native Egyptian production,
although he named them for a site in Egypt. He understood them
to be something else, and this something
else was Canaanite. Now, the origins
of this material, this very particular
kind of jar, seems to have been as
containers for liquids. Now, none that I know
of have been tested for contents of wine or oil. We’ll assume, for the
purposes of this lecture, that it was wine. And it seems that the
Old Kingdom Egyptians were stocking this stuff away
for the afterlife like crazy. The treatment of the vessel,
this earthenware vessel, was such using a slip,
very liquid clay, and then a [? burnage, ?] which was
using a blunt tool to seal the pores of the earthenware
so that it held liquids better. The effect of this roaring
trade between the Canaanites on the coast and the
Egyptians in the delta, in the Nile Valley, had an
economic stimulating effect in Canaan itself. And we see in this Early
Bronze II and III period, after 3000 BC up to 2000,
a huge upsurge in urbanism, in the size of sites, in
the extent of population. It seems they were responding
to the Egyptian demand by producing not for
local consumption, but for export quantities. And they’re producing the same
kinds of large volumes of trade that had, as I say,
this economic boost. Now, this all came to a
crashing end around 2000 BC. We’re not quite sure why. Egypt collapsed, Early Bronze
Age in Canaan collapsed. And it wasn’t until later in the
Bronze Age that it reemerged. That’s Andrew’s millennium–
I’ll leave that alone. We’re going too fast
forward to the Iron Age. Now, the main players in
this Iron Age scenario are the Phoenicians and
the Greeks, who explored, then later settled
the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean,
trading as they went. The Phoenicians got out a
little ahead of everybody. They began from Tyre, the
mother city of Carthage. Famously, it’s an
offshore island connected to the mainland
only during the siege laid by Alexander the Great. Now it’s a sleepy little
minor town with occupation on the ancient site. It’s a little hard to sort out
what was there in the Iron Age. We have some legends that talk
about the founding of Carthage by the sister of the king,
one Elissa, if I may, Dido in Aeneas’ time, who
was the founder of the city. Carthage, the other end of the
middle of the Mediterranean, known as an
archaeological foundation from around the ninth century. Here you see what is the
Citadel Hill, the Byrsa. Right there are what are the
remains of the ancient city. This is, of course, modern
Tunis and that is a French ex – cathedral of the 19th
century sitting right on top of the citadel. We know something about
the connection between Tyre and Carthage from the texts,
but we don’t have much in the way of physical evidence
except for deep sea shipwrecks, located right there,
north of the Sinai. These deep sea shipwrecks
clearly are carrying pottery– again, custom made for carrying
the wine from Tyre somewhere to the west, maybe
only as far as Egypt, but conceivably to Carthage
because these jars have been found in both places. The shipwreck looks like this
on the bottom of the ocean. It’s 400 meters down
so it was excavated by remote control with
assistance from Robert Ballard. Here you see some
of those jars that were recovered by remote control
vehicles, staged as they might have appeared in the hull of the
ship, stacked up for shipment. Of course, the wine
that was in them– we presume it was wine,
again– was long gone. But petrographically,
by analysis of the clay which
make these jars, they seem to have been made
somewhere on the south coast of Phoenicia. Now, you see up here
Marseille and a site called Vix, which
is really pretty far up into central France. Here the Greeks are implicated. They settled Marseille about 600
BC, a good deal after Carthage, and dealt with the Gauls, who
were the indigenous populations of central France. From Marseille here, once
again another modern town sitting on top of ancient one. That krater, it’s a
mixing bowl for wine, was found in a Gaulish tomb near
Vix, way up in central France. It’s a meter 63 high. It was made in parts
and assembled in Vix and put in the tomb of an
elite Gaulish princess, we presume, who died at
the age of about 30– a woman of full years– along
with a wine drinking set. It seems to say a
lot about how thirsty the Gauls were for Greek wine. Now, they already had their
own concoction of mead that gave him a
nice buzz, but they developed the cultural
habit of drinking wine because it was something
appropriate for those that could afford it do do–
some things never change. Now, moving on into
much later periods, wine takes on not simply
a cultural role, but also an important ideological
and theological role in the celebration of
Christian communion. And certain sites
around the Mediterranean are, again, archaeological
loci in which evidence for that occurs. Now, communion was, in
the Christian tradition, the observance of a
[INAUDIBLE] of the Last Supper observed by Jesus
and his disciples as part of their
Jewish Passover. The elaborateness
with which that ritual was developed within the
Byzantine church is remarkable. Here you see a
mosaic from Ravenna, a very famous depiction
of Justinian and Theodora. She is holding a jeweled
chalice for the celebration of the communion as part
of the Byzantine rite. Whether that one wine from
a local source or perhaps the Holy land, we don’t know. But we do know from the
distribution of amphora of this sort and the
sort, which are actually named in texts with these Greek
names, Gazition and Ashkelonion that they are distributed
across the Mediterranean in Byzantine sites as
far north as London. And it seems that wine
from the Holy land had a special significance
for the celebration of the Eucharist. Now, of course, they may
have enjoyed the wine that came from the Holy
land for its own sake, and this is something of a
leap of faith, as it were, but it does suggest that
the economic power of wine plays not only into
desires of culture, but desires for other
sorts of expressions. Now, from the same text that
named these amphora types, we know that wine was
used also not just for religious celebration,
but also in pharmacopoeia, as Andrew has already alluded. There are actual recipes
and prescriptions for the mixing of wine
with certain kinds of herbs and other additives
for the treatment of various sorts of complaints. I suppose, in fact, that there
was a high alcohol content probably didn’t hurt either. Now, finally, we turn
to the island of Djerba, legendarily the location of the
land of Lotus Eaters, the place where sailors in the
Odyssey wiled away several years forgetting
about their homecoming. In 19th century Tunisia there
was also a large settlement of Jews, part of
the diaspora that was expelled from Spain
during the Reconquesta. They, despite the fact
that Tunisia was nominally a Muslim country, they still
maintained their traditions of growing grapes
and making wine. And they used recipes
that echo the recipes we know from antiquity. And I’ll simply close with
a little evocative picture of the beach at
Djerba and ask you to think about how
a little bit of wine might make an appropriate
conclusion to our evening. Now, we are going to have
a bit a panel discussion but if you keep it short,
we can get to the wine. [APPLAUSE] Thanks very much to both of
you for that fascinating tour of the ancient Near East. So we have time
for a few questions and I’d be delighted
to open it up and try to moderate the panel as we go. Who would like to ask these
experts some questions? We’re joined by Carrie
Platt of the Wine Bottega. She’s going to give us a few
words later on about the wines that you’re going to
be tasting very shortly just in the next building. So questions for
Andrew or Joseph? So 3,000 years ago do
we think that everybody got some wine or just
the wealth and powerful? Well, my thought is that
everybody made a little bit at home and what changed
in the third millennium was that the production was
stepped up to supply and demand in greater [INAUDIBLE]. And that led to probably
in that era [INAUDIBLE] the creation of
terraces of [INAUDIBLE] the creation of trading grapes
produced the grape juice. It is tying together a lot of
different bits of evidence, but even during the
American Prohibition, households were permitted to
make a certain quantity of wine for their own consumption. It wasn’t a matter
of saying, you can’t drink at all, but
the good stuff [INAUDIBLE]. You look over 500
years ago, one thing I think [INAUDIBLE] the
oldest wine cellar [INAUDIBLE] is there are other production
centers that have been found. At least, it seems [INAUDIBLE]. They [INAUDIBLE] [? trumped ?]
wine in the north of Greece and recently there’s
another one that was found in north Greece which
they’re saying is [INAUDIBLE] the oldest. Those kind of back and forth
[INAUDIBLE] with Greece. And what you notice there,
it’s quite some time ago before you see major signs
of the social stratification. It seems to be a communal
affair, from what we can tell. I have a question about your
two maps– the starting one, the vine that grows all
over the Mediterranean– and the ending one
where the vine is still being exported from Phoenicia
to all those merchants. How come? Well, what I think has happening
in North Africa in the Iron Age is that after a couple of
millennia of domesticated grape and wine production in that
part of the Mediterranean, the Phoenicians actually made
landfall in North Africa. They discover indigenous
populations in the Neolithic. There were farmers and
herds living in villages. They domesticated
some plants, but they haven’t gone
through what’s often referred to as the
horticultural revolution. And they bring
with them cuttings from domesticated vines and they
graft them onto existing vines and develop [INAUDIBLE]. Also, they have
really [INAUDIBLE]. The classic colonial
situation, in which the people arrived
with everything that they need to live with as
they were accustomed to living. That included the
mental templates of what they’d expect
to eat and drink, how they build their houses. And there’s much later evidence
for this [? culturation ?] of these local
populations, referred to [? as the Berbers ?],
to Phoenician, to Phoenician language
and religion and culture, but they maintain their
own traditions, as well. We don’t really know
about the [INAUDIBLE]. Yes, please. In the back. Firstly, have you been
able instrumentally to distinguish between
the practice of dissolving [INAUDIBLE] in the [INAUDIBLE]
and [INAUDIBLE] to the interior of the vessel as a mechanical
way of [INAUDIBLE]? So that’s actually
the process right now. So the wine jars,
at least at Kabri, are at
[? the University of Iowa. ?] The main obstacle
we’re facing right now is, as some of you who are
involved in conservation know, is the estimate we were
throwing out is, by the time it’s said and done, to
conserve and study properly each of these jars
would be $10,000 each. So at this point, we’re trying
to decide almost certainly we’re not going to
conserve every single jar. If that happens,
there’s actually some thought that last I
checked that the jars would be dispersed
throughout the country and conserved by
local area museums. We’re not sure if
that’s going to happen, but obviously
there’s difficulties with that– who’s going to
[INAUDIBLE] them, what kind of consistency are
you going to have? What we decided is we are going
to focus on three to five jars and that’s what being
studied right now for grape [? claims. ?] And I’ve been asked,
what do you suggest, and the first thing I said,
is can you do the two or three with white wine because we want
to see if there’s any marking on those vessels, or
anything [INAUDIBLE] in the rest of the jars and
then we’re going probably do a couple from the
antechamber [INAUDIBLE]. A question you raise,
which is quite excellent, is I also think we
should do one from here to the entrance, which had very
little additive, supposedly. And at that point, we think
that they came in [INAUDIBLE]. Is it from the coating
on the inside of the jar? Quite possibly, because
every jar pretty much had [INAUDIBLE]. Is it for preserving the wine? Is it for something to do
with the actual vessel, or possibly both? That’s another issue
that’s quite possible. [INAUDIBLE] Second question [INAUDIBLE] the
botany, in Djerba [INAUDIBLE] has anybody analyzed the wine
residues spores [INAUDIBLE]? And last, but not
least, if you’re looking for [INAUDIBLE]
grapes in a place where wine was manufactured
without interruptions in the Bronze Age, a
good place to start are the [INAUDIBLE] from
Pakistan, where it’s still going [INAUDIBLE]
despite the objections of their [INAUDIBLE]. You mentioned, Andrew,
that the reintroduction of commercial wine
production in Israel might [? potentially ?]
[INAUDIBLE]. When the French took
over in [INAUDIBLE], [INAUDIBLE] and they found
[INAUDIBLE] grape cultivation [INAUDIBLE]. And it was actually
French religion orders that brought back into Egypt
the production of wine. And it was [INAUDIBLE]. Even after the French
left, it was [INAUDIBLE]. These days, one doesn’t know. In the back. The arrangement of the
jars in the Bronze Age site seems to indicate that there was
some work going on at the time. You have kind of a moment
[INAUDIBLE] one day [INAUDIBLE] was coming along and the
next day [INAUDIBLE]. What [INAUDIBLE] to prevent
the [INAUDIBLE] destruction or the disturbance of these? Well, that’s a great point
because just next door to the orthostat
building, what we thought was a ramp of some
sort– because it was perpendicular to the long
axis of the room– it actually continues into the wine
cellar and it’s at an angle. And we’re going to bring
a geophysicist next summer because what would
sort of happen if there’s an earthquake? And because of the [INAUDIBLE]
what we’re also doing is we’re [INAUDIBLE] of all the
jars and we have the bases, we have where the
[INAUDIBLE] are. We’re hoping to reconstruct
what state the room was in. Apparently, it
wasn’t being used. I looked at a perfume workshop
in Crete for my dissertation and that seemed to have been out
of use, but who knows how long? For this it was in the
state of being used and then the earthquake hit. The interesting question
is we can understand why you don’t go back in because
the structure is compromised, it’s dangerous, and certainly,
the wine [INAUDIBLE] the jars are cracked,
it spilled out. But why did they not go
back [? and use that? ?] I mean it’s good for us that
they didn’t build on top of it. [INAUDIBLE] that could be
right there at the [INAUDIBLE]. That’s great, but we
don’t think that it was the [INAUDIBLE]
that ends the occupation of that immediate area. So why didn’t they
do something after? Did they just give
up on saying, we can have a wine cellar– we’re
not quite sure what happened. I have a question. What is it that makes white
wine white and red wine red? So all the color in a
grape is in the skins, except for one
grape– [INAUDIBLE], which [INAUDIBLE] drink but
not [INAUDIBLE] as well. So that’s just the difference
is the skin contact with red wine,
which actually will lead into some of the
trickier white wines we’re going to taste tonight. I was going to say
on the question about the red, as
well, sort of looking into more modern wine
making in Greece, [? resinated ?] wine started
in Greece 2500 years ago and at first the resin was
for protecting the wine from oxidation, but then
people came to like that style, so then it developed
into actually putting it into the wine. So there’s sort of
a chicken and egg that I wonder how
that comes through. For better or worse,
it started out that way and then purposely they
were putting it in the wine. Yes, please. In looking at your
writing, but you’re also looking at the
recipes as they evolve? Well, that’s the
thing that we’re trying to figure out
right now is using these different forms
of documentation, are we able to reconstruct it? There have been, at this
point, [INAUDIBLE] wineries to recreate the wine. We know that there was
commercial [INAUDIBLE] has to sell. At the same time, we
suspect that totally trying to recreate it won’t
suit modern palates. It’s like beer– I
don’t think anybody wants to drink Egyptian beer,
right, in the modern day? [INAUDIBLE] the
ancient styles of beers are selling $500
bottles of beer now. They’re sort of recreating
that experience. Well, we create like the
Midas touch, but [INAUDIBLE]. Andrew, could you
talk a little bit about the process of getting
those residues to Brandeis? You mentioned that you
analyze them so quickly. And did you have to get
immediate special permissions and was it difficult or easy? That’s actually one
of the major reason why I did this in
Israel versus Greece. I did my dissertation in Greece. We expedited the
export process where work for the US Embassy and
the speedy permitting process was around nine months. After we did that,
we tried to send it through diplomatic cover, but
after 9/11 it wasn’t possible. So I had to ship with
DHL and I remember this– I’ll never
forget– it was 2003, I believe, I’m
there tracking DHL. I spent untold amounts
of hours [INAUDIBLE] secure these samples and I
hope I never see anything like this again in
tracking, but it said, scheduled for destruction. So I saw my PhD disappear
in front of my eyes. That’s a little different
from scheduled for pick up, isn’t it? Yeah. [INAUDIBLE] scheduled for
destruction or anything like that if you have– we had
a letter from the US Embassy, from all the different–
and then finally, we all– so someone
from Greece calling, I’m calling from Philadelphia,
everybody’s calling DHL, and then they said, oh, yeah,
we found your [INAUDIBLE]. We’re not going
to incinerate it. After that, I said,
maybe we ought to think about returning
to Greece later. And in Israel, as
you can imagine, it’s so much simpler to get back
to process and everything else. In terms of the
wine cellar itself, there was absolutely
no problems. At this point, when I leave
the Ben Gurion Airport, they know I’m an
archaeologist and they– I’ve brought hot plates up
and so it’s much easier. We have time for a
couple of more questions. Any others? Yeah. In the center. You mentioned the
different types of wine in one of the quotes
from ancient writings. Do you have specifics on the
differences between light wine and strong wine? I mean are these the old
recipes with all the herbs and things in them? Is that [INAUDIBLE]? I think that’s also
a good question. When we say strong, does that
mean it was not water down? What makes it strong–
were there additives in it? And that’s what we’re still–
I don’t think anyone knows. Yeah. I tried to do a little bit more
research on– ancient wines are not my area of
expertise, but I’m more of a natural wine fan. But yeah, the wines that
we’re going to taste I’ve tried, as much as possible,
to give you a chance to taste a bit of history. And the way that I could kind of
recreate that with modern wines is a little bit
through different forms of preservation. So I don’t have any sort of
wine potions to share with you. As of listening to
this, I was thinking something like an [INAUDIBLE]
or that sort of style with the herbal
infusion actually would have been appropriate. I hadn’t thought of
that before, though. I’ll just say this–
the bottling of wine and putting in corking
on the glass bottle is a fairly recent development
and in antiquity there was really no way to
get that kind of seal, even with [INAUDIBLE]
like the Amarna jug. So most ancient wines, after
they had sat for a while, were pretty stiff stuff. And that’s why
almost without fail, the wines were served
[? with ?] [? water ?]. And one of the biblical agents
against [INAUDIBLE] is to drink unmixed wine, [? drink ?]
[? it straight. ?] And a last question–
yeah, in the back. In addition to the
grape [INAUDIBLE]? I think all that is in
the state of preservation. I probably shouldn’t say
this, but the latest word I heard just days ago is
that we think we found some grape pits in the jars. We’ll see what we can get out
of them in terms of things like yeast and [INAUDIBLE]. But it’s something to aspire to. These jars are over 3,500
years old, you never know. We’ll be ecstatic when we
can extract good DNA out of these grape pits
because almost certainly, I know in modern vineyards
it’s [INAUDIBLE] and that’s what we’re
going to use to compare it. But as far as we know, there’s
been some studies done, especially with
Roman wines, but we don’t think there’s any
Bronze Age DNA sequencing from what we can tell. We asked around
Mondavi wines, but they don’t think so, as well. Again, just an
academic enterprise. We’re happy to share it if
it does result in good DNA and then we’ll have to see
where it takes us after that. So that would be a
fascinating thing if we could have you back
next year for an update on the coming season. So, Carrie, would you
like to give a few words and instructions for us on
what we’re about to experience and then we will all
walk that way one building to the Semitic Museum
and upstairs for our wine tasting. Fill us in. So can you hear me if I
don’t use a microphone? Microphones make
me very nervous. The light is right in my eyes. I’m also a [INAUDIBLE] talker. So I was really excited
when I got this opportunity to come and be a
part of this lecture. I wanted to be an
archaeologist when I was little and somehow I sort of
got off track with that. I got more off track and I
got into wines [INAUDIBLE]. So it was really fun
doing some investigation in what would make sense to
you to tie this together. So I really wanted
to try to give you the experience of maybe a little
bit of what these wines may have tasted like. So the first thing I thought
of was doing a retsina. So please don’t
make a horrible face if you’ve encountered
retsina, particularly for the period
between 1960 and 1980 where it was an absolute
rotgut that was produced. The reason we came
about [INAUDIBLE] is that the pine resin was
used to seal the amphora and protect the
wine from oxidation. So [INAUDIBLE]
before temperature control and sulfur additions
and all of those things to protect the wines. And the style caught on. People decided that they wanted
their wines to taste like that. Unfortunately, retsina
became so popular and a lot of times with
wine, once something becomes popular a lot of people jump on
the bandwagon and the quality drops sharply. So retsina kind of went
very much out of style. Fortunately, a few
producers now are really excited to kind
of reintroduce the world to why this wine became
popular in the fist place. So I have not
tasted this one yet. I’m really excited. It’s from [INAUDIBLE]
winery in Thessaloniki. They’re one of the
oldest family operated wineries in northern Greece. They started in about 1911. Kind of speaking to
the glass bottles, they were actually the
founder of the wineries, the first one to introduce glass
bottles into Greek wine making. So [INAUDIBLE]. So it’s pretty amazing to
put that in perspective. Next up we sort of
have a double whammy. So wines in this time
were produced in amphora. So nowadays there
are some producers who are really hearkening
back to those times in the natural wine movement,
to try to basically get some modern technology
out of the way and just enjoy wines that are
a true expression of the grapes and the land. So we’re going to travel to
Sicily and the [INAUDIBLE] Winery in Pretoria. And it’s three friends
who kind of started making wine almost as a
game after they graduated from college and one of their
fathers gave them 2,000 tons of [INAUDIBLE] and
said, have at it. And they stomped on the
grapes and became hooked. And they really were drawn
into the wine business because they saw that it
was a way to look at history and to look at the land
in their beloved Sicily. So they decided to sort of
take everything out of the way and just use the addition
of [INAUDIBLE] that are from there. And they also found
out about [INAUDIBLE]. They said, we have to do this. So we’re going to taste
two wines that are both aged in [INAUDIBLE],
one for just two months and one for seven months. And they’re also
white wines that are made in what’s called
the orange wine style. So talking a little bit
about red versus white. So with all the color in
wine being in the skins, when you make red wine, you
keep the skins in contact with the juice to get all
that color, and you do it, you get the tannin,
which is some of the structure in the
backbone of the wine. So it imparts certain flavors. But when you make white
wine, typically you take the skins out of the juice
right away because you’re not really looking for anything. But historically,
those skins were left in contact with white wine
to help in the preservation. Tannic acid acts as
a preservative agent. So it’s something just to
even in the last 10 years that we’ve started to see
producers experiment with. So I would say [INAUDIBLE]
to taste white wines how they were made 1,000 years ago. Some people love them,
some people hate them. But it’s definitely an
interesting experience. And then last up, I was
reading a little bit about wine in ancient Greece
and that it was considered to be very spiritual
because of its resemblance to blood, which brought to mind
a wine called Sangua de Juda, or the Blood of Judas,
which is a wine that comes from the
[INAUDIBLE] in Lombardy. And it got its
name from the monks because they banned it because
they thought it incited people to lascivious behaviors. So one of my favorite wines
to end the evening on. It’s also similar in style to
wines from these times which were often sweet red ones. So this will be a
sweet one that is slightly sparkly from
the natural fermentation of the wines. So it will be a
whole triumvirate of [INAUDIBLE] for
you to taste and I will stop talking because I
am the last thing standing between you and the wines. So we will now move to the
liquid portion of our program. [APPLAUSE] I want to thank our speakers
and all of you for coming. We’re the next door over. Come imbibe and enjoy.

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