Ancient Canaanites knew how to have a good time. They were fond of wine bursting with the flavors of mint, honey and psychotropic resins, new archaeological evidence reveals. They stored up to 2,000 liters of that good stuff at a time in a massive wine cellar recently unearthed in northern Israel, researchers reported today at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research.
Archeologists working on the site say it is the largest and oldest wine cellar ever discovered in the Near East. The remnants of 40 massive wine jars still remain in the cellar, which was built around 1,700 BC. Researchers used those fragments to clue them in to the make-up of the booze the Canaanites once brewed. By analyzed organic residues still left on the jars, they identified molecules of wine components such as tartaric and syringic acid, along with a number of additional flavor enhancers, including honey, mint, cinnamon, juniper berries and resins. The recipe, the researchers say, must have been standardized because all of the jars reveal a strikingly similar mixture.
Based on the cellar’s location near an ancient banquet hall, the team suspects that hosts broke out the wine to entertain important members of society and perhaps to throw parties with foreign visitors. And based on prior knowledge of the Canaanites’ culinary habits, they probably paired the wine with ample helpings of goat meat at those ancient feasts.
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