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Bottle of 2,000-Year-Old Rice Wine Found in Chinese Tomb

The bronze jug was dated around the late Warring States time period and the Qin Dynasty

smithsonian.com

Buried in a tomb in near Xianyang, the ancient capital of the Qin Dynasty, archaeologists have found a 2,000-year-old bronze jug that still has rice wine in it.

It is one of numerous artifacts found in the tomb at an excavation site of commoners’ graves in China’s northwestern Shaanxi province. The artifact dates back to the late Warring States time period (475-221 B.C.) and the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.), reports Chi Dehua for the Chinese paper GB Times.

During that time period, bronze jugs or containers with wine were regularly buried with the dead as a kind of sacrifice. But the Archaeological Research Institute of Shaanxi team, which is leading the dig, was surprised to find that the 10 fluid ounces of the milky white, muddy liquid was so well-preserved.

According to Rupert Millar of the Drink Business, the reason the container was fastened so firmly is thanks to a seal of natural fibers, which has guarded the liquid over the millennia.

According to recent testing, the drink has a "high concentration amino acid substances and also small amounts of protein and fatty acids," as Zhang Yanglizheng, an assistant researcher at SPIA, tells Millar. This suggests the liquid shares close similarities with fermented wines found in the store today.

The discovery informs researchers of the level of wine making in the region in that time period and, as Millar points out, it shows that commoners, as well as more well-to-do individuals, were buried with the stuff, potentially showing its prevelance during that time.

As Dehua writes, it also suggests the Qin people inherited the ceremonies and rituals from the Western Zhou centuries earlier.

In 2004, for example, researchers documented the 9,000-year-old history of wine and fermented drinks in China after chemical analysis of showed that the Western Zhou civilization of 1250-1000 B.C. made similar fermented drinks of rice, honey and fruit to use in burial rituals.

According to The History Blog, other items found at the excavation site include an almost 2-foot-long bronze sword and a 5.5-inch-long turtle shell.

About Julissa Treviño

Julissa Treviño is a writer and journalist based in Texas. She has written for Columbia Journalism Review, BBC Future, The Dallas Morning News, Racked, CityLab and Pacific Standard.

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