Saturday, January 15, 2011

Armenian Cave Yields World's Oldest Winery

The cave's wine press, in front of sign, and fermentation vat.

The Armenian site where a leather shoe believed to be the world’s oldest was found recently now has yielded what may be the world’s oldest winery. The site near the village of Areni ~ the same cave where the well-preserved 5,500-year-old shoe was unearthed ~ is an ancient burial site where winemaking may have been dedicated to the dead, and likely required removal of footwear.

Archaeologists have unearthed a wine press for stomping grapes, fermentation and storage vessels, drinking cups, and withered grape vines, skins, and seeds.

"This is the earliest, most reliable evidence of wine production," archaeologist Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles, tells National Geographic. "For the first time, we have a complete archaeological picture of wine production dating back 6,100 years."

The prehistoric winemaking equipment was first detected in 2007, when excavations co-directed by Areshian and Armenian archaeologist Boris Gasparyan began at the Areni-1 cave complex.

The installation suggests the Copper Age vintners pressed their wine the old-fashioned way, using their feet, Areshian said. Juice from the trampled grapes drained into the vat, where it was left to ferment. The wine was then stored in jars ~ the cool, dry conditions of the cave making a perfect wine cellar.

Click here for the complete National Geographic article.

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