At 6,000 years old, wine press is oldest yet found

Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:39am EST
 
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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Archeologists have unearthed the oldest wine-making facility ever found, using biochemical techniques to identify a dry red vintage made about 6,000 years ago in what is now southern Armenia.

The excavation paints a picture of a complex society where mourners tasted a special vintage made at a caveside cemetery, the researchers reported on Tuesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

"This is the world's oldest known installation to make wine," Gregory Areshian of the University of California Los Angeles, who helped lead the study, said in a telephone interview.

Carbon dating showed a desiccated grape vine found near a wine press was grown around 4000 BC, his team reported.

This makes it 1,000 years older than any other wine-making facility discovered, the team from Armenia, the United States and Ireland reported.

The team found the world's oldest leather shoe, about 5,500 years old, at the same cave complex last year.

The wine press would have held a few gallons of juice and crushed grapes, likely working with the time-honored technique of barefoot stomping, Areshian said.

"This was a relatively small installation related to the ritual inside the cave. For daily consumption they would have had much larger wine presses in the regular settlement," said Areshian, who was deputy prime minister in the first government of the independent Republic of Armenia in 1991.   Continued...

 
<p>A wine press (C) is seen, behind which an archaeological identification kit is placed in this undated photograph released to Reuters on January 10, 2011. REUTERS/Gregory Areshian/UCLA/National Geographic/Handout</p>