This is an ancient pressing platform from Lattara, seen from above. Note the spout for drawing off a liquid. It was raised off the courtyard floor by four stones. Masses of grape remains were found nearby. Credit: Photograph courtesy of Michael Py, copyright l’Unité de Fouilles et de Recherches Archéologiques de Lattes.
Topic: Etruscan Wine
Archaeologist says it was imported first by Etruscans, then became a locally-made product.
A team of researchers from France and the U.S. have uncovered evidence for the earliest winemaking industry in France, a country long well known for its preeminence in the production of fine wines.
While investigating the ancient port site of Lattara in southern France, archaeologists uncovered imported ancient Etruscan amphorae and a limestone press platform. The archaeologists determined that, based on their shape and other features, the amphorae belonged to a specific Etruscan amphora type, likely manufactured anciently at the city of Cisra (modern Cerveteri) in central Italy. They were found within what was identified as merchant quarters inside a walled settlement dated to circa 525 – 475 BCE. They selected three of the amphorae to test for ancient content residue by extracting samples of suspected organic compounds and then identifying them using a combination of state-of-the-art chemical or biomolecular techniques, one of which was used for the first time to analyze ancient wine and grape samples — liquid chromatography-Orbitrap mass spectrometry.
What they found was that all samples tested positive for a biomarker compound for Eurasian grape and wine indigenous to the Middle East and Mediterranean.
The ancient pressing platform found nearby, dated to circa 425 BCE, also showed clear evidence of the compound, indicating that it was likely part of a winepress installation. Several thousand domesticated grape seeds, pedicels, and skin were excavated from an earlier context near the press find, reinforcing the suggestion that it was used for crushing domesticated grapes for local wine production.
According to Dr. Patrick McGovern, Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and lead author of the research paper reporting the results, it is the first clear evidence of winemaking on French soil, and points to Etruscan origin and influence.
“Now we know that the ancient Etruscans lured the Gauls into the Mediterranean wine culture by importing wine into southern France,”, said McGovern. “This built up a demand that could only be met by establishing a native industry, likely done by transplanting the domesticated vine from Italy, and enlisting the requisite winemaking expertise from the Etruscans.”
The origins of viniculture, or winemaking, has been traced to the ancient Near East around 7000-6000 BCE. Evidence for the earliest wine was found at the site of Hajji Firiz in what is now northern Iran, circa 5400-5000 BCE. Its production gradually expanded throughout the Near East, beginning with those who were in power and had the resources to invest in it. “First entice the rulers, who could afford to import and ostentatiously consume wine,” McGovern said. “Next, foreign specialists are commissioned to transplant vines and establish local industries. Over time, wine spreads to the larger population, and is integrated into social and religious life.”
Wine was first imported into Egypt from other locations in the Near East by the forerunners of the pharaohs, in Dynasty 0 (circa 3150 BCE). But by 3000 BCE, Canaanite viniculturalists cultivated winemaking locally within in the Nile Delta region. As the earliest merchant seafarers, the Canaanites were also able to take the wine culture out across the Mediterranean Sea, and it shows up on the island of Crete by 2200 BCE.
June 3, 2013
Map of Lattura