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CNN) — A group of underwater treasure hunters has salvaged hundreds of bottles of rare cognac and liqueur from a ship that was sunk by a German U-boat during World War I.

CNN.com

Divers and unmanned underwater vehicles from Ocean X Team and iXplorerworked around the clock for a week last month to haul up case after case of booze from the Swedish steamer SS Kyros, which has been sitting in about 250 feet of water (77 meters) in the Baltic Sea.

They recovered 600 bottles of De Haartman & Co. cognac and 300 bottles of Benedictine liqueur — a brand now owned by Bacardi, Peter Lindberg with the Ocean X Team told CNN.

“We don’t know yet if it is drinkable. We get a fraction of smell from the Benedictine bottles and it smells sweet and from herbs,” Lindberg told CNN. “We can’t get any sense of smell from the cognac bottles, but that might just be in order since it should not smell through a cork.”

He said they are researching the cognac and talking with Bacardi to try to determine the value of the haul.

“The cognac is of a very unknown brand and we don’t know now how that will affect the value,” Lindberg said. “We certainly don’t want to open a bottle if the value is tens of thousands of dollars. We are trying to find info but it’s not easy.”

They don’t know how many bottles still have their seals intact, he said, but some have had their corks pushed down into the bottles.

“Those bottles that have their corks still in place should be good since there is still air between the level of the content and the cork,” Lindberg said.

 

The Kyros was on its way from France to the Russian city of St. Petersburg, then known as Petrograd, when it was stopped by the German submarine UC58 in 1917.

Russia was ruled by Czar Nicholas II at the time.

“We can’t tell for sure that these bottles were for the Czar himself, but for the nobility around him for sure,” Lindberg said.

The German submarine captain had the boat sunk because its cargo was considered contraband. They put explosives in the Kyros’ engine room to sink it.

The crew was put on nearby ship and returned safely to Sweden, according to the Ocean X team.

Divers also found a holster and what was left of a Luger pistol in the ship, Lindberg said.

The wreck was discovered in 1999 and has been damaged by fishing equipment over the years. The team had to clear away nets so it would be safe for divers to access the wreck.

Lindberg said they eventually plan to sell the bottles, but they are not in any rush.

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A collection of pottery from the Heuneberg archaeological site.
Victor S Brigola

 

Analysis of ceramic vessels throws new light on social customs

By Natalie Parletta
Cosmosmagazine.com

Residues from ceramics found at an archaeological site in Germany suggest that Early Celts from all social classes drank generous quantities of Mediterranean wine long before they started importing drinking vessels from the region.

The discovery by a researcher team led by Maxime Rageot, from Germany’s University of Tübingen, challenges notions that wine was always reserved for the elite.

The Heuneberg site, north of the Alps in Baden-Wuerttemberg, has provided significant insights into early urbanisation in central Europe, and a wealth of archaeological evidence points to the importance of intercultural Mediterranean connections in shaping Early Iron Age societies around 500-700 BCE.

Rageot and colleagues set out to explore a new facet of this process by investigating the transformation of consumption practices, particularly drinking. The findings are reported in the journal PLOS ONE.

A rich collection of ceramics and imported Mediterranean goods used for feasting have been found throughout the settlement.

The researchers used gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to extract organic residues from 126 local vessels and seven imported Attic ceramics, including goblets, beakers and bowls used for drinking, jugs and bottles for serving beverages, and vessels used for food preparation and storage.

They found evidence of Mediterranean grape wine from short-chain carboxylic compounds, including succinic, fumaric, malic and tartaric acids.

“Tartaric acid is usually considered to be a grape product/wine marker because of its high concentration in grapes in contrast to other fruits available in Europe during the Early Iron Age,” Rageot says.

The other compounds tartaric acid was found with are recognised markers of wine fermentation. There is no evidence of grape seeds or winemaking in central Europe, the authors note, so it must have been imported.

These were discovered before the first clear evidence of Mediterranean feasting vessels being introduced in the final Hallstatt of the Early Iron Age, evidence that trade took place before the ceramic imports.

They also found other evidence of fermentation from plant or bee-products, suggesting the production of local alcoholic beverages including possibly mead.

The residues were notably found in a range of local vessels from different parts of the settlement that reflect different social classes. Markers of dairy and millet were also revealed, suggesting foods such as porridge were consumed from the same vessels.

“These results pose an important challenge to the notion that Early Celtic elites preferred consuming wine as a means of demonstrating their high status,” write the authors.

After the goblets were imported, however, wine appeared to be restricted to those in the elite plateau. Vessels from the lower town contained more food remnants.

This increased specialisation suggests the Celts adopted more Mediterranean-style feasting practices with greater social distinction, which “coincided with a clear change in function and meaning of wine consumption”.

This distinction, the authors note, continued into later Celtic society when the Greek author Poseidonius recounts that elite Celts drank wine while lower classes drank beer.

“These novel commensal practices seem to have served as a means of creating/enforcing their identities and to further establish/secure their position in society,” they write.

The findings provide new insights into Early Celtic consumption practices, and of “their complex transformation over time, which was certainly influenced in part by the dynamics of intercultural encounter with the Mediterranean”.

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