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Original article in aAPNews.com, feb 13, 2021

By SAMY MAGDY

CAIRO (AP) — American and Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed what could be the oldest known beer factory at one of the most prominent archaeological sites of ancient Egypt, a top antiquities official said Saturday.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the factory was found in Abydos, an ancient burial ground located in the desert west of the Nile River, over 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Cairo.

He said the factory apparently dates back to the region of King Narmer, who is widely known for his unification of ancient Egypt at the beginning of the First Dynastic Period (3150 B.C.- 2613 B.C.).

Archaeologists found eight huge units — each is 20 meters (about 65 feet) long and 2.5 meters (about 8 feet) wide. Each unit includes some 40 pottery basins in two rows, which had been used to heat up a mixture of grains and water to produce beer, Waziri said.

The joint mission is co-chaired by Dr. Matthew Adams of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and Deborah Vischak, assistant professor of ancient Egyptian art history and archaeology at Princeton University.

Adams said the factory was apparently built in this area to provide royal rituals with beer, given that archaeologists found evidences showing the use of beer in sacrificial rites of ancient Egyptians.

British archaeologists were the first to mention the existence of that factory early 1900s, but they couldn’t determine its location, the antiquities ministry said.

With its vast cemeteries and temples from the earliest times of ancient Egypt, Abydos was known for monuments honoring Osiris, ancient Egypt’s god of underworld and the deity responsible for judging souls in the afterlife.

The necropolis had been used in every period of early Egyptian history, from the prehistoric age to Roman times.

Egypt has announced dozens of ancient discoveries in the past couple of years, in the hope of attracting more tourists.

The tourism industry has been reeling from the political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The sector was also dealt a further blow last year by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Original in archaeology.org

Israel

By DANIEL WEISS

November/December 2020Alcohol Israel Byzantine Mosaic(Photo © the Israel Museum Jerusalem, by Elie Posner)

Byzantine mosaicAlcohol Israel Byzantine Grape Seeds Gaza Jar(Courtesy Daniel Fuks, Archaeobotany Lab, Bar-Ilan University, Courtesy Davida Eisenberg-Degen, Israel Antiquities Authority, Omer, Israel)

Grape seeds and Gaza jarIn the Byzantine eravinum Gazetum, or Gaza wine, was shipped from the port of Gaza throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. “Gaza wine was considered a sweet, white luxury wine, praised by poets and mentioned in travelers’ accounts,” says archaeobotanist Daniel Fuks of Bar-Ilan University. The wine was packaged in ceramic “Gaza jars,” whose long, thin shape made them appropriate for transport via camel and boat. These jars have been recovered as far away as Britain, Germany, and Yemen, a testament to the spirit’s wide appeal.

The Negev Highlands, some 30 to 60 miles inland from Gaza, has long been considered a likely site for Gaza wine production. Texts from the fourth to seventh centuries A.D. describe vineyards there, and several large Byzantine winepresses have been discovered. Now, an archaeobotanical study led by Fuks provides clear evidence of the rise and fall of extensive grape growing in the Negev Highlands, as well as its apparent connection to the Gaza wine trade.

To track the intensity of local viticulture over time, Fuks and his team calculated the ratio of grape seeds to cereal grains from 11 trash mounds at three sites. They found the proportion of grape seeds rose from practically nothing in the third century to modest levels in the fourth to mid-fifth centuries. It peaked in the early sixth century before dropping sharply in the mid-sixth to mid-seventh centuries. The percentage of Gaza jars among the pottery in the trash mounds followed a strikingly similar trajectory. According to Fuks, this suggests that from roughly the fourth to sixth centuries, local farmers developed a commercial scale of viticulture connected to Mediterranean trade via Gaza.

Many scholars have linked the decline in the market for Gaza wine to the Islamic conquest of the region in the mid-seventh century. Fuks’ findings, however, indicate grape production in the Negev Highlands fell off a century earlier. Among the possible explanations, he says, are global cooling that may have led to unusually destructive flooding in the area and the outbreak of the Justinian plague in A.D. 541, which could have eroded demand for luxury goods throughout the region and reduced the supply of farmworkers.

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First posted in archaeology.org
Iran

By JARRETT A. LOBELL

November/December 2020Alcohol Achaemenid Tribute Bearers Relief(HIP/Art Resource, NY)

Tribute bearers, Achaemenid reliefAlcohol Achaemenid Gold Rhyton(Museum of Iran/Bridgeman Images)

Gold rhytonFor the kings of the Achaemenid Empire, who ruled much of the ancient Near East from 550 to 330 B.C., there was little—apart from hunting lions and conquering the world—that rivaled a rhyton of fine wine. But for these powerful potentates, wine was not just a pleasurable pastime. It was also not, despite what the fifth-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus would have people believe, evidence of the kings’ profligate behavior and poor decision-making skills characterized by zealous over-imbibing. “Wine drinking and distribution not only embodied refinement, wealth, and power for the Achaemenids, but also provided an opportunity for rewarding loyalty and implementing political strategy,” says linguist Ashk Dahlén of Uppsala University. “Banquets were inherently public, political acts. They were central to the construction of royal identity and demonstrated that the empire was a supreme player on the world stage.”

At such splendid affairs, wine was served by the Royal Cup Bearer, a role known from records such as the Persepolis Administrative Archives to have been one of the highest trust. The bearer would have been an excellent sommelier and, says Dahlén, well versed in different wines and the particular customs associated with them. “The variety of wine at the king’s table was not a matter of sheer self-indulgence,” he says, “but served as a symbol of the king’s power and his capacity to attract tribute.” Unlike Greek symposiums, where the presence of “proper” women was not allowed, in the Achaemenid court, women were fully included, says Dahlén, all part of what he calls the “ancient Iranian dolce vita.”

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Article from archaeology.org

Egypt

By JARRETT A. LOBELL

November/December 2020Alcohol Egypt Nakht Tomb(Lebrecht History/Bridgeman Images)

Tomb of NakhtAs early as the Predynastic period, beginning in the mid-fifth millennium B.C., the Egyptians placed wine jars in tombs as offerings to the dead. References to wine dating to the 1st and 2nd Dynasties have been identified on ceramic jar seals found in the burial grounds at Abydos and Saqqara, and the word for wine, “irp,” appears on 2nd Dynasty stelas. By the 4th Dynasty, in the mid-third millennium B.C., tomb designers had begun to illustrate viticulture and winemaking on tomb walls. For archaeologist Sofia Fonseca of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, such imagery offers valuable insights into the vintner’s entire process. “We have this idea that viticulture and winemaking originated in the ancient Near East, and that European wine culture is a legacy from Greece and Rome,” she says. “But the truth is that, starting more than 4,500 years ago, and for the next two millennia of Egyptian history, we have images that show a traditional process similar to those winemakers in Mediterranean regions are still using. By studying these images, we can have a real change in the paradigm of wine history and bring awareness to the influence that Egyptian wine culture had on Mediterranean wine culture.”

While the Egyptians drank both red and white wine, only red wine is depicted in the tombs. “It’s interesting to see how the symbolism of wine is deeply related to the color red,” says Fonseca. “This recalls the relationship between wine and the blood of Osiris, the god of death and resurrection, who is called the Lord of Wine in the late Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts. It also recalls the relationship between wine and the reddish color of the Nile during the annual flood, when iron-rich sediment flows into the river from the mountains of Ethiopia at just the time when the grape harvest begins.”

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Archaeology.org
Source: Proof Positive   

Baking bread, ancient Egypt

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University of Tübingen archaeologists discover rare evidence of early winemaking at Tell el-Burak in Lebanon


Wine had great importance in the Iron Age Mediterranean. In particular, the Phoenicians – the inhabitants of the central coastal Levant – were considered to have played an important role in the spread and popularity of wine. However, no installation for winemaking was known in their homeland. Now, the first Iron Age wine press in present-day Lebanon has been discovered during excavations at the Phoenician site of Tell el-Burak. Dr. Adriano Orsingher and Professor Jens Kamlah from the Institute of Biblical Archaeology, and Dr. Silvia Amicone and Dr. Christoph Berthold from the Competence Center Archaeometry – Baden-Württemberg (CCA-BW) at the University of Tübingen, together with Professor Hélène Sader from the American University in Beirut, investigated the construction of the 7th century BCE wine press and the building materials used in it. They found that when the Phoenicians built the wine press, they used a plaster mixed from lime and fragments of crushed ceramics. Later, in Roman times, this technique for making a lime-based plaster was further developed. The study has been published in the latest issue of the journal Antiquity.

Since 2001, the site of Tell el-Burak has been excavated by by a joint Lebanese-German mission. The Tell el-Burak Archaeological Project has uncovered the remains of a small Phoenician settlement, inhabited from the late eighth to the middle of the fourth century BCE. It is likely that the settlement was founded by the nearby town of Sidon to supply it with agricultural products. Tell el-Burak was bordered to the southwest and southeast by a 2.5-meter-wide terrace wall. “South of one of these walls we discovered a well-preserved wine press. It had been built on the slope of the hill,” the authors report.

Hardwearing, water-resistant material

Analyses carried out at the Tübingen CCA-BW within the framework of the ResourceCultures collaborative research center (1070) have now provided new data on the composition and technology of the Iron Age plaster of which the wine press was made. “A good-quality lime plaster could be difficult to produce,” say the authors, “The Phoenicians refined the process by using recycled ceramic shards. This made it possible to build better and at the same time more stable buildings.” A local and innovative tradition of lime plaster had developed in southern Phoenicia, they add, “The finished plaster was water-resistant and hardwearing. The Romans adopted this technique for making their buildings.” An ongoing organic residue analysis at the University of Tübingen may determine whether all three plastered structures at Tell el-Burak were connected to wine production. 

Earlier research in Tell el-Burak showed that grapes were cultivated on a large scale in the area surrounding the village. “We assume that wine was produced there on a large scale for several centuries. For the Phoenicians it was very important – they also used wine in religious ceremonies,” say the authors. The earlier discovery of a large number of amphorae – often used to transport liquids and other foodstuffs – indicates that the Phoenicians also traded their wine. “The city of Sidon was on sea trade routes in the eastern Mediterranean. Phoenicians played an important role in the spread of wine in the Mediterranean area, and their tradition of wine consumption was passed on to Europe and North Africa.” So far there has been little evidence of wine production in Phoenicia, the authors said. “This new discovery provides many clues as to how the pioneers of wine produced the drink.”

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First posted Aug 20, 2010
via A window on the ancient community

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On this day ten years ago…
via An archaeological window on ancient farming

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First posted Aug 16, 2010
via Researchers in Israel Find World’s First Steak Knives

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On this day ten years ago…
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