November 17, 2017 – Thoroughly modern man has something in common with Neolithic man who lived in the Near East around 6,000 B.C. Pottery shards found in Georgia bear the residue of Eurasian grapes, the grapes that we use today to make our favorite wines. Known as vitis vinifera, there are literally thousands, maybe even 10,000, varieties of wild Eurasian grapes of which about 1,300 have been cultivated for commercial use.
e news is the result of work by a molecular archaeologist from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Patrick McGovern and his team which tested the pottery by “applying state-of-the-art archaeological, archaeobotanical, climatic, and chemical methods to newly excavated materials from two sites in Georgia in the South Caucasus”, according to the Abstract published earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Georgia has been hailed as the “Cradle of Wine” but Dr. McGovern’s study confirms that it really was grape wine, not a mixture of fruit, honey or other bits and pieces that were handy 8,000 years ago. The McGovern team found telltale signs of wine residue that had soaked into the pottery shards, including tartaric acid, malic, succinic and citric acids. The combination of these four acids is only found in wine.
Dr. McGovern led another study in 2004 that uncovered an even older fermented drink that used grapes made as early as 9,000 years ago in China’s Yellow River Valley. However, it wasn’t pure wine made exclusively from grapes. It also contained rice beer and mead (honey) as well as other ingredients. So Georgia continues to hold the title of being the “Cradle of Wine”.
Six thousand B.C. was the end of the Stone Age but by then they had become farmers, figured out how fire clay pots and how to make wine. Wine was fermented and stored in huge clay jars that were buried underground. Georgians still use Qvevris today that are buried in the earth. How Neolithic man manipulated clay vessels that were over three feet wide and three feet deep and could hold as much as 400 bottles of wine remains a mystery. Just how did they get the wine out of the jar?