Archaeologists in southern Armenia have unearthed an extraordinarily vintage find — the world's oldest winery. The ancient facility is thought to be around 6,000 years old. Here, a quick guide to the discovery:
What exactly did the archaeologists dig up?
A wine press, fermentation vat, storage jars, drinking cups, and bowls, as well as dessicated grape vines and skins. The archaeologists theorize that the ancient wine-makers pressed the grapes with their feet in the 3-foot press, and drained the juices into the 15-gallon fermentation vat. It's the same technology that was used in Europe and the United States well into the 19th century.
What was the wine used for?
It's likely the red wine produced at the facility was used not for casual drinking, but for mourners visiting a nearby burial ground — as a focal point in "ritualistic funeral ceremonies," according to The Daily Telegraph's Nick Squires, "and as an offering to the dead."
Where did archaeologists make their discovery?
In a cavern in southern Armenia near the Iranian border. "The textual record for wine consumption in the area is a familiar one," says Ben O'Donnell at Wine Spectator. Mount Ararat, where noted wine enthusiast Noah is said to have disembarked from the Ark, is only about 60 miles away.
How significant is this discovery?
At 6,000 years old, it's by far the oldest wine-making facility yet discovered. The oldest previously known winery, found in the West Bank, dates to around 1650 B.C. "The fact that wine-making was already so well developed in 4,000 B.C. suggests that the technology probably goes back much earlier," says archeologist Patrick McGovern of University of Pennsylvania, in the Los Angeles Times.
Sources: National Geographic, Time, Los Angeles Times, The Daily Telegraph, Wine Spectator
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