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Archaeologists discover 4,000-year-old wine cellar in northern Israel

It's no secret that ancient societies enjoyed wine and drinking games. But a new discovery has taken historians' knowledge of ancient wine culture to new levels — they can now analyze ancient wine's ingredients, thanks to the discovery of a 4,000-year-old wine cellar found in northern Israel.

Archaeologists found clay vessels used to hold wine in a 4,000-year-old cellar at Tel Kabri, a Canaanite palace. The team used a micro-archaeology lab to analyze the wine samples found on ceramic sherds from the cellar. They discovered that the wine cellar had contained "a fine, aromatic vintage," signaling that the wine had been made with royalty in mind, Haaretz reports.

The Tel Kabri palace dates to the Middle Bronze Age and was inhabited for more than 250 years, from roughly 1850 B.C.E. to the 1600s B.C.E., according to Haaretz. However, its inhabitants didn't leave written evidence, so the wine cellar is a massive find for researchers who seek information on the palace's occupants.

When the archaeologists analyzed the wine's ingredients from the residue on the cellar's jars, they found tantaric and syringic acid, which are components of wine, on roughly 40 jars. They also found evidence of cinnamic acid, which would have been used to make storax, a preservative to keep the wine from spoiling.

Assaf Yassur-Landau, the co-director of Tel Kabri and director of the Mediterranean studies department at Haifa University, told Haaretz that the Canaanites had "strict notions" of how royal wine should be made. "It should taste and smell like exotic distant places. It should not only taste good, but it should show that the rulers of Kabri were rich and well connected and had access to these luxury goods from distant lands."