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Early evidence of Near Eastern viniculture

Neolithic jar from Khramis Didi-Gora, Georgia. Image courtesy of the Georgian National Museum.

As the climate in the mountainous Near East improved following the last Ice Age, Neolithic hunter-gatherers innovated viniculture of the Eurasian grapevine (Vitis vinifera). The earliest known chemical evidence for grape wine in the region dates to 5400–5000 BC in Hajji Firuz Tepe, an early Neolithic village in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Focusing on two archaeological sites in Georgia in the South Caucasus, Patrick McGovern et al. (pp. E10309–E10318) performed a biomolecular archaeological investigation of newly excavated pottery jars of the early Neolithic period. The authors describe the jars’ archaeological contexts and present positive chemical evidence of tartaric, malic, succinic, and citric acids, all of which are biomarkers of the Eurasian grape, as well as new radiocarbon age determinations in the range of 5800–6000 BC. The authors also present climatic and environmental reconstructions, including archaeobotanical evidence, of the abundance of grapes in the region during the early Neolithic. The authors note that jars similar to the newly recovered Neolithic vessels continue to be used to make wine in Georgia, illustrating that the culture of wine in the region has deep historical roots. The findings represent early evidence of viniculture, which subsequently spread worldwide and influenced human civilization, according to the …

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