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Early Neolithic wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus

  1. David Lordkipanidzeb,1
  1. aBiomolecular Archaeology Project, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, PA 19104;
  2. bGeorgian National Museum, Tbilisi 0159, Georgia;
  3. cDepartment of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada MSS 1A1;
  4. dDepartment of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Boise State University, Boise, ID 83725;
  5. eScientific Research Center of Agriculture, Tbilisi 0159, Georgia;
  6. fInstitut des Sciences de l’Evolution, University of Montpellier, 34090 Montpellier, France;
  7. gDepartment of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Università degli studi di Milano, 20122 Milan, Italy;
  8. hLombardy Museum of Agricultural History, 26866 Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, Italy;
  9. iDangoor Research Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (D-REAMS) Laboratory, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 7610001, Israel;
  10. jInstitut National de la Recherche Agronomique–Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement–Centre International d’études Supérieures en Sciences Agronomiques, UMR Amélioration Génétique et Adaptation des Plantes, 1334, 34398 Montpellier, France;
  11. kCentre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, 1350 Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Contributed by David Lordkipanidze, October 7, 2017 (sent for review August 22, 2017; reviewed by A. Nigel Goring-Morris and Roald Hoffmann)


The earliest biomolecular archaeological and archaeobotanical evidence for grape wine and viniculture from the Near East, ca. 6,000–5,800 BC during the early Neolithic Period, was obtained 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. Wine is central to civilization as we know it in the West. As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopoeias, cuisines, economies, and society in the ancient Near East. This wine culture subsequently spread around the globe. Viniculture illustrates human ingenuity in developing horticultural and winemaking techniques, such as domestication, propagation, selection of desirable traits, wine presses, suitable containers and closures, and so on.


Chemical analyses of ancient organic compounds absorbed into the pottery fabrics from sites in Georgia in the South Caucasus region, dating to the early Neolithic period (ca. 6,000–5,000 BC), provide the earliest biomolecular archaeological evidence for grape wine and viniculture from the Near East, at ca. 6,000–5,800 BC. The chemical findings are corroborated by climatic and environmental reconstruction, together with archaeobotanical evidence, including grape pollen, starch, and epidermal remains associated with a jar of similar type and date. The very large-capacity jars, some of the earliest pottery made in the Near East, probably served as combination fermentation, aging, and serving vessels. They are the most numerous pottery type at many sites comprising the so-called “Shulaveri-Shomutepe Culture” of the Neolithic period, which extends into western Azerbaijan and northern Armenia. The discovery of early sixth millennium BC grape wine in this region is crucial to the later history of wine in Europe and the rest of the world.


  • ?1To whom correspondence may be addressed. Email: mcgovern{at}upenn.edu or dlordkipanidze{at}museum.ge.
  • Author contributions: P.M., M.J., S.B., M.P.C., K.E.S., G.R.H., E.K., N.R., L.B., O.F., G.C., L.M., E.B., R.B., P.T., and D.L. designed research; P.M., M.J., M.P.C., K.E.S., G.R.H., E.K., N.R., L.B., O.F., G.C., L.M., E.B., R.B., N.W., and D.L. performed research; P.M., M.J., S.B., M.P.C., K.E.S., G.R.H., E.K., N.R., L.B., O.F., G.C., L.M., E.B., R.B., and N.W. analyzed data; and P.M., S.B., M.P.C., K.E.S., G.R.H., E.K., D.M., N.R., L.B., O.F., G.C., L.M., and E.B. wrote the paper.

  • Reviewers: A.N.G.-M., Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and R.H., Cornell University.

  • The authors declare no conflict of interest.

  • This article contains supporting information online at www.danielhellerman.com/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1714728114/-/DCSupplemental.

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