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Wine cellar of pre-Jesus era discovered in Israel

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A wine cellar of pre-Jesus era has been discovered at an archeological site in northern Israel.

A 3,700-year-old lavish cellar that was crammed with jars once filled with a wine-like brew has been discovered by a team of researchers who were digging this summer at the ruins of a Canaanite palace that dates back to 1700 BC. The researchers made the announcement on Friday, November 22.

A team of Israeli and American researchers broke through a 15 by 25 foot storage room which held the remains of 40 massive ceramic jars. The containers were broken and the liquid had vanished but not without a trace.

The 75 acre Canaanite dig site is known as Tel Kabri and archaeologists said that they have found one of the oldest and biggest wine cellars. The storage room apparently held the equivalent of 3,000 bottles of both red and white wines, per the researchers. Moreover, they suspect that this was not the only wine cellar the palace had. The excavations are being co-directed by Eric H. Cline of the George Washington University and Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa, with Andrew Koh of Brandeis University as the associate director.

"This is a hugely significant discovery," said Dr. Cline. "It's a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in its age and size."

A chemical analysis of the residues remaining the in the jars, which are 3 feet tall, revealed organic traces of acids that are common components of wine and were popular in ancient winemaking. Reportedly, 38 of the 40 jars had recognizable wine residues.

"This wasn't moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements," noted Dr. Andrew Koh of Brandeis University, another member of the research team. "This wine's recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar."

The cellar is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, to be discovered and the wine found was not ordinary. The brew was spiked with cedar, juniper berries, honey, cedar oil and tree resins, making it likely that the wine was stored in the cellar for extravagant royal banquets, per Assaf Yasur-Landau, chair of the maritime relations department at the University of Haifa in Israel.

"This wine included, it is important to note, not only local materials but also possibly materials that were imported from elsewhere such as cedar oil, thus making it a very luxurious drink that was reserved for these special occasions," said Yasur-Landau.

These excavations began in 2005 and in 2009, archaeologists discovered frescoes from the Aegean Islands. In 2012, they found the banquet hall and in July 2013, the archaeologists started finding the ceramic jugs one after the other in the storage room.

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