(Smithsonian Magazine) The wine is robust but sweet, with herbal notes and maybe a hint of cinnamon. Carefully stored in a room near the banquet hall, dozens of large jugs filled with the latest vintage sit waiting for the next holiday feast or visiting politician. Then, disaster strikes. An earthquake crumbles walls and shatters jars, spilling waves of red fluid across the floor and leaving the grand wine cellar in ruins.
This isn't a vineyard villa in Napa—it's one possible explanation for recent discoveries in the Canaanite palace of Tel Kabri, in the northwestern part of modern-day Israel. The remains of 40 large jugs found at the site show traces of wine infused with herbs and resins, an international team reports today in the journal PLOS ONE. If their interpretation holds up, the room where the vessels were found may be the largest and oldest personal wine cellar known in the Middle East.
Advertisement - story continues below
"What's fascinating about what we have here is that it is part of a household economy," says lead author Andrew Koh, an archaeologist at Brandeis University. "This was the patriarch's personal wine cellar. The wine was not meant to be given away as part of a system of providing for the community. It was for his own enjoyment and the support of his authority."