2000-Year-Old Bottle of White Wine Found in a Roman Burial Site

Image via Jour­nal of Archae­o­log­i­cal Sci­ence: Reports

Back in 2017, we fea­tured the old­est unopened bot­tle of wine in the world here on Open Cul­ture. Found in Spey­er, Ger­many, in 1867, it dates from 350 AD, mak­ing it a ven­er­a­ble vin­tage indeed, but one recent­ly out­done by a bot­tle first dis­cov­ered five years ago in Car­mona, near Seville, Spain. “At the bot­tom of a shaft found dur­ing con­struc­tion work,” an exca­va­tion team “uncov­ered a sealed bur­ial cham­ber from the ear­ly first cen­tu­ry C.E. — untouched for 2,000 years,” writes Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can’s Lars Fis­ch­er. Inside was “a glass urn placed in a lead case was filled to the brim with a red­dish liq­uid,” only recent­ly deter­mined to be wine — and there­fore wine about three cen­turies old­er than the Spey­er bot­tle.

You can read about the rel­e­vant research in this new paper pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Archae­o­log­i­cal Sci­ence: Reports by chemist José Rafael Ruiz Arrebo­la and his team. “The wine from the Car­mona site was no longer suit­able for drink­ing, and it had nev­er been intend­ed for that pur­pose,” writes Fis­ch­er.

“The experts found bone remains and a gold ring at the bot­tom of the glass ves­sel. The bur­ial cham­ber was the final rest­ing place for the remains of the deceased, who were cre­mat­ed accord­ing to Roman cus­tom.” Only through chem­i­cal analy­sis were the researchers final­ly able to deter­mine that the liq­uid was, in fact, wine, and thus to put togeth­er evi­dence of the arrange­men­t’s being an elab­o­rate send­off for a Roman-era oenophile.

Though the funer­ary rit­u­al “involved two men and two women,” says CBS News, the remains in the wine came from only one of the men. This makes sense, as, “accord­ing to the study, women in ancient Rome were pro­hib­it­ed from drink­ing wine.” What a dif­fer­ence a cou­ple of mil­len­nia make: today the cul­tur­al image slants some­what female, espe­cial­ly in the case of white wine, which, despite hav­ing “acquired a red­dish hue,” the liq­uid unearthed in Car­mona was chem­i­cal­ly deter­mined to be. With the sum­mer now get­ting into full swing, this sto­ry might inspire us to beat the heat by putting a bot­tle of our favorite Chardon­nay, Ries­ling, or Pinot Gri­gio in the refrig­er­a­tor — a con­ve­nience unimag­ined by even the wealth­i­est wine-lov­ing cit­i­zens of the Roman Empire.

via Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can

Relat­ed con­tent:

Bars, Beer & Wine in Ancient Rome: An Intro­duc­tion to Roman Nightlife and Spir­its

Archae­ol­o­gists Dis­cov­er a 2,000-Year-Old Roman Glass Bowl in Per­fect Con­di­tion

Archae­ol­o­gists Dis­cov­er an Ancient Roman Snack Bar in the Ruins of Pom­peii

Explore the Roman Cook­book, De Re Coquinar­ia, the Old­est Known Cook­book in Exis­tence

The Wine Win­dows of Renais­sance Flo­rence Dis­pense Wine Safe­ly Again Dur­ing COVID-19

The Old­est Unopened Bot­tle of Wine in the World (Cir­ca 350 AD)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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