and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt
February 13, 2018 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Prehistoric wine discovered in inaccessible caves forces a rethink of ancient Sicilian culture. Exploration of intolerably hot and humid caves in Monte Kronio in Sicily revealed several Copper Age storage jars containing organic residue. In one, the residue indicated the presence of pure grape wine from 5,000 years ago, the oldest wine found in the Europe and the Mediterranean. The author speculates that ancient Sicilians may have traded wine with people of the Aegean to obtain metals.
posted by exogenous (4 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I like how it fills in a gap -- they knew Sicily was trading for the metals that were entirely absent on the island, but had no idea what they could have provided in return. Turns out maybe booze!
posted by tavella at 11:30 AM on February 13, 2018 [7 favorites]

The Sicilians still make damn fine wine. My favourite local Italian restaurant has a Nero d'Avola that clearly channels the gods of Etna - black as volcanic sand. complex as fluid dynamics and takes fewer prisoners than the Cosa Nostra with a grudge. I tell you, if I were a Bronze Age Cornish warlord with a bunch of tin to trade, I'd make absolutely sure the Sicilians knew about it. (There's evidence of prehistoric beach parties in those parts of Cornwall which did trade tin, so I'm sure I'm not the first person to reach this conclusion.)
posted by Devonian at 1:51 PM on February 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sulphur is used in wine making to kill wild yeast or to still wine. The heat of the caves might have speeded up fermentation and the sulphur fumes might have stabilized the product. Other food items may have been preserved by the atmosphere, once the fuel for reaction ran out. Maybe they smoked meat in there while preserving it.
posted by Oyéah at 4:23 PM on February 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Obligatory Orb reference.
posted by ikahime at 9:01 AM on February 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

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