"The Origins and Ancient History of Wine"

one of six jars once filled with resinated wine

One of six jars once filled with resinated wine from the "kitchen" of a Neolithic residence at Hajji Firuz Tepe (Iran). Patches of a reddish residue cover the interior of this vessel. Height 23.5 cm. (Jar on display at the Penn Museum.)

C o n t e n t s :

Intro - living out our past through wine

Neolithic Period - "chateau hajji firuz"

- wine for the afterlife

- under the grape arbors...

One of a kind laboratory
- ancient evidence; modern technology

Map - wine's whereabouts: then and now

The grapevine & tree resins - nature's ingredients


Neolithic Period
“Chateau Hajji Firuz”

If winemaking is best understood as an intentional human activity rather than a seasonal happenstance, then the Neolithic period (8500-4000 B.C.) is the first time in human prehistory when the necessary preconditions for this momentous innovation came together.

Most importantly, Neolithic communities of the ancient Near East and Egypt were permanent, year-round settlements made possible by domesticated plants and animals.
Overview of two Neolithic houses at Hajji Firuz Tepe
Overview of two Neolithic houses at Hajji Firuz Tepe, during excavation.
With a more secure food supply than nomadic groups and with a more stable base of operations, a Neolithic "cuisine" emerged. Using a variety of food processing techniques—fermentation, soaking, heating, spicing—Neolithic peoples are credited with first producing bread, beer, and an array of meat and grain entrées we continue to enjoy today.

Crafts important in food preparation, storage, and serving advanced in tandem with the new cuisine. Of special significance is the appearance of pottery vessels around 6000 B.C. The plasticity of clay made it an ideal material for forming shapes such as narrow-mouthed vats and storage jars for producing and keeping wine.

Mary Voigt (white hat) excavates the "kitchen" of the Hajji Firuz Neolithic house
Mary Voigt (white hat) excavates the "kitchen" of the Hajji Firuz Neolithic house that yielded the six wine jars, which had been set into the floor along one wall of the room.

Did you know...?
Humans and most of what they surround themselves with (clothing, habitations, and cuisine), are primarily
organic in chemical composition. Organics are easily destroyed and dispersed; only the application of microchemical techniques can reconstruct what existed originally. The methods and approaches that have been developed for ancient wine can be applied to other organic materials—whether DNA, dyes, woods, resins, drugs, honey, or whatever—as long as they have been well preserved enough (best in dry, desert regions or underwater, where oxygen is not available).
After firing the clay to high temperatures, the resultant pottery is essentially indestructible, and its porous structure helps to absorb organics.

A major step forward in our understanding of Neolithic winemaking came from the analysis of a yellowish residue inside a jar (see photo at top of page) excavated by Mary M. Voigt at the site of Hajji Firuz Tepe in the northern Zagros Mountains of Iran. The jar, with a volume of about 9 liters (2.5 gallons) was found together with five similar jars embedded in the earthen floor along one wall of a "kitchen" of a Neolithic mudbrick building, dated to ca. 5400-5000 B.C. The structure, consisting of a large living room that may have doubled as a bedroom, the "kitchen," and two storage rooms, might have accommodated an extended family. That the room in which the jars were found functioned as a kitchen was supported by the finding of numerous pottery vessels, which were probably used to prepare and cook foods, together with a fireplace.


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