January 22, 2011

Grape domesticated West Asia

Kambiz mentions today this paper at Anthropology.net:


Archaeological evidence suggests that grape domestication took place in the South Caucasus between the Caspian and Black Seas and that cultivated vinifera then spread south to the western side of the Fertile Crescent, the Jordan Valley, and Egypt by 5,000 y ago (1, 21). Our analyses of relatedness between vinifera and sylvestris populations are consistent with archaeological data and support a geographical origin of grape domestication in the Near East (Fig. 4 and Table 1).

He also mentions that the oldest known wine barrel is from Armenia

I understand that the data of fig. 4 suggest a domestication area between Turkey and Pakistan, with emphasis in the Caucasus region: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Daghestan specially. However Pakistani wild varieties cluster well also and I'd say it cannot be discarded that at least part of the development of this delicatessen crop happened maybe in the context of South Asian Neolithic.

9 comments:

  1. Greetings Maju,

    More and more I am amazed with the knowledge of ancient peoples.

    Every day they delay the known dates for the appearance of certain knowledge.

    Interesting.

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  2. You surely mean "push back in time", rather than "delay". But sure.

    You may not know that olives were eaten (and that means also olive oil surely) in Andalusia and nearby areas in some unclear phase of the Early Neolithic, in connection with the pottery "a la almagra" (alum, "alumbre" in Spanish as well), which is unclearly related to Cardium Pottery (derived Epi-cardial?). However it's not possible to determine if they were domestic or wild (and no idea if the tree was local or imported). The exact dates of this (sub-)culture are controversial after Zilhao pushed forward (delayed) the dates for Portugal (claiming it Epicardial). However no revision for the Andalusian case has been made as far as I know ("6th millenium" was claimed in the 80s).

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  3. The earliest known evidence of beer, IIRC, is in Egypt and Mesopotamia from ca. 7000 BCE (with independent invention in China within 2000 years of that point in time). We seem to have pin pointed the geographic origins of wine in the mountains to the East of this region, somewhat later

    I wonder where the beer-wine divide was in the ancient world? Or, if they co-existed? (There are historical records of beer making in Armenia by the 5th century BCE.)

    It would also be interesting to know when the first prohibitionist (i.e. banning alcohol) movement arose. I'm not sure that I know of any prior to Islam, although surely that is a product of my lack of ancient historical knowledge rather than a fact.

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  4. There has been some suspicion of beer being much older because of recent knowledge of food processing, specifically cereal and other potentially alcoholic produce, among Paleolithic people.

    I mentioned the possibility when it was found that our ancestors consumed processed sorghum and wine palm in what is today Mozambique 100 Ka. ago.

    In this other blog post, Julien Riel-Salvatore mentioned that the ostrich shells of Blombos (c. 70-? Ka) were surely flasks for liquid transport. Wondering what other liquids, besides water, might have those people carried around.

    Beer (often made of sorghum) is very much extended through Africa and I am not persuaded that Paleolithic people did not produce it at least on occasion (large seasonal gatherings/festivals for instance).

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  5. "I wonder where the beer-wine divide was in the ancient world? Or, if they co-existed?"

    In general wine was preferred in Europe at least, displacing beer where available. It was apparently one of the major Celtic imports. We cannot forget of mead anyhow nor other drugs of comparable effects like opium.

    But in Egypt of all places, I am unaware of wine being ever consumed.

    "It would also be interesting to know when the first prohibitionist (i.e. banning alcohol) movement arose. I'm not sure that I know of any prior to Islam, although surely that is a product of my lack of ancient historical knowledge rather than a fact".

    It's probably a fact, at least on large scale of any sort. Alcohol and other drugs were generally used in profane or religious celebrations through antiquity. At most Romans forbade women (and male slaves?) from drinking wine but free men were allowed.

    For Christianity alcohol, specially wine, became a sacred drug (persecuting others of widespread use in Antiquity, like opium, cannabis, mushrooms, LSA/ergine). Instead Mohammed forbade alcohol and other drugs were used instead (opium, cannbis, later coffee and tobacco as well).

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  6. "We cannot forget of mead"

    Indeed. I've met one of the leading U.S. mead producers (in Palisade, Colorado), who is a retired IRS official who was instrumental in securing favorable alcohol tax treatment for it. Honey wine is very nice.

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  7. " in Egypt of all places, I am unaware of wine being ever consumed."

    Palm wine aka Toddy, which is commonly drunk in India and West Africa, but is not made from grapes, was used by the Egyptians for embalming purposes. Yet, surely, if they had it at all, someone must have also drunk it.

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  8. The ancient Egyptians <a href="http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/timelines/topics/drink.htm>drank and made grape wine,</a> although it may not have been as popular there as elsewhere.

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  9. With regard to David's comment, I have always been deeply impressed with the accomplishments of ancient peoples. This is simply my bias, but I wish more people could appreciate it. Most recently, this was made clear by the fact that modern homo sapiens were able to reach Crete from mailand Greece about 130,000 years ago. It was no accident,

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