3 Jars Have Unlocked Secrets About Ancient Roman Wine


| LAST UPDATE 07/08/2022

By Stanley Wickens
ancient Roman wine jars
Christopher OHara via Getty Images

Fashion, architecture, and an exquisite glass of wine are just a few of the things Italy is famous for. And it turns out the latter holds more secrets dating back to the country's ancient history than we thought.

Researchers have recently discovered three different wine jars, or amphorae, that gave them insights into how wine was produced in the region of what is now Italy in the first and second centuries BCE. The examination of the three jars stands out from previous studies on ancient Italian wine, since it combined some of the latest chemical analysis techniques with other approaches used in archaeobotany. Their methods helped these researchers find out more about the ancient jars than they'd initially hoped.

ancient Roman wine jars
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The team was able to separate and identify different markers in the organic residue left in the jars. Not only that, but they also searched for grapevine pollen they suspected might be trapped in the residue for wider historical context on these ancient artifacts. Their findings suggest the jars were used to make both red and white wine using local plants - though they remain unsure whether the plants were domesticated at the time. Not only that, but they also discovered traces of pine in one tar pitch - which they suspect was imported from Calabria or Sicily - that was used to flavor the wine. "The presence of both pollen and charcoal allowed a better understanding regarding the pitch origin, which is impossible to reach through organic residue analyses alone," the team explained.

Although not all of the researcher's conclusions were certain, the study did enable them to delve deeper into the complex history of the artifacts, thanks to their combination of chemical and botanical expertise with other historical and archaeological records. "By using different approaches to unravel the content and nature of the coating layer of Roman amphorae, we have pushed the conclusion further in the understanding of ancient practices than it would have been with a single approach," they shared. If only we had a way to find out how the wine produced in the region tasted back then. Stay tuned for more fascinating discoveries!

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