Ancient Andalusian White Wine: A 2,000-Year-Old Discovery

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Ancient Andalusian White Wine: A 2,000-Year-Old Discovery

Hispana, Senicio, and four other inhabitants of a Roman tomb in Carmona, Spain, unwittingly left behind a remarkable legacy. Their funerary ritual, performed over 2,000 years ago, involved immersing the skeletal remains of one of the men in a liquid inside a glass funerary urn. Little did they know that this liquid would become a significant archaeological find in the present day.

The Remarkable Preservation

The tomb’s conservation conditions were extraordinary, allowing the liquid to remain intact and well-sealed for centuries. Researchers were surprised to find that the reddish liquid had been preserved since the first century AD. Unlike other tombs affected by floods or leaks, this tomb’s sealed environment ensured the wine maintained its natural state.

Identifying the Ancient Vintage

To confirm that the liquid was indeed wine, a team from the University of Cordoba’s Department of Organic Chemistry conducted extensive chemical analyses. They examined pH levels, organic matter, mineral salts, and specific chemical compounds. Comparisons with modern Montilla-Moriles, Jerez, and Sanlúcar wines provided evidence that the liquid was, in fact, wine.

The key to identification lay in polyphenols—biomarkers present in all wines. By using a sensitive technique, the researchers identified seven specific polyphenols consistent with those found in wines from the mentioned regions. The absence of syringe acid, a specific polyphenol, indicated that the wine was white. Degradation over time likely explained its absence.

The Mystery of Origin

Determining the wine’s origin posed a challenge. Unfortunately, no samples from the same period exist for direct comparison. However, the mineral salts in the liquid align with those found in white wines currently produced in the region, particularly Montilla-Moriles wines.

Gender Divisions in Funerary Rituals

The choice to immerse the man’s remains in wine was not accidental. In ancient Rome, wine was considered a man’s drink, and women were prohibited from consuming it. The two glass urns in the Carmona tomb highlight these gender divisions. While the man’s bones rested in wine, the urn containing the woman’s remains held three amber jewels, a patchouli-scented perfume bottle, and fabric remnants—possibly silk.

The wine, along with other items, formed part of a funerary trousseau meant to accompany the deceased on their journey into the afterlife. This discovery sheds light on ancient Roman customs and provides a fascinating glimpse into the past.

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