How did we know it was wine?

The infrared spectrum of the organic contents of one of the Neolithic Hajji Firuz Tepe jars is dominated by the absorption peaks of both tartaric acid and calcium tartrate.
Tartaric acid occurs naturally in large amounts only in grapes. The jar contained a grape juice that quickly fermented to wine, and was preserved by stoppering and adding terebinth tree resin. Later wine jars samples from late 4th millennium B.C. Egypt and upland and lowland Mesopotamia (Godin Tepe, Uruk, and Susa) sometimes contain relatively more tartaric acid than calcium tartrate.

The battery of infrared, liquid chromatographic, and wet chemical analyses that have been carried out clearly showed the presence of calcium tartrate in the jars. Tartaric acid occurs in large amounts in nature only in grapes. Under normal conditions and at room temperature, grape juice quickly ferments to wine. Because of slow pressing methods in antiquity and high temperatures in the Middle East, fermentation had probably begun before the liquid went into the jar. Clay stoppers of approximately the same diameter as that of the jar mouth were found nearby, so the expertise was available to seal the jar and prevent the wine from turning to vinegar.

The high-performance liquid chromatographic results pointed to another component that made it virtually certain that the jar originally contained wine: terebinth tree resin. In an upland region like Hajji Firuz, the wild grapevine and the terebinth tree grew together and produced their fruit and resin about the same time of year, so mixing these products together might have occurred accidentally or as a result of an innovative impulse. Whatever the case, the Hajji Firuz sample clearly was a mixture of a grape product and terebinth tree resin. And that grape product was most likely

return to...[Neolithic Period: Chateau Hajji Firuz]