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Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture

Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture

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By (author) Patrick E. McGovern, Foreword by Robert G. Mondavi

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  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 392 pages
  • Dimensions: 155mm x 229mm x 20mm | 567g
  • Publication date: 22 January 2007
  • Publication City/Country: New Jersey
  • ISBN 10: 0691127840
  • ISBN 13: 9780691127842
  • Edition: Revised
  • Edition statement: Revised edition
  • Illustrations note: 16 color illus. 35 halftones. 9 line illus. 7 maps.
  • Sales rank: 264,062

Product description

The history of civilization is, in many ways, the history of wine. This book is the first comprehensive and up-to-date account of the earliest stages of vinicultural history and prehistory, which extends back into the Neolithic period and beyond. Elegantly written and richly illustrated, Ancient Wine opens up whole new chapters in the fascinating story of wine and the vine by drawing upon recent archaeological discoveries, molecular and DNA sleuthing, and the texts and art of long-forgotten peoples. Patrick McGovern takes us on a personal odyssey back to the beginnings of this consequential beverage when early hominids probably enjoyed a wild grape wine. We follow the course of human ingenuity in domesticating the Eurasian vine and learning how to make and preserve wine some 7,000 years ago. Early winemakers must have marveled at the seemingly miraculous process of fermentation. From success to success, viniculture stretched out its tentacles and entwined itself with one culture after another (whether Egyptian, Iranian, Israelite, or Greek) and laid the foundation for civilization itself. As medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopoeias, cuisines, economies, and society. As an evocative symbol of blood, it was used in temple ceremonies and occupies the heart of the Eucharist. Kings celebrated their victories with wine and made certain that they had plenty for the afterlife. (Among the colorful examples in the book is McGovern's famous chemical reconstruction of the funerary feast--and mixed beverage--of "King Midas.") Some peoples truly became "wine cultures." When we sip a glass of wine today, we recapitulate this dynamic history in which a single grape species was harnessed to yield an almost infinite range of tastes and bouquets. Ancient Wine is a book that wine lovers and archaeological sleuths alike will raise their glasses to.

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Author information

Patrick E. McGovern is a Senior Research Scientist in the Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA) and is Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. The author or editor of eight other books on archaeology and archaeological science, over the past two decades he has pioneered the emerging field of biomolecular archaeology.

Review quote

Winner of the 2004 Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin Grand Prize, History, Literature and Fine Arts Category Winner of the 2004 Research Prize, Asociacin Internacional de Historia y Civilizacin de la Vid y el Vino Honorable Mention for the 2003 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Geology and Earth Sciences Professional/Scholarly Award, Association of American Publishers "A remarkable new book."--Adam Gopnik, New Yorker "No one is better qualified to sift through the widely scattered clues [to the origins of winemaking] than McGovern, a skilled scientific sleuth who wields the most powerful tools of modern chemistry in his search for the roots of ancient wines."--J. Madeleine Nash, Time Magazine "A rich treasury of lore on viticulture... McGovern's book will likely remain a standard in every serious wine-lover's library for a long time. To that achievement--and to glorious wine itself--let us raise our glasses high."--Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History "It takes nerve to tackle a subject as wide-ranging in chronology, geography and historical variability as the study of ancient viniculture, and it takes rhetorical flourish to make such a study riveting, informative and thought-provoking. Patrick McGovern has succeeded in doing just that. His Ancient Wine is a book to be highly recommended to lay and professional audiences alike."--James C. Wright, American Scientist "It's obvious that McGovern has a passion for his research, and that his deep appreciation for wine is enhanced by his understanding of wine's role in civilization. Wine lovers who also enjoy delving into wine's rich history will find much to savor in this complex but intriguing book."--Deborah Scoblionkov, Philadelphia Inquirer "The most fascinating scholarly wine book this year... This is a tapestry woven from surviving cultural fragments and combines art, archeology, chemistry and gastronomy. It tracks the thread of wine through 8,000 years of human history and is not for the faint-hearted."--Toronto Star "This is a prodigiously learned book by a prodigiously learned man... McGovern uses wine as a vehicle for exploring the reaches of ancient history, and for presenting some of the astonishing archeological discoveries that are still being made... By the time we get to Persia, Greece and Rome it has become truly urgent, because it is now a story of civilizations and their clashes--the story in which we are still involved."--Roger Scruton, New Statesman "This book is clearly written, generously illustrated, and thoroughly indexed."--Harvey Finkel, New England Wine Gazette "Princeton University Press has published the definitive book on grape and wine history. Ancient Wine by Patrick E. McGovern is history writing at its best. Thoroughly engaging, this is beautifully illustrated with photos of historical artifacts."--Connie Krochmal, BellaOnline "[W]ine lovers who want to discover more of the origins of their favourite drop will find Ancient Wine of great value and interest."--Louise Johnson, Heritage Key "Mr. McGovern is an exceptional scholar who employs a lively narrative and the latest techniques in scientific archaeology and historiography to help the contemporary reader peer into the most remote corners of early man's agricultural and ritual past. What we learn there is simply riveting. And while the book was first published in 2003, it remains a brilliant and at times prescient work which no civilised amateur of fine wines or modern wine cultures should be without."--Joseph Romero, Culturekiosque "Excellent maps and illustrations, many in full color, enrich the presentation... The price of the new paperbound edition is reasonable, even astonishing given the color plates, and should make it so much the easier for those interested in ancient history, in wine, or in both to acquire and savor it."--Victor Castellani, European Legacy

Back cover copy

"I raise my glass to Patrick McGovern, who mixes authoritative knowledge of ancient viniculture with inspired writing into a heady drink for the mind. This is a beautifully written book, full of insight into the origins, culture, and economy of wine."--Roald Hoffmann, Cornell University, 1981 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry"Patrick McGovern serves us a magnificent feast of science and history that melds sophisticated chemistry with good, old-fashioned historical sleuthing. His innovative research has revolutionized our knowledge of the origins of one of humanity's greatest pleasures. This is an archaeological and gustatory delight for specialist and general reader alike."--Brian Fagan, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of "The Little Ice Age"""Ancient Wine" tells a dramatic, factual story of wine's beginnings at the dawn of civilization 8,000 years ago, bringing to life what I have long believed-wine has been an essential part of the gracious way of life for many cultures. Patrick McGovern takes us on a fascinating journey back to the first experiments in making this marvelous beverage. He shows the central role of wine in human history, with insights drawn from archeology, chemistry, gastronomy, and the arts. "Ancient Wine" will please everyone who enjoys wine. I heartily recommend it."--Robert Mondavi, winemaker"What a great book! Patrick McGovern takes us along for the ride as he searches for the origins of modern wine. This is a very personal, engagingly written story, and we're privileged to watch over McGovern's shoulder as he unravels the mysteries of ancient vines and wines."--Rod Phillips, author of "A Short History of Wine""Told with enthusiasm and verve, "Ancient Wine" is an illuminating discussion of an important area of research. It represents a substantial contribution to our understanding of the nature of consumption in early urban societies, and draws together investigations of some of the outstanding pieces of evidence that are of prime relevance to the story."--Andrew Sherratt, author of "Economy and Society in Prehistoric Europe"

Table of contents

List of Illustrations xi Preface xv 1. Stone Age Wine 1 Sifting Fact from Legend 3 Man Meets Grape: The Paleolithic Hypothesis 7 Whence the Domesticated Eurasian Grapevine? 11 When and Where Was Wine First Made? 14 2. The Noah Hypothesis 16 Genetics and Gilgamesh 16 Transcaucasia: The Homeland of Viniculture? 19 Exploring Georgia and Armenia 21 Ancient DNA 25 Casting a Wider Net in Anatolia 29 The Indo-European Homeland 30 "Noah's Flood" 35 Farther Afield 37 3. The Archaeological and Chemical Hunt for the Earliest Wine 40 Godin Tepe 40 Molecular Archaeology Comes of Age 48 Identifying the Godin Tepe Jar Residues by Infrared Spectrometry 51 Archaeological Inference 54 From Grape Juice to Wine to Vinegar 55 Winemaking at the Dawn of Civilization 58 The First Wine Rack? 60 A Symposium in the True Sense of the Word 61 4. Neolithic Wine! 64 A Momentous Innovation 65 Liquid Chromatography: Another Tool of Molecular Archaeology 68 Ancient Retsina: A Beverage and a Medicine 70 A Media Barrage 72 Wild or Domesticated Grapes? 74 More Neolithic Wine Jars from Transcaucasia 74 Creating a Ferment in Neolithic Turkey: A Hypothesis to Be Tested 78 5. Wine of the Earliest Pharaohs 85 A Royal Industry Par Excellence 85 An Amazing Discovery from a Dynasty 0 Royal Tomb 91 Ancient Yeast DNA Discovered 103 6. Wine of Egypt's Golden Age 107 The Hyksos: A Continuing Taste for Levantine Wines 107 Festival Wine at the Height of the New Kingdom 120 Wine as the Ultimate Religious Expression 134 Wines of the Heretic King, Akhenaten, and of Tutankhamun 137 The Vineyard of Egypt under the Ramessides 141 7. Wine of the World's First Cities 148 A Beer-Drinking Culture Only? 149 Banqueting the Mesopotamian Way 158 Wine, Too, Was Drunk in the Lowland Cities 160 Transplanting the Grapevine to Shiraz 164 8. Wine and the Great Empires of the Ancient Near East 167 Wine Down the Tigris and Euphrates 168 Wines of Anatolia and the Lost Hittite Empire 174 Assyrian Expansionism: Cupbearers, Cauldrons, and Drinking Horns 188 The Fine Wines of Aram and Phoenicia 201 Eastward to Persia and China 206 9. The Holy Land's Bounty 210 Winepresses in the Hills, and Towers and Vineyards in the Wadi Floors 212 The Success of the Experiment 217 Serving the Needs of a Cosmopolitan Society 220 Wine for the Kings and the Masses 225 Dark Reds and Powerful Browns 233 Wine: A Heritage of the Judeo-Christian Tradition 236 10. Lands of Dionysos: Greece and Western Anatolia 239 Drinking the God 240 A Minoan Connection? The Earliest Greek Retsina 247 Wine Mellowed with Oak 259 "Greek Grog": A Revolution in Beverage Making 262 Wine and "Greek Grog" during the Heroic Age 268 11. A Beverage for King Midas and at the Limits of the Civilized World 279 King Midas and "Phrygian Grog" 279 Re-creating an Ancient Anatolian Beverage and Feast 293 To the Hyperborean Regions of the North: "European Grog" 296 12. Molecular Archaeology, Wine, and a View to the Future 299 Where It All Began 299 Consumed by Wine 302 Why Alcohol and Why Wine? 305 The Lowly Yeast to the Forefront 307 Mixing Things Up 308 Wine, the Perfect Metaphor 312 Selected Bibliography 317 Illustration Credits and Object Dimensions 329 Index 335