Patrick E. McGovern
Since the publication of this book four years ago, several major advances have been made in our understanding of the origins of winemaking and viticulture.
It is now known that resinated wine was being produced on a fairly large scale in the Neolithic period (ca. 5400-5000 B.C.) at the site of Hajji Firuz Tepe in the northern Zagros Mountains of Iran. ( 1)
It had already been proposed at the Mondavi conference that many centuries of experimentation would have been needed to reach the expertise revealed at Godin Tepe, farther south in the Zagros at the end of the 4th millennium B.C. (see chapters 4 and 5). Indeed, if winemaking is best understood as an intentional human activity rather than a seasonal happenstance, then the Neolithic period, from about 8500 to 4000 B.C., is the first time in human prehistory when the necessary preconditions for this momentous innovation came together. In the numerous villages that first appeared during this time in upland regions of the Near East, where the wild Eurasian grapevine (Vitis vinifera sylvestris) still grows today, other plants (in particular, wheat and barley) provided year-round food reserves and the invention of pottery made available a range of processing, serving and storage vessels.
It is to be expected that some enterprising individuals of the time would have segregated out the hermaphroditic plant, with its greater productivity and other desirable traits, from the dioecious plant, thus beginning the process toward the full domestication of the Eurasian grapevine (Vitis vinifera vinifera). The addition of a tree resin to wine is not as surprising as it sounds, since humans were probably already putting their anti-microbial properties to good use in treating external injuries and disease generally, and it might thus be inferred that tree resins would also protect the wine from turning to vinegar. The many steps along the way to true viniculture and its ultimate origins will probably never be known. However, archaeological, chemical, and DNA research now in progress on wine-related artifacts and grape remains from Neolithic sites in the Caucasus Mountains, predating the Hajji Firuz wine by more than a 1000 years, promises to shed further light on the earliest developments. ( 2) Neolithic settlements in the Taurus Mountains of eastern Turkey, where the origins of three of the eight Near Eastern 'founder crops' (viz., chickpea, better vetch, and einkorn wheat) have been located according to DNA analysis, remain to be investigated.
Another 'discovery' that the Eurasian grapevine can be propagated ('cloned') by transplanting cuttings from one region to another led to the expansion of winemaking and viticulture to other parts of the Near East. In the lowland region of the Jordan Valley, where the wild vine probably never grew, domesticated grapevines had been planted there by at least the Chalcolithic period (ca. 4000-3000 B.C.). These vineyards eventually supported a thriving winemaking industry, extending east and west to the upland regions of Jordan and Palestine, that produced wine for export. One of the earliest rulers of Egypt, Scorpion I of Dynasty 0, was buried with some 700 jars of resinated wine in a tomb at Abydos, hundreds of miles up the Nile River, around 3150 B.C. ( 3) These jars, containing as much as 4500 liters of wine for the king's afterlife, were made in the same regions of the Levant where the wine was produced, and had been laboriously