The Origins and Ancient History of Wine

By Patrick E. McGovern; Stuart J. Fleming et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 17

Wine and Viticulture in the Linear A and B Texts of the Bronze Age Aegean

Ruth Palmer


1.

Introduction

In classical Greek culture, wine was important as an aristocratic drink, an offering to the gods, and as a valuable trade commodity, one which required special techniques and labor requirements for growing and production. Much of the information we possess about wine in the Classical period comes from literary sources, genre scenes of drinking and wine-making on vases, and transport amphorae (see chapter 20 by Koehler, this volume). For the Greek prehistoric period, the evidence is scantier-sets of wine serving and drinking vessels from graves, storerooms full of goblets at the Palace of Nestor in Pylos, and the rare fresco showing drinking point to the ceremonial aspect of wine in Bronze Age Aegean society (see chapter 18 by Wright, this volume). The main source of information about the production and distribution of wine comes from the Minoan and Mycenaean administrative records, written in the Linear A and B scripts. But this information about wine is not presented in a clear, formal manner as in the later classical treatises on vines and wine; rather, wine is just one of many commodities recorded by the palaces in a purely administrative manner. Therefore, it is necessary first to understand the nature of the Linear A and B writing systems, and the types of information recorded, before analyzing the contexts in which wine appears. Although a relatively small number of texts have been preserved, contexts indicate that the Bronze Age Aegean civilizations held a view of wine similar to that of classical Greece.

The Linear A and B texts found in the palaces and regional centers of Crete and Mainland Greece differ greatly in quantity, time span, and range of subjects from the corpora of texts found in the Near East and Egypt. These Aegean texts are all temporary records originally inscribed on unfired clay, meant to be discarded once their information was no longer relevant or when it was

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