Today’s Solutions: March 27, 2023

Archaeologists are still putting the full story of human history together. From the discovery of a Viking shipyard in Sweden to the Sistine Chapel of the Ancients in the Amazon, there are so many hidden treasures still to uncover.

The discovery and analysis of three wine jars or amphoras – excavated from a seabed deposit near the modern harbor of San Felice Circeo, Italy, about 90 km southeast of Rome – has further added to our understanding of human practices during the Roman period. A research team from Avignon University, in France, carried out this research and published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE.

The composition of chemical markers, plant tissue residue, and pollen was analyzed in the amphoras. This combined with expertise from other disciplines – such as historical and archaeological records, amphorae design, and previous findings – allowed for cultural practices of the time to be fully characterized.

What did the jars tell us about the Romans?

The authors were able to track down evidence of grape derivatives with pine within the jars, with the pine being to create tar or waterproofing and possibly flavoring the wine. Based on historical sources, it is likely that the pine tar was imported from Calabria or Sicily.

Evidence pointed to both red and white wine being created in these amphoras, with the grapevine pollen matching wild species from the local area. This strongly implies winemakers of the time were using local plants, though it remains unclear if these were domesticated during this period.

“If there was a message to be retained from the reading of this article, it would be related to the multidisciplinary methodology to be applied. Indeed, by using different approaches to unravel the content and nature of the coating layer of Roman amphorae, we have pushed the conclusion further in the understanding of ancient practices than it would have been with a single approach,” the authors added.

Understanding our ancestors is vital to learning from ourselves. This information helps evaluate human nature, spurring the creation of policies, theories, and inventions from our thousands-of-year-old human database.

Source study: PLOS ONEArchaeobotanical and chemical investigations on wine amphorae from San Felice Circeo (Italy) shed light on grape beverages at the Roman time

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