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Ancient Egypt’s Wine Rebirth

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EGYWINE (Ancient Egypt’s Wine Rebirth)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2016-06-01 do 2018-05-31

The Egyptian wine culture is one of the world’s most ancients, however, the extensive archaeological evidences have not been fully recorded or investigated. The present paradigm on wine history states that viticulture originated in the Near East and that Europe’s wine culture is a Greek and Roman heritage.
In Ancient Egypt, wine was a luxury drink mainly served for the royal family and the noble people, offered to gods in religious rituals, used in medicine and in the Pharaoh’s resurrection ritual. From the Predynastic onwards, wine jars were placed in tombs as funerary offers and, from the Early Dynastic Period (c.3000 BC), the inscriptions on jars indicate the wine’s geographic origin.
Our background research on the ancient Egyptian wines have permitted to identify three different types of wines that were produced and document 92 scenes of viticulture and winemaking in the Egyptian private tombs.
EGYWINE addressed the viticulture origins, production and preservation of the ancient Egyptian wines, and the diffusion of the Egyptian wine culture legacy transmitted through the Mediterranean wine cultures to Europe.
The objectives are: 1) Identify which material is linked with wine from the Predynastic Period (3800-3300 BC) to the New Kingdom Period (1550-1069 BC); 2) Study the main concentration of the Ancient Egyptian wine jars and wine inscriptions; 3) Analyse ancient wine residues from pharaonic Egypt through paleogenomics.
The EGYWINE research project (2016-2018) studied how the Egyptian wines were made to understand the ancient elaboration methods, preservation of wines and modern production of amphora wine for the knowledge advancement and heritage conservation. This interdisciplinary approach aimed to obtain significant evidences to overcome theories on viticulture and wine production in Egypt interrelating various scientific disciplines (archaeology, paleogenomics, history, oenology and semantics) to reveal the Egyptian footprint on wine culture’s history. The results are being disseminated through the project’s webpage: http//
O1: The material linked with wine from the Predynastic to the New Kingdom Period (3800-1069 BC) has been identified. A bibliography study has been developed and the museums and institutions with relevant material have been contacted.
O2: The main concentration of the Ancient Egyptian wine jars and wine inscriptions is being recorded and studied.
O3: A method for analysing ancient grape and wine remains from pharaonic Egypt through paleogenomics is being developed.
Highly specialized procedures have been followed to work with ancient DNA samples: in an isolated and exclusively dedicated ancient DNA laboratory (high containment lab), systematic decontamination procedures, and the use of dedicated DNA experimentation techniques adapted to traces of damaged DNA, from DNA extraction to NGS library constructions, and bioinformatic analysis of the data.
The quality of the data obtained is highly dependent on the quality of the sample screened, and DNA preservation is dependent on particular conditions.
An exploratory phase has been developed including sample screening and the development of tailored analytical tools and several data analysis procedures that took up the two years of the project.
Methodological strategy followed: DNA Extraction of samples, DNA library construction for shotgun sequencing, shallow shotgun sequencing after whole genome amplification followed by NGS and specific metagenomic bioinformatics.
The research has been presented in four articles, one book chapter and seven entries to encyclopaedia. The results of the research have been disseminated to the scientific and non-scientific community in five international conferences, three lectures and one 3-day course. Moreover, two international conferences have been organized and the study merited two contributions to the international media, communications to TV programs (Japan and UK).
EGYWINE investigates the wine jars typology and production to know how the jars were made to contain wine and the wine inscriptions to know the ancient winemaking procedures.
For this, two main objectives need to be achieved:
1) Study the main concentration of the Egyptian wine jars.
This work is being developed to document the wine jars and wine inscriptions in the following museum:
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

2) Create the Ancient Egyptian wine jars database
A datasheet with two information levels related to provenance and jars is being developed: Archaeological site name and location, current location (Egypt or another country) and map, site type (necropolis, habitat, temple), chronology and total of wine jars identified; Wine-jar typology, chronology, inscription, geographical provenance in Egypt, current location (site or museum), technical description, photo and drawing (if available).

Regarding the study of the ancient wine genome and fermentation yeasts through paleogenomics, this needs more research work to develop the method and obtain results (mainly, yeast genome and bacterial species involved in fermentation).