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Linking The Origins of Civilization and Fermenting Grapes

We know the history of wine dates back thousands of years, but how about 7,000 years? A fascinating article by Paleoanthropolgy Professor Lee R. Berger entitled, "Wine at the Dawn of Civilization" posits that we may be underestimating the amount of time humans have been deliberately making wine. Berger retells a1996 discovery of six jars in Iran that had high levels of calcium salts from tartaric acid; grapes are the only natural product that produce these salts in a significant quantity. There was also the reside of a resin from a local tree, mostly like employed as a preservative.

But the most interesting part was Berger's speculation on the links between the dawn of civilization and the start of grape fermentation:

"So was the origin of civilization bound to the fermentation of grapes and the making of wine? Certainly the timing is right, and...humans and our ancestors have probably been seeking out ways of accessing fermented fruits for their intoxicating effects in Africa for tens of thousands, if not millions, of years. It really is not too much of a scientific leap of faith to suggest that once humans had conducted these early chemistry experiments and could control the process of fermentation, that it, along with complex changes in social organization, may have provided a critical stimulus to the development of the first permanent settlements, and then to extensive trade routes to allow the effective sharing of the product of the grape."

If you ever need another reason to appreciate wine, raise a glass to Professor Berger.



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