As it turns out, Italians may have been drinking wine for way longer than we thought. Three millennia longer, actually. Until now, historians believed that our intrepid ancestors in Italy began swilling vino somewhere between 1300 - 1100 BCE, an era known as the Middle Bronze Age. But earlier this month, a team of archaeologists from the University of South Florida unearthed ceramic jars with wine residue stored in a cavern in Sicily nearly 6,000 years ago.
Researchers believe the cave may have been a holy site where offerings were made to the gods during the Copper Age, the early 4th millennium BC.
Because the terracotta jars were sheltered in a cave rather than buried, the vessels' contents were unusually well preserved. The archaeologists were able to identify the presence of tartaric acid, the main acid in grapes, through multiple analysis techniques, then compare the ceramic to other pottery pieces unearthed nearby to determine their age.
The researchers published their results on August 12 in the Microchemical Journal, explaining "the archaeological implications of this new data are enormous, especially considering that the identification of wine [is] the first and earliest-attested presence of such product in an archaeological context in Sicily."
The discovery pushes back the date wine production was believed to have begun on the Italian Peninsula some 3,000 years. But while the new Sicilian archeological find may be the oldest evidence of Italian wine, it's not the oldest in the world.
Historians believe humans have been glugging down wine for more than 9,000 years. Researchers have discovered seeds, grape vines, and wine-making tools in a cavern in Armenia from 6,100 years ago. In Iran, Archeologists unearthed wine residue on jars from Hajji Firuz Tepe, a Neolithic village, from more than 7,000 years ago.
In China, researchers found nine-thousand-year-old traces of wine made from rice and honey. So remember-- next time you pop open a bottle of red or white, you're participating in a 9,000-year-old tradition!