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Evidence of the World’s Oldest Grape Wine Has Been Discovered

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Europeans have been squeezing wine from grapes for hundreds of years longer than previously believed, a new archaeological find in Georgia suggests.

A series of excavations in the Caucasus Mountains has revealed wine residue on pottery fragments dating back to 5980 BC — the earliest evidence discovered yet of wine-making from grapes, the BBC reports.

Archaeologists found the earthenware jar fragments at two sites near Tblisi, Georgia. Some of the jars were originally decorated with images of wine-making festivities, portraying men dancing amid grape clusters, the researchers say.

Previously, the oldest evidence of grape wine-making was identified in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, dating to about 5400 to 5000 BC.

“We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine solely for the production of wine,” Stephen Batiuk, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study on the new findings, told the BBC.

Georgia has a long history of wine production, and continues to ferment wine in vessels that resemble those of ancient tradition. Archaeologists have suspected the country could be the birthplace of European wine-making, but needed evidence to substantiate the hunch, David Lordkipanidze, the general director of the Georgian National Museum, told The New York Times.

While Georgia may be the cradle of grape wine, the oldest fermented beverages have been traced to China. There, a fermented mixture of rice, honey and fruit was made at around 7,000 BC, the BBC says.

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Write to Laignee Barron at Laignee.Barron@time.com