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High-rise to be built over ‘world’s oldest cellar’

A 3,700-year-old wine cellar found in a Canaanite palace is to be incorporated into a new high-rise in the Israeli city of Nahariya.

canaan palace israel
Photo credit: Guy Fitoussi

The ‘cellar’ in the Bronze Age palace was uncovered in 2013 and held 40 ceramic jars each capable of holding 13 gallons of wine – probably reserved for banquets.

The excavation has been a long one and archaeologists can now say that the palace, located extremely close to the coast, served as an “administrative centre” at the heart of a thriving Mediterranean trade network.

As well as the wine jars, ceramic figurines of people and animals, bronze weapons and foreign pottery have been discovered at the site. The palace was destroyed by fire at least four times (whether by accident or design was not specified) and subsequently rebuilt.

Between the burnt layers were found “abundant” remnants of cereals, legumes and grape seeds although whether the latter were for making wine or not is not known.

Located near the beach on Balfour Street in the modern Israeli city of Nahariya, the site is earmarked to have a residential high rise built over it.

However, the construction company has said that, due to the “extraordinary nature and quality” of the venerable find, rather than concrete it over it will instead be incorporated into a “mini-museum” in the basement of the building.

Despite several years of excavations, little further evidence about the ancient Canaanites has been discovered. No written tablets have been found that suggest they had an alphabet though surrounding civilisations such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Hittites and Myceneans did nor has much else been discovered about their ruling systems.

The only thing that can be known for sure, is that they really liked wine.

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