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Ancient Assyrian wine press discovered in northern Iraq

Archaeologists have uncovered what they believe is the oldest industrial wine press in northern Mesopotamia.

The wine press, which dates back more than 2,700 years, is thought to have come from a time when there was a rise in wine demand among the ruling imperial elites of Assyria. The site, according to Reuters, was discovered by a group of Italian archaeologists from the University of Udine in cooperation with antiquities authorities in Dohuk.

Assyria, which was reportedly one of the world’s earliest empires, was located in the northern part of Mesopotamia – most of modern-day Iraq, as well as parts of Iran, Kuwait, Syria, and Turkey.

University of Udine professor of near eastern archaeology and director of the Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq Daniele Morandi Bonacossi said: “This is a quite unique archaeological finding, because it is the first time in northern Mesopotamia that archaeologists are able to identify a wine production area.”

The press was unearthed at the archaeological site of Khanis, near the northern Iraqi province of Dohuk and, according to Bonacossi, its value lies in its historical context.

Assyrian scripture, which was reportedly used in various ceremonial practises among the rich, has previously indicated a historical demand for wine among the upper classes of society.

“In the late Assyrian period, between the 8th and the 7th century BC, there was a dramatic increase…in wine demand and in wine production. The imperial Assyrian court asked for more and more wine,” said Bonacossi.

The full discovery is said to show 14 installations carved into mountain rocks including square-shaped basins used to press grapes and lower circular basins where the juice collected. After the wine was fermented, it was collected in jars before being sold.

To preserve the discovery, the archeological teams have set to work on adding the ancient structure to the UNESCO world heritage list.

The find follows recent news of a wine factory being uncovered by archaeologists in the city of Yavne, south of Tel Aviv and the discovery that showed how ancient excrement indicated humans supped on beer and blue cheese 2,700 years ago.

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