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14 May 2005 , 389661  visitors  
 Most ancient wine is Cypriot

Most ancient wine in the Mediterranean is Cypriot

By Demetra Molyva


THE most ancient wine in the Mediterranean is a Cypriot one produced on the island 6,000 years ago and wine drinking habits and objects unique to Cyprus in 2000BC influenced European culture and are still strong throughout Europe today.

Archaeologists on Monday will reveal full details of excavations and sophisticated, archaeological and scientific work on the island, illustrating wine production in the free and occupied areas, as far back as 6,000 years ago.

A news conference by the Italian ambassador in Nicosia, Gherardo La Francesca, and the chief of an Italian archaeological mission, Maria-Rosaria Belgiorno, who has recently completed the first phase of excavations at Pyrgos-Mavrorahi in Limassol, will unveil solid proof for the first time, showing that Cypriots are the most ancient wine makers in the entire Mediterranean region, producing wine 3,000 years earlier than Greeks, who worshipped Dionysus.

Belgiorno’s first phase of the Pyrgos excavations unearthed new and exciting evidence of the most ancient perfumery operating in Cyprus and exporting perfumes abroad, as long as 4,000 years ago.

But journalists on Monday will witness, with a live step-by-step demonstration, the archaeologists’ entire process leading to evidence of Cypriots being the first wine makers in the region.

Under the auspices of the Italian Embassy and in association with the Antiquities Department, the finds of ancient Cypriot wines and wine production will be showcased in a unique exhibition, as part of Italian Cultural Month at the end of June.

Belgiorno, of Rome’s Institute For Applied Technologies in Cultural Heritage of the National Council of Research in Italy, and her team of two archaeologists and 16 scientists, worked on the finds of the Pyrgos excavations and other, older archaeological work in the chalcholithic settlement of Erimi, carried out in 1932-35 by Cypriot archaeologist Porphyrios Dikaios and Vounos cemetery, in occupied Kyrenia district, around 1945 by Porphyrios Dikaios and French Archaeologist Jean Claude Scheffer.


Belgiorno and her people revealed unique wine-drinking objects, made in Cyprus in 2000BC and commonly used much later across Roman and Celtic Europe.

The tradition, which until now archaeologists believed originated from somewhere in the central Mediterranean, is still strong throughout the EU and there many representations of Dionysus drinking from a cattle horn, on archaic Greek vases.

"But, the most ancient drinking horn in pottery used exclusively to drink wine was produced in Cyprus, at Vounos, in Kyrenia. It’s a unique archaeological object. The first time the cattle horn was reproduced in pottery was in Cyprus for drinking wine. From Cyprus, the tradition spread through the Mediterranean and we have it till now in Europe, including Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and the north of Italy. Russia still has a strong tradition of using crystal horns today for special occasions, like weddings and parties.

"At Pyrgos we found two jugs used for wine and even the seeds of the grapes. It’s amazing. And at Erimi, of the 18 pots we looked at, 12 were used for wine between 3500BC-3000BC, " Belgiorno told The Cyprus Weekly yesterday.


At the Pyrgos excavations, Belgiorno’s finds showed that Cypriots were the first perfume makers in the region, with evidence of scented herbs and spices used by our ancestors to make perfumes, which were found preserved in ancient and intact, elegant perfume bottles. Belgiorno’s scientists and archaeologists, using sophisticated and analytical processes, identified in their laboratories remains of essences absorbed by the clay of the perfume bottles and the earth of the pits, like conifer resin, citrus, bergamot, coriander, laurel, myrtle, bitter almond, cinnamon camphor, myrrh, parsley, turpentine, anise and rosemary, made into scents still used by some of the world’s most famous perfume names, like Miss Dior, Ralph Lauren and Polo.

Belgiorno’s Pyrgos excavations unearthed an entire industrial complex, including an oil-press, textile-making and evidence of opium used as medicine by our ancient predecessors.

The second phase of excavations of Belgiorno’s Pyrgos-Mavrorahi mission, expected to start shortly, will reveal whether there is a residential area, adjacent to the industrial building, a type of palace, as was the norm at the time, Belgiorno said.




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