The Hajji Firuz Tepe
The Hajji Firuz Tepe site in Iran is one of the oldest evidence of winemaking. Currently, it is an archaeological site in modern Iran. According to a Persian fable, Iranians invented winemaking.
The Fable Origin of Hajji Firuz Tepe
The fable says starts with King Jamshed, the fourth king of the Pishdadian dynasty. One of his mistresses had recently lost the king’s favor. One day, feeling depressed and unwell, she decided to kill herself by consuming rotten grapes. Consequently, she went into a deep sleep but not an eternal one. When she woke up, she felt much better and her previous headache had vanished.
She confessed to the king about the “poison” she ate to end her life. Subsequently, the king also tasted the “poison.” He liked it so much that he named it Zahre Kosh, which translates to “pleasant poison.” According to the legend, the queen regained the favor of the King and rid herself of the distressing headache.
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The Excavation of Hajji Firuz
The Hajji Firuz Tepé site was excavated by the University of Pennsylvania Museum between 1961 and 1968. The site is situated in the northern Zagros Mountains and dates to around 5000 BCE. The pottery found at Hajji Firuz Teppe dates back about six millennia.
The pottery has various shapes and forms that are appropriate for winemaking. For example, Hajji Firuz jars have high, narrow mouths that might have been stoppered with clay. Some examples of clay stoppers have been found nearby.
Another discovery was the presence of wine residue in a pottery jar from Hajji Firuz. It is one of the oldest wine-making vessels found so far. Researchers believe this pottery dates back to as far as 5,000 BCE. They also believe that this pottery contains some of the oldest Eurasian grape wine residue on record.
The jar was excavated by Dr. Mary M. Voigt, an anthropologist at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The jar was found in a kitchen of a mud-brick building. In recent years, Voigt has stored it at the University of Pennsylvania. She analyzed the residue and concluded that it was probably made to hold wine.
The Hajji Firuz site was excavated by the Hasanlu Project between 1961 and 1968. The team excavated three pre-Bronze Age periods in the area. It also contained evidence of non-ceramic industries and architecture. Approximately sixteen people worked on the excavations.
The wine-making history of the area can be traced back to the Neolithic era when the first permanent settlements appeared. In fact, it is believed wine-making was widespread during that time, resulting in widespread consumption and production.
The ancient settlements at Hajji Firuz Tepe are still visible today, but the area has changed considerably over time. Ancient villagers dug small holes and large bell-shaped pits for a variety of purposes, from farming to burial and industrial purposes. Over time, these pits cut into the original deposits, resulting in large chunks of Hajji Firuz Tepet’s deposit.
The pottery from Hajji Firuz Tepete is dominated by bowl forms. This pottery style is similar to that of Telul eth-Thalathat pottery but is much smaller than the Hajji Firuz pottery.
Read also: The History of Armenian Oldest winery
Courtesy Penn Museum
Hajji Firuz Teppe is situated in the northeastern Solduz Valley, two kilometers from Hasanlu Tepe. The modern village of Hajji Firuz is a far cry from the ancient village. Its main function today is as a pasture and cemetery.
The earliest record of winemaking in the region dates back to the Neolithic period when Eurasian grape vines were domesticated and cultivated for making wine. A recent analysis of an ancient jar was discovered to contain a mixture of wine and resin, which was probably used as a preservative and medicinal agent. The residues are now held at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology.
The discovery of the jars at Hajji Firuz Tepa, Iran, proves that winemaking started as early as 5400 B.C. In ancient times, people across the world learned how to make themselves drunk. They likely made grape and rice wine, although the wine could have been made from other fruits.
Did you know? The first evidence of grape wine-making in the Near East comes from Hajji Firuz Tepet in Northwestern Iran.
Several jars found on the site contained tartaric acid, which is a precursor to wine. The jars also contained tree resin. The jars also had narrow, high mouths that could have been covered for preservation.
The Current State of Iran’s Wine Industry
The wines of Hajji Firuz Tepe were the oldest wines for many years. However, Patrick E. McGovern recently discovered evidence of Georgian wines that were even older than the wines of Hajji Firuz Tepe. Based on these findings, the National Academy of Sciences published an article on the discovery on November 13, 2017. Although McGovern also made this discovery, he was sad to break the previous record held by Hajji Firuz Tepe, as he had a special attachment to it.
Persians have a rich history of wine, and Iran used to be one of the most prominent wine producers. Unfortunately, the Islamic revolution of 1979 did immense damage to the wine industry in the country. Government leaders forbid wine, citing the Islamic prohibition of alcoholic beverages. In 2016, only 6% of the population in Iran consumed wine. In 2020, a person was found guilty and executed for drinking alcohol and driving without a license. See more resources here.
This Day in History
On April 1, 1979, Iran became the Islamic Republic by a national referendum. The Iranian wine history came to an end because of the Islamic government. Consequently, alcohol was banned, vineyards were ripped off, and wineries were destroyed.
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