July 5, 1894: On this day in 1894 Austen Henry Layard died. An archaeologist, politician, historian and travel writer, he is most famous for having discovered the Library of King Ashurbanipal in the remains of the city of Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria, in 1851. Ashurbanipal’s library was the greatest in the world in the seventh century BC. In discovering its remains, Layard uncovered tens of thousandas of clay tablets containing cuneiform inscriptions, the written language of ancient Mesopotamia. These were then used in subsequent years to decipher cuneiform, a pictographic writing system widely used in ancient times in the Mesopotamian wine trade. Indeed, the trade of wine, oil, and other goods in Mesopotamia in the early third millennium and the need to record trade agreements was one of the driving forces behind the development of this, the world’s earliest writing system. For more information, see Nora Benjamin Kubie’s Road to Nineveh: The Adventures and Excavations of Sir Austen Henry Layard (London, 1964) and Robert Silverberg’s The Man Who Found Nineveh: The Story of Austen Henry Layard (New York, 1964).
July 5, 1962: On this day in 1962 the result of an independence referendum held in French Algeria to decide on whether the country should become an independent state or continue as a part of France was announced. 99.7% of voters in Algeria voted for independence, an indication of how weary people there were after eight years of a fierce war of independence against the French government. A relatively unknown part of the announcement of the result on 5 July, which today is celebrated as Independence Day in Algeria, is that over time it brought about the death of the previously enormous Algerian wine industry. For much of the early twentieth century Algeria had been the world’s largest wine exporter as huge quantities of wine were produced in Algeria and then exported to Europe. With no domestic market to speak of following independence, and Algeria eventually being locked out of the European market as a result of its separation from France, Algeria’s extremely extensive vineyards were soon converted to other purposes.
July 5, 1971: On this day, Roman Horvath was born. An Austrian wine producer, he came into a directorship position with Domäne Wachau in 2004 and strategically lifted it into success. He is the second Austrian to earn a Master of Wine title.
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