According to the findings of a recent study, the ancient Romans produced wine using local grapes and got tar pitch from outside the empire.
Three separate amphorae, or wine jars, dating back to between 1 and 2 BCE have been examined by a team of researchers from Italy and France. These amphorae were discovered in the waters off the coast of Italy, close to the San Felice Circeo harbor.
The fact that the archaeologists discovered more than just wine jars there, in addition to other types of ceramics and relics, led them to believe that the location was likely located near a Roman canal.
PLOS One was the journal that ultimately published the article.
The production of wine in ancient Rome.
According to Science Alert, researchers integrated several methodologies in archaeobotany with the most recent advances in chemical analysis in order to bring to light more information than would have been attainable using standard analysis techniques alone.
The researchers used gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, as well as worked on the organic residue that was left in the ancient finds, so that they could recognize and categorize the chemical markers that were found in the jars. The fact that the team found pollen and plant tissues of Vitis flowers prompted the scientists to believe that the jars had been used to brew red and white wine using local ingredients.
Pine was one of the things that was discovered inside the jars, and it is believed that it was utilized as a source of tar in order to both give taste to the wine and keep the jars watertight. On the other hand, the pine might have come from another location entirely, such as Calabria or Sicily.
“We have pushed the conclusion further in the understanding of ancient practices by using different approaches to unravel the content and nature of the coating layer of Roman amphorae,” the researchers said. “With a single approach, we would have only been able to get so far in our understanding of ancient practices.”
The use of pine tar as a water-repellent
This is not the first time that ancient Romans were pioneers in the development of a certain procedure that continues to have applicability in the contemporary world. Because they preserved wine in amphorae using pine tar as a water-resistant compound, it is clear that the Romans had already understood the chemistry involved in the process hundreds of years before.
Pine tar is utilized frequently in the maritime industry as a wood preservative and wood sealant. Its water-proofing capabilities enable it to safeguard the structural integrity of the object in issue.
Abstract of the Study:
The purpose of this multidisciplinary study is to explore the pitch that was used for covering three Roman amphorae that were found in San Felice Circeo, Italy. Archaeobotanical evidence of pollen and plant tissues of Vitis flowers are paired with the discovery of molecular biomarkers by gas chromatography—mass spectrometry. Pinaceae tar layer was discovered by analyzing diterpenic chemical markers in conjunction with Pinus pollen and wood. The content was found to have been fermented from grapes, as indicated by the presence of tartaric, malic, and pyruvic acids, as well as aporate 3-zonocolpate pollen, which was recognized as Vitis.
In light of our findings, the usage of grape derivatives, which cannot be supported by more conventional analytical approaches, is now open for further investigation. We hypothesize the use of indigenous vines based on the discovery of aporate Vitis pollen, which was also discovered in samples originating from the contemporary era and the middle Pleistocene. There is also the possibility of a medicinal wine being present, which was formerly referred to as oenanthium.
We investigate the capacity of Vitis pollen to target grapevine domestication, providing novel tools in the process of better comprehending a process of such fundamental significance. In the area of analyzing wine amphorae, we believe that the results of our study will inspire a more methodical and multidisciplinary approach.