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Friday, December 15, 2023

Book Review: "Ancient Wine: the Search for the Origins of Viniculture" by Patrick E. McGovern

"Ancient Wine: the Search for the Origins of Viticulture" by Patrick C. McGovern

I hope you like pottery! Like, really really like pottery! A lot! Because that's what Ancient Wine by Patrick E. McGovern is pretty much all about. This is because when you go back thousands and thousands of years, before writing, all we can hope to know about ancient wine is through the pottery that survived and the residue that remains within.

Patrick E. McGovern is the scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. According to this book, he and his laboratory have made some pretty incredible discoveries on the ancient history of wine, including the discovery that wine has been around for thousands of years before we thought.

Ancient Wine doesn't read like a story about wine, starting from the beginning and moving forward. Ancient Wine reads like the story of McGovern's career, going in the order of as things were revealed to him through his work. Although McGovern TRIES to keep it by place and time, it very much does bounce around all over the place a lot, so going into this it helps to know your ancient Mediterranean and Mesopotamian civilizations and their timelines.

Not only does Ancient Wine go into the history of wine (and beer, as well) in ancient times, but also the science behind the knowledge and technology that we use today to find what kind of beverage was in that pottery and how we know how old it is. Very, very cool book that will teach you a lot of very, very cool things you didn't know you wanted know.

(Originally published in 2003, this reprint from 2019 includes an Afterword by the author to catch you up on all of the updates in what we have learned and what is new in archaeological technology since the original printing.)
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