'Oldest known wine-making facility' found in Armenia

Armenian girls tread grapes with their feet The archaeologists believe the wine makers pressed the grapes with their feet

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The world's earliest known wine-making facility has been discovered in Armenia, archaeologists say.

A wine press and fermentation jars from about 6,000 years ago were found in a cave in the south Caucasus country.

Co-director of the excavation Gregory Areshian, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said it was the earliest example of complete wine production.

The findings were announced by the National Geographic Society.

They have been published in the online edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The facility was uncovered in the mountains of south-east Armenia. The same area was the site of the discovery of the oldest known leather shoe, dated to about 5,500 years ago.

Inside the cave, the international team of archaeologists found a shallow basin, measuring about 1m (3ft) across, that was positioned to drain into a deep vat.

The basin could have served as a wine press where people stomped the grapes with their feet, Mr Areshian said.

The team also found grape seeds, the remains of pressed grapes and dozens of dried vines.

'Domesticated' vines

The seeds were from the same type of grapes - Vitis vinifera vinifera - still used to make wine today.

The wine-making facility was surrounded by graves and the team says the wine may have been intended for ceremonial use.

Mr Areshian said that already-know evidence of wine drinking pre-dates the Armenian facility.

"The evidence argues convincingly for a wine-making facility," said Patrick McGovern, scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, who was not part of the research team, Associated Press news agency reported.

He said such large scale wine production implied that the Eurasian grape had already been domesticated 6,000 years ago.

The earliest comparable remains to those uncovered in Armenia were found in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian King Scorpion I, dating to around 5,100 years ago, AP reported.

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