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28 July 2008
Malta exported wine in antiquity

There is mounting evidence that Malta was competing with other ancient Mediterranean wine producers as far back as the 3th-4th century BCE.
The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage is mapping archaeological sites in Malta which could shed important light on the history of alcohol production and consumption in the Mediterranean.
     "It has always been assumed that there was alcohol in the Bronze Age (2,500-700 BCE) but we are now documenting wine-presses in Mgarr ix-Xini which would confirm that there was a flourishing trade in the 3rd-4th century BCE," Superintendent Tony Pace said. "There is evidence that wine was used in cultures as far apart geographically as Afghanistan and Portugal. There are wine presses similar to those in Malta and Gozo all over the classical world but we have a real concentration of them in small areas, which would indicate that the volume of wine production at these sites was very significant."
     The presses are located near a valley with access to the sea, where mooring holes in the cliff sides could have been used to tie up to small vessels, the sunken remains of one lies on the seabed outside the bay. This lends support to the theory that the wine was produced in large enough quantities to export.  "We can estimate the amount produced from the size of the basin," Mr Pace said. "Some of them were enlarged, which shows that demand must have grown."
     The Superintendence has spent the past three years combing the valley at Mgarr ix-Xini, where 15 wine-presses have been found. Mr Pace and George Azzopardi, who is currently reading for a PhD in archaeology from the University of Durham, have mapped the area, cataloguing the different presses. The team of archaeologists have scoured the valley on foot, also finding pottery from Pantelleria, which they describe with enthusiasm as archeological fingerprints, providing important clues. They are now ready to present their first findings to an international conference being held in Rome in autumn.

Source: Di-Ve (23 July 2008)

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