Neolithic pottery shards were found to contain grape wine residue from 6000-5800 B.C., almost 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.
"As a Georgian, we always believed that wine came from Georgia, but now we have scientific evidence from natural science and archaeology to prove it," said David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum and co-author of the study published
Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The new discovery reinforces the established and well preserved culture of wine in the country.
"We have an uninterrupted history of wine in Georgia -- the jars found in the Neolithic period are similar to the vessels we still use today," said Lordkipanidze.
The team analyzed 18 shards from pottery jars uncovered in recent years from multiple sites across Georgia, as well as samples from a 1960 excavation.
The shards tested positive for tartaric acid, which gives wine its tart flavor, and were dated to the early Neolithic period, 6000-5000 B.C. They also contained samples of grape pollen.
"This early Neolithic date is quite surprising. The Caucasus has been proposed as a key area for domestication by Soviet archaeologists already ... there have been claims that grains were actually domesticated for beer making, but nobody yet guessed at the high antiquity of wine," added Ulrike Sommer, senior lecturer at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, who was not involved in the new study.
The research team believes the jars were most likely used for all three stages of winemaking -- fermentation, aging and serving.
The three-year research project was funded by the National Wine Agency of Georgia.
"This study proves that the human relationship with wine has a truly deep history, rivaling our long-term experimentation with beer," said Augusta McMahon, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge who was not involved in the new study.
Viniculture, the practice of making wine, was a crucial step in the process of human e