Wine Jars in the Tomb of Scorpion I
Three rooms of the tomb contained about 700 jars that were apparently imported from the Levant region, and inside the jars was discovered a residue of an early form of herbal wine. The recipes identified within the pots illuminate a long history of the Egyptian use of grape wines flavored with tree resins, herbs, and figs.
The styles of the jars in the Scorpion King's tomb were from a variety of groups in Southern Palestine, including the Gaza Strip region and the coastal plain of Israel; the Judean Hills; the Jordan Valley and the Transjordan region. None of the jars tested were made from Egyptian clay. The origins of the pots were determined using instrumental neutron activation analysis of the clay bodies—determining where the clay came from—using the archaeometry laboratory at the University of Missouri, and supported by traditional pottery style analysis.
Sites in the Levant which have produced pots of the same shapes and decoration styles, and are known to have yielded domesticated grape pits and berries, include 'En Besor near Gaza, Jericho in the southern Jordan Valley, Bab edh-Dhra' on the Dead Sea and Jawa in the northern Transjordan region. Interestingly, clay sealings on the jars were made with Nile clay.
these jars were manufactured in various regions of the southern Levant, and probably filled with wine in those locations before being shipped to Egypt. The wine was opened and then resealed in Egypt before being deposited in the tomb
The yellowish linear stain on the inside of this jar from the Scorpion King's tomb is an ancient residue of organic materials, left over when the wine itself evaporated away. The residue collected at the top of the wine, and its tilted horizon results from the wine jar being tilted in the tomb rooms.
Chemical analysis of the residue was conducted using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry analysis, a technique developed at the University of Barcelona and exercised at the Scientific Services Division of the Tax and Trade Bureau. The analysis identified the wine's components as a mixture of balm, coriander, mint and sage, to which an aromatic resin and fig was added. Most importantly, the chemical analysis identified the presence of tartaric acid/tartrate, meaning the wine was also made up of grapes.
In addition to identifying the earliest use of grape wine in Egypt, and illuminating trade connections between the Levant and the earliest dynastic periods of the ancient Egyptian civilization, the research does much to assist in the identification of ancient herbal recipes in the ancient world. Prior to this finding, textual sources were the primary source of information for the use of resinated wines and herbal remedies in Egypt, and most of them date to the New Kingdom, some 1200 years later than the Scorpion King.
The ancient Egyptian word for physician is "swnw" and the Scorpion King's successor Djer was called a physician in (much) later texts. The herbs found in the wine are all Levantine domesticates; but according to Egyptian records from the New Kingdom, several of them were used for medicinal purposes. Coriander is mentioned in several medical prescriptions, and eight baskets of it were recovered from Tutankhamen's 18th Dynasty tomb.
The amphora illustrated above was recovered from the early Byzantine site of Gebel Adda in Egypt (4th-6th century AD) some 3500 years after the Scorpion King. Yet it, too, contained resinated wine with a rosemary additive, attesting to the longevity of herbal wines in the Egyptian civilization.