Alice C. Linsley
Timeline of Archaeological Discoveries
6000 BC: At the Chinese Neolithic site of Jiahu archaeologists found pottery shards with residue from a fermented beverage made of a mixture of rice, honey and fruit. Researchers found species of the tartrate from grape, hawthorn, or longyan cherry, or a combination of two or more of these.
4000 BC: In 2007, a team excavating Areni-1, a cave complex in a canyon between the Little Caucasus and the Zagros mountains, found ancient grape seeds. The cave is near Armenia’s southern border with Iran outside a village still known for its wine-making activities.
3150 BC: In the late 1980s, German archaeologists found remains of wine making equipment in the tomb of the ancient Nubian king Scorpion I. That find consisted of grape seeds, grape skins, dried pulp and imported ceramic jars covered inside with a yellow residue chemically consistent with wine. Ancient Egyptian murals depict details of wine-making. Egyptians flavored their wines with tree resins, herbs, and figs. The Nilotic peoples preferred beer to wine and their beer contained high levels of tetracycline. Wine was probably reserved for religious rituals. Plutarch wrote that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.” We are told that Noah was drunk with wine on at least one occasion and the outcome wasn't good. Likewise, the outcome of Lot's drunken stupor was not good. Genesis seems to be critical of excessive wine consumption.
1600 BC: In 1963, two plaster basins that appear to have been used to press grapes were excavated in what is now Israel's West Bank.
Wine for Pleasure and for Ritual Use
One of the oldest uses of wine was in religious ritual. In tantric ritual, wine is called Shakti of Sakti. Sakti is also the name for the harvest moon celebration in Vedic tradition. The word may be related to the Falasha word sarki, which also refers to the harvest moon festival. Sarki is also an ancient reference to priests who prepare animals for the sacrifice. Sarki live as Haruwa in the Tarai region of Nepal and Har-wa is the ancient Egyptian word for priest. There are many such linguistics correspondences. The Egyptian word for meteoritic iron bja (metal from heaven) corresponds to the Sanscrit word bija, meaning semen or seed. The Hebrew word yasuah and the Sanscrit words asvah, asuah or yasuah means salvation.
In Genesis we find two fathers drunk with wine: Noah and Lot. In Noah’s case, his three sons decide what to do while their father sleeps in a drunken stupor. In Lot’s case, his two daughters decide what to do while their father sleeps. In both stories, the results are not good. Wine in these stories is not being used ritually, as far as we know. These stories stand in contrast to stories involving wine as a sign of redemption, as in the Passover and in the Eucharist.
The symmetry of these stories is remarkable. In the Egyptian Passover Moses is the central figure, but in the Jericho Passover, it is Rahab. Male and female, as binary opposites, are instrumental in bringing about deliverance. Here we find a parallel to the tantric understanding of wine use in the consummation of divine love in Hinduism and Buddhism. In the West, where we are consumed with lust, there are no true practitioners, for as a Tantrica of West Bengel has explained: "Those most fit for Tantra almost never take it up, and those least fit pursue it with zeal."
The context of wine use in sexual consummation in the Bible is not exactly like that of Hinduism and Buddhism, however. In the biblical view, male and female are not equals in the order of creation, but in Shakta ritual male and female are equal. This is the difference between the binary worldview of the Bible and the dualism of the Asian religions.
The wine in the Passover Seder is not for common use, but ritual or sacramental. It is used to recount God's deliverance of the Israelites, and also speaks of the consummation of a love relationship, as is evident in Jesus' explanation to His disciples that he would not drink the cup again until the last promise is fulfilled: “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. I say to you, I will not drink this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:28-29). On that day, the Son of God shall take to Himself the Church, His royal bride. She is not His equal; rather her nobility is derived from her royal Groom.
Related reading: Two Passovers and Two Drunken Fathers; Genesis and the Eucharist; Oldest Wine-Making Equipment
Patrick McGovern, an archaeochemist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, has written about the archaeological and chemical evidence for fermented beverages in antiquity. His book is titled “Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages.”