W is for Wine

Silk Road specialties, from Pressfood.org.

I’ve heard that you need to age wine, but isn’t 8000 years a little over the top?

They have found the oldest wine vessels in history, and they are from Georgia, near the Southern Caucasus. Were they on the Silk Road? Or did grape wine come from China? How do they know it was grape wine anyway? And what else did they drink, when they didn’t have grapes? Plus, what about the apples and melons?

Today, it’s all about Silk Road Food and Drink, especially Drink.

Vitis vinifera

As it happens, I don’t drink alcohol, but please don’t hold that against me. I can certainly discuss alcohol with the best of them, especially when it involves archaeology. I was trying to look up Silk Road wine information which, the other day, told me that many people drank non-grape wines made from honey, mare’s milk, and other fermented carbohydrates. At least that’s what I remember. But there is a Silk Road winery (or more than one) and so all I could see today were ads for that wine. Feel free to do a brisk little Google search for “Silk Road Wine” on your own.

The reason that Georgia–and that means the country over in Asia near the Silk Road not the U.S. state–the reason that Georgia was trumpeting its wines is because archeologists dug up some big ol’ wine jars. These jars, called qevri or khevri, definitely date back to the Neolithic as far as 6,000–5,800 BCE. Lead researcher Patrick McGovern and the team were careful to look at dating the pottery, dating the site, and establishing the appearance of the right combination of acids that represent fermented grapes. They also found grape pollen, starch, and skin remains that sealed the deal. Eight-thousand-year-old grapes in Georgia!

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V is for Vikings

The Oseberg ship, a symbol of a different kind of trader. Wikipedia.

When you visualize “medieval traders of Persian textiles,” Vikings may not be the first thing that comes to mind.

Yet the Scandinavians were masterful travelers who, despite their reputation for looting, were also supreme world traders. They had access to their own products from the Silk Road and navigated their own pathways into the heart of the world exchange that took place on the central Asian steppes. As much as some would like to debunk the idea, you can’t argue when the evidence is dug up a Norwegian back yard.

Where the Bodies Were Buried

The Viking ship above, called a karve, was discovered near a farm in Southeastern Norway at the beginning of the 20th century. (Discovered near a farm … hmm … perhaps that means a plow hit an immovable object one fine Osebergian spring morn?) A Swedish archaeologist took charge of unearthing the site in 1904-05. While precious metal items were missing, they did find two female skeletons and a big stash of goods still remained.

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U is for Ulbricht

I was going to write about the Upanishads because I haven’t focused much on Indian culture, and they had a huge influence on Silk Road trading, goods, art, and ideas. But when I looked up Upanishads, I read that they were an ontological….and Schopenhauer Vedic brahman interconnected universe … and my eyes rolled back in my head.

So in lieu of discussing very important but abstract Indian spiritual philosophical concepts, let’s talk about pirates instead.

Technically, Ulbricht is Silk-Road-related. Not that 12th century Silk Road, though. This is the dark web Silk Road.

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