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French wine-making dates back to 400 B.C.

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Chemical analyses of a limestone pressing platform has revealed that the artifact, which dates back to 400 B.C., was used to make wine.

“It’s the earliest evidence we have of winemaking by the Gauls,” says Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who led the study.

Winemaking originated in the Middle East more than 8,000 years ago, spreading to Egypt by 3000 bc and then to the now-Greek island of Crete by 2200 bc. A thousand years later, Greek and Phoenician merchants had begun shipping wine throughout the Mediterranean region, each in their own distinctively shaped jars called amphorae. By 600 bc, the Etruscans of central Italy were trading their wine along the French Mediterranean coast. Around the same time, wine-loving Greeks established a colony at Massalia (present-day Marseilles, France).

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Story: Mark Peplow, Nature | Photo: Benjamin Luley/P. Neckermann/Martin von Wagner Museum, University of Wurzburg

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