What is it about?
The arid and hot Negev Highlands region in Israel expirienced a wave of intensive settlemets and agricultural developmen in the Byzantine time between the 4th and the 7th centuries CE. Wine that was produced from grapes grown in the Negev was traded and achieved international reputation across the Byzantine Empire. Genetic analysis of grape seeds discovered in excavations of the ancient Negev settlments reveals a close relatitionship between the ancient seeds and two modern cultivars that are still grown in many places in the southern Levant (including Israel, Lebanon, and Greece). These findings add new and important information about the cultural history of the grape in southern Levant region and the interconnectivity between different regions of the eastern Mediterranean.
Photo by Thomas Schaefer on Unsplash
Why is it important?
The modern winemaking industry is heavily reliant on a limited number of European grape cultivars, which are best suited for cultivation in temperate climates. Global warming emphasizes the need for diversity in this high impact agricultural crop. Grapevine lineages bred in hot and arid regions, often preserved over centuries, may present an alternative to the classic winemaking grape cultivars. Our study of a legacy grapevine variety from the Negev Highland desert of southern Israel sheds light on its genetics, biological properties and lasting impact. The modern-day close relatives of the archaeological grapes may now provide an exceptional platform for future studies on grapevine resilience to aridity.
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This page is a summary of: Ancient DNA from a lost Negev Highlands desert grape reveals a Late Antiquity wine lineage, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2213563120.
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