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The Impact of Wine Production in the Social Transformation of Northern Mesopotamian Societies during the Third and Second Millennia BCE. Die Welt des Orients 48.2: 225-237

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In ancient times, wine was usually considered a rare commodity to be used by elites and mostly associated with ritual practices. This is especially the case of ancient Mesopotamian communities, which, starting from the fourth millennium BCE, gave an
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  Die Welt des Orients, 48.   Jahrgang, S. 225–237, ISSN (Printausgabe): 0043–2547, ISSN (online): 2196–9019© 2018 Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht GmbH & Co. KG, Göttingen The Impact of Wine Production in the Social Transformation of Northern Mesopotamian Societies during the Third and Second Millennia BCE Nicola Laneri  Abstract In ancient times, wine was usually considered a rare commodity to be used by elites and mostly associated with ritual practices. This is especially the case of ancient Mesopotamian communities, which, starting from the fourth millennium BCE, gave an increasing value to this precious alcoholic beverage that was mostly produced and imported from regions periph- eral to Mesopotamia proper, as in the case of the Taurus foothills in southeastern Turkey.  Thus, this article aims at demonstrating the value acquired by wine between the late third and the early second millennium BCE, taking into account the archaeological data availa- ble from two sites located in this area, specifically, Titri ş  Höyük, in the upper section of the Euphrates, and Hirbemerdon Tepe, in the Tigris river valley, where wine production, con- sumption and exchange had a primary importance in structuring the socio-economic organ- ization of the communities inhabiting these ancient settlements. 1. Introduction As highlighted by both archaeological and textual data, wine started to become increasingly valuable as an elite commodity of ancient Mesopotamian societies between the mid-to-late third and early second millennia BCE. The height- ened presence of elements associated with grape processing in the archaeolog-ical record indicates a remarkable transformation, and the texts found in the palace of Zimri-Lim at Mari, a site on the middle Euphrates (Chambon 2009), during the early second millennium BCE testify to a large importation of wine from southeastern Anatolia. This paper will focus on analyzing the available archaeological data in order to highlight the role played by wine production in the emergence of new social groups among Northern Mesopotamian societies (fig. 1). In particular, two case studies will be considered: the mid-to-late third millennium BCE city-state of Titri ş  Höyük, located near the Euphrates in the Urfa Province, and the small early second millennium architectural complex discovered at Hirbemerdon Tepe along the upper Tigris region.  226 Nicola Laneri 2. The role of wine production and consumption in ancient Mesopotamia The domestication of the wild Eurasian grape (i. e., Vitis vinifera   ssp.   sylvestris) into the Vitis vinifera   ssp.    vinifera in the Near East appears as a long process initiated during the Neolithic period as part of the phenomenon of agricultural revolution and sedentarism that characterized the whole Near East (McGovern 2013; Zohary 1996). As demonstrated by recent discoveries in Georgia, wine production started in the regions of srcin of the wild grape (McGovern et   al. 2017). However, it is during the fourth and third millennia BCE that the spread of Vitis vinifera ssp. vinifera crossed its natural boundaries and started to be cultivated and processed to produce wine in other regions. In particular, the spread of containers dedicated to the trade and consumption of wine become a quintessential feature of the uprising elites of ancient Mesopotamia during a period marked by the creation of large urban settlements (Algaze 1996; Badler 1996). More specifically, the ubiquitous presence of elements associated with grape processing (i. e., seeds and pips of Vitis vinifera in association with plas- ter basins or pits), probably linked to wine production in non-public private dwellings at sites of Northern Syria and Southeastern Anatolia (such as Kurban Höyük, Titri ş  Höyük, and Tell es-Sweyhat, Miller 2008), testifies to a remark- !!"""""""!!!!!! !"#$" ş  &'()*&"$+,-,$./0 !,1, !"##"$%&'"( $")&%* +,-../ Ş  "*,  ı  0)1"2%'")3"4  ı  ) 5"6%"*(-.- 23$"4+5363$*,-" ş !,55 7$3*68$+30 &9!,55 4:;<=,(>3# ! "! #!! #"! $!!$"%&'()*+*,- !   ?,@,0. !  .&+*- "  /(0*,1 3&+&*- 45,A3#"/0 - B<? 4 5!!!6 "!! Fig. 1: Map of northern Mesopotamia.  T e Impact of Wine Production  227 able transformation in the production activities of this area with an increas- ing visibility of Mediterranean polyculture. The importance of the consump- tion and exchange of wine during the mid-late third millennium BCE can also be confirmed by the increasing number of vessels of the “caliciform” type in northern Syrian and southeastern Anatolian pottery assemblages and by the spread of the depa amphikypella, a typical wine container in western, central and southeastern Anatolia, as well as by the presence of numerous ceramic, stone and metal vessels as liquid containers in numerous funerary contexts in southern Mesopotamia (e. g., the Royal Cemetery of Ur of the Early Dynastic period, Winter 1999). During the early second millennium BCE, such a trend in northern Mesopotamia is also confirmed by the ubiquitous presence of ves-sels of the so-called Khabur Ware assemblage, with a strong presence of vases used as containers for liquids (Laneri et   al. 2015). Between the third and the first millennia BCE, the archaeological data related to the consumption of wine as a rare commodity by Mesopotamian elites in funerary and ritual contexts is supported by textual and iconographic sources. In particular, textual sources confirm what the archaeological data suggests: the separation between an area with higher rainfall more oriented towards wine production and another (i. e., Southern Mesopotamia) in which the lack of rain did not favor the cultivation of grapes. In fact, in Southern Mesopotamia even though the cuneiform sign for ‘grape’ is attested already from early Sumerian texts from Uruk, wine appears as an exogenous ele- ment and, thus, a rare commodity and an expensive import, because, as sug-gested by Powell (1996: 101) ‘wine drinking cultures began outside of Baby- lonia beyond the edges of the alluvium … [and wine consumption] remained to the end primarily a prerogative of the gods and the rich.’ Furthermore, the written data found at the palace of Zimri-Lim at Mari as well as at the site of Tell el-Rimah (possibly identified of Karana) and Tell Leilan (Shubat Enlil) all dated to the early second millennium BCE (Chambon 2009; Eidem 2011) provide another indication that this trend continued (and most prob-ably expanded) during the early second millennium BCE, when wine pro- duced in southeastern Anatolia and northern Syria was considered a precious and expensive commodity for kings and gods (Corti 2017; Zettler and Miller 1996). The ritualized consumption of wine and other alcoholic beverages in the Mesopotamian tradition of the third and second millennia BCE is also documented in numerous artistic representations. In fact, the depiction of such ritualistic behavior is depicted in the famous “banquet scene” typical of Southern Mesopotamian iconography of the Early Dynastic period, which depicts the ritualized consumption of liquids (Winter 1999). Furthermore, during this long chronological period the production and consumption of wine (as well as of other alcoholic beverages and food and drink related funer- ary offerings) was also strongly associated with the establishment of religious beliefs especially those connected to the afterlife (as it might be the case of the  228 Nicola Laneri kispu ritual that, starting from the beginning of the second millennium BCE, marked the funerary rituals of Mesopotamian elites as part of the remem- brance of the family ancestors, Tsukimoto 2010). The use of wine (white) in association with ritual libations associated with the remembrance of the royal ancestors is also mentioned in texts found in the third millennium BCE royal archive of Palace G at Ebla in which the libation of white wine is mentioned during the ritual blessing proffered by new royal couples to their royal ances- tors (Fronzaroli 1993).Among the areas indicated in the textual sources, the region of Carchemish (along the Euphrates at the border between Turkey and Syria) and of Midyat (in the Tur ’Abdin mountains) are considered to have generated the highest quality of wine imported by Mesopotamian elites, thus confirming the central- ity of Southeastern Anatolia in wine production and trade with Mesopotamia (Forlanini 2006). It is for these reasons that in the next sections two Southeast- ern Anatolian contexts will be considered to envision the importance of wine production in the socio-economic transformation of these communities and their relationship with other Mesopotamian social groups. 3. Wine and socio-economic transformation at the third millennium BCE city-state of Titri ş  Höyük  Fig. 2: Topographic map of Titri ş  Höyük showing the excavated areas.  T e Impact of Wine Production  229Titri ş  Höyük is located in southeastern Turkey approximately 45 km north of Sanlıurfa, not far from the Euphrates River valley (fig. 2). During the period of its maximum expansion, the settlement covered an area totaling 43 ha. Its southern border is demarcated by the Tavuk Çay stream, which during the ancient period was wider and directly connected to the Euphrates. The geo- graphical position of the site is fundamental, not only because it favored pasto- ral and agricultural activities, but also because of its strategic position on one of the few existing fords in ancient times for crossing the Euphrates River, which afforded control of the long-distance commercial networks connecting North-ern Mesopotamia with Anatolia (Algaze and Matney 2011). In terms of settlement pattern, the site is marked by a transformation between the mid and late third millennium BCE (i. e., the Middle and Late Early Bronze Age). In fact, the first phase is characterized by the presence of a dispersed settlement (ca. 43 hectares) with numerous productive areas in the suburbs, public buildings located in and around the main mound and an extramural cemetery ca. 400 m west of the mound. In contrast, the later phase shows a nucleated settlement (ca. 32 hectares) concentrated in the main mound and the areas surrounding it (i. e., the Lower and Outer Town) with a fortification system protecting it. Moreover, the suburbs as well as the extra-mural cemetery of the previous phase are abandoned and all the productive activities are brought inside the settlement that is now marked by a very com-plex urban planning with streets and large private dwellings in which usually include a residential grave used for burying selected individuals, most prob- ably the family ancestors (figs. 3–4). In addition, a plaster basin is present in most of these houses and chemical analyses have proven it contained remains of tartaric acid that presumably was associated with the production of wine at a familial level; these features are located along the streets and have a drain that was used for cleaning at the end of the wine making process (Algaze and Matney 2011; Laneri 2007). The high density of vessels of the “caliciform” category as well as of depa amphykipella in both domestic and funerary contexts are other elements that confirm the importance of wine production and consumption at the site; they also indicate the long-distance commercial exchange of wine with Mesopota- mia, towards the south, and Anatolia, towards the north-west (Laneri 2004). In particular, it is the ritual value of this precious beverage that appears to have been important. This is demonstrated by an extraordinary deposit of human bones in one of the plaster basins that was detached from its srcinal location in order to be placed in a room nearby the city gate in the Outer Town (fig. 5). The bones were found in a fully disarticulated position (i. e., secondary interment) and represent 19 individuals: 12 male adults (with cranial trauma), 3   female adults (1 with cranial trauma), 1 unspecified adult (with cranial trauma), 2   chil- dren (no skull), and 1 infant (no skull) (Erdal 2012). Moreover, 81.5 % of adult crania show clear signs of cranial trauma (a total of 26 unhealed perimortem
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