Friday, February 19, 2010

Haji Firooz Teppe

Haji Firooz Teppe (تپه حاجی فیروز) is an archeological site 2 kilometers southwest of Hasanloo in West Azerbaijan province and underlying Bronze Age settlements dating from the early to about the mid-2nd millennium BC. The site is thought to have been inhabited in several stages and was ultimately destroyed by Urartu in the late 9th century BC. Hasanloo was the focus of excavations carried out by the University of Pennsylvania Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, and the Archaeological Service of Iran from 1956 to 1977. Haji Firooz Teppe was excavated as part of the Hasanloo site which in itself revealed rare painted pottery, a handful of which also have been decorated on their inside surface. Remains of domesticated dogs have also been found at this site, radiocarbon dated to 5500-5000 B.C. 

Persians were known for their wine making, and the site of Haji Firooz is best known for the discovery of a jar containing the earliest known residue of wine in the world. The residue contained resin (a mix of tannin and tartrate crystals) from the Terebinth tree that grew wild in the region, and was possibly used as a preservative indicating that the wine was deliberately made and was not result of the grape juice fermenting unintentionally. Terebinth resin was widely used as a preservative in ancient wine because it killed certain bacteria. Pine resin is currently used in Greek Retsina wine.

The jar with the wine residue, had a volume of about 9 liters and was found together with five similar jars embedded in the earthen floor along one kitchen wall of a Neolithic mud brick building, dating back to 5400-5000 BC. Clay stoppers about the same size as the jars' mouths were located close by, suggesting that they could have been used keep out the air and prevent the wine from turning into vinegar. The building in which the jars were found consisted of a large room that may have doubled as a bedroom, a kitchen, and two storage rooms. The room thought to be a kitchen had a fireplace and numerous pottery vessels probably used to prepare and cook foods.  

This the earliest firm evidence for wine making to date in western Asia. While most likely a fable, however, the story of the Persian woman and fermented grapes has many folklorists crediting her for inventing wine. As the story goes, a Persian Princess had found herself out of favor with the King of Persia. Upon hearing this news, she attempted to commit suicide by consuming a jar of spoiled grapes. Instead of dying, she found herself feeling better and acting a lot happier. Eventually she passed out, but when she woke up, she found that the King liked her new attitude so much that he admitted her back into his good graces. At Godin Teppe, a 3500-3000 BC settlement six hundred kilometers south along the Zagros mountains, additional jars containing wine residues have been found. It is unclear if the name of the site has any connection with the trickster who is supposed to make an appearance at Norooz.