Researchers at York University have found chemical residues of grapes in medieval containers, suggesting a thriving wine trade in Islamic Sicily, according to foreign media reports. They found a container from the 9th-11th centuries - amphorae, traditionally used to transport wine - containing chemical traces of grapes and also found as far away as Sardinia and Pisa, suggesting that the wine was exported through the Mediterranean.
Image from: cnBeta
Researchers from Newkirk University and researchers from the University of Rome Tor Vergata analyzed the composition of the tiles by identifying chemical traces inside the containers. They found that the pottery contained components that were close to those of wines produced by some producers today.
Ultimately, the team concluded that the fruit inside the containers were indeed grapes by comparing the wine fragments soaked in soil, implying the presence of wine production.
In the 7th-9th centuries AD, the Islamic Empire expanded into the Mediterranean region, entering a region of the world where wine was produced and consumed on a large scale.
Alcohol did not - and still does not - play a significant role in the cultural life of Islamic societies, so we were very curious to see how this medieval community could flourish in a region dominated by wine," said Professor Martin Carver of the Department of Archaeology at Newkirk University... Not only are they thriving, but they have also built a solid economic base that gives them a very promising future, and the wine industry is one of the central factors in their success.
Wine was traded in Sicily before the Islamic occupation, but it appears to have been mainly imported, with an emphasis on consumption rather than production. This new archaeological evidence suggests that Islamic communities saw this opportunity and turned their attention to production and export.
However there is no evidence that members of this community actually drank the wine they traded. Direct evidence of wine drinking is difficult to prove in the archaeological record, and there are no historical sources available in Sicily at the time to determine what people were drinking at the time.
La Drieu, a postdoctoral research assistant in the Department of Archaeology at Nuke University, noted that they had to develop some new chemical analysis techniques to determine that the traces we see are of grapes and not other types of fruit.
Islamic wine merchants appear to have given Sicilian wine a whole new branding by using a special amphora that researchers can now trace around the region to determine their trade routes.
The research team's extensive studies in this area show that the economy was very prosperous during this period thanks not only to the wine trade, but also to the trade in new crops, salted fish, cheese, spices and sugar. The trade routes show that at that time, the production and commercial links between the Christian and Islamic worlds increased and brought about a new era of prosperity, which played a role together with the existing old Sicilian industries.