DS0805 -

Grapes and wines in France from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages. Integrated approach in archeosciences – VINICULTURE

Submission summary

VINICULTURE aims to integrate innovative methods in archeosciences to identify the characteristics and the diversity of grapevines and wines produced in France, since the origins of viticulture to the Middle Ages.
Wine plays a major social and symbolic role since Protohistory. It is a prized exchange product carried over lost distances. The grapevine became a major plant species in terms of economy, landscape, culture and symbolism.
Great progress has been accomplished lately by French archaeology concerning the history of vine cultivation and wine making: the circulation of wine, extension of vine cultivation under roman rule, production sites and techniques, vineyards and plantation practices. Despite this progress, fundamental aspects remain unclear. Our knowledge of the wines available before the Middle Ages derives mainly from written documents of different origins and sparse inscriptions on amphorae. Concerning the vines, written documents are practically unusable, and the first real information has been provided by archaeobotany.
We now take advantage of recent methodological advances (Morphogeometry, Next Generation Sequencing) to put forward a holistic approach, no longer considering grapevines and wine as generic categories, but instead describing their diversity and analyzing their spatial and chronological dynamics in France, from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages.
France is an excellent area to observe the evolution of vine cultivation and wine making in the long run, making it possible to integrate most of the major Euro-Meditteranean exchanges concerning wine, such as the Phoenician, Greek and Roman colonial movements and cultural changes linked to the spread of Christianity and Islam. France also offers the perfect background to study the diffusion of viticulture from the Mediterranean to temperate Europe and its implications in terms of adaptation and re-composition of the diversity of vines and wine.
We will analyze plant remains as well as archaeological containers (pottery and wood jars) collected according to strict sampling procedures. Our approach will combine archaeobotany, geometric morphometrics, archaeogenetics, biochemistry and experimental archaeology.
By exploiting the potential of Database I2AF and the national network of collaborations Bioarcheodat, Archaeobotany will provide access to a large data set and supply the indispensable background for the observation of the dynamics of Grapevine and of its use since the Neolithic. The most expensive analyses will be restricted to the most promising sites and to the period Bronze Age – Middle Ages.
Ancien DNA and Morphometry will provide the means to identify the traits of cultivated grapevines (colour, productivity) and their parenthood with wild grapevines and modern cultivars. As a result, it will be possible to enquire about the geographic origins of the archaeological varieties, to trace the pathways of diffusion and evolution mechanisms. Archaeogenetics and Biochemistry applied to the study of wine jars will provide evidence on the type of wines: of grapes and/or of other fruits, colour, use of additives for aroma and conservation. The role of yeast and bacteria in the fermentation process and in wine conservation will be taken in consideration for the first time.
Statistics and models, will allow us to combine data obtained at different levels of analysis, with the information provided by other archaeological sources and by the modern genetic diversity of grapevine and microorganisms, aiming at reconstructing the geo-historical dynamics of vines and wines, in relation to environmental and socio-economic changes.

Project coordination

Laurent Bouby (Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution Montpellier UMR 5554)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CNRS - AMIS Anthropologie Moléculaire et Imagerie de Synthèse - UMR 5288
UMR 7209 - AASPE Archéozoologie et Archéobotanique, Sociétés, Pratiques, Environnements
CGG Centre for GeoGenetics
INRA UMR SPO INRA UMR183 Sciences pour l'Oenologie
INRA - UMR1334 AGAP Amélioration Génétique et Adaptation des Plantes tropicales et méditerranéennes -UMR1334 AGAP- équipe DAAV Diversité, Adaptation et Amélioration de la Vigne
CNRS - ISEM Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution Montpellier UMR 5554
CNRS - ASM Archéologie des Sociétés Méditerranéennes UMR 5140

Help of the ANR 533,307 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2016 - 48 Months

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