5,000-Year-Old Wine Jars Found In Ancient Egyptian Tomb Of Queen Merneith

Published October 4, 2023
Updated October 6, 2023

Hundreds of sealed and uncontaminated wine jars were found in the tomb of Queen Merneith in the ancient Egyptian city of Abydos.

Queen Merneiths Tomb

Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and AntiquitiesQueen Merneith may have been the first female pharaoh of Egypt.

Archaeologists just unearthed hundreds of sealed and unopened wine jars at the Umm El Qa’āb necropolis in the ancient city of Abydos in Egypt.

The team of researchers came across the wine jars while excavating the tomb of Queen Merneith, who was possibly the first female pharaoh of Egypt during the First Dynasty. Merneith is assumed to have come to power sometime around 3000 B.C.E.

The jars were in excellent condition, and the wine remnants found inside were approximately 5,000 years old. In addition to the wine jars, the archaeologists also found well-preserved grape seeds, also known as pips.

“The discovery of sealed, intact wine jars at Abydos, along with well-preserved grape pips, has the potential to significantly build our understanding of some of the earliest wine production, use and trade in the ancient Mediterranean and North Africa,” said Emlyn Dodd, a lecturer at the Institute of Classical Studies at the University of London, in an interview with Newsweek.

Egyptian Wine Jars

Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and AntiquitiesArchaeologists discovered hundreds of sealed wine jars in the tomb of Queen Merneith in the ancient city of Abydos in Egypt.

According to Dodd, who was not involved in the excavation, such ancient wine-related discoveries are rare in Egypt — and the fact that the jars were sealed and uncontaminated is particularly remarkable.

“The exceptionally early date of this material situates it at a key chronological juncture, as knowledge of wine production and grapevine cultivation was spreading southwest, from its place of hypothesized origin in what is now Georgia, Armenia and Iran through the Levant and along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean and down into Egypt,” Dodd said.

Researchers hope this rare find will shed some more light on the wine-drinking habits of ancient Egyptians.

“Analysis of the residues left inside the jars… could illuminate the chemical composition of the wine that was once inside, revealing its flavor profile and any additive ingredients that were used,” Dodd said. “For example, later Romans often added spices, honey, and seawater among other flavorants.”

Abydos, which sits seven miles west of the Nile River, is one of the oldest dig sites of ancient Egypt, dating back to 3300 B.C.E.

“With its valuable inscriptions and numerous funerary monuments, Abydos has perhaps contributed more than any other site in Egypt to our present understanding of the history of state formation, linguistic development, and architecture in ancient Egypt,” the World Monuments Fund wrote.

The sacred city “overlooks a desert valley once thought to offer passage to the realm of the dead.” It also became a center of worship for the cult of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld.

Abydos Tomb

World Monuments FundThe ancient city of Abydos dates back to 3300 B.C.E., and tombs of royals from the First Dynasty, like the one pictured above, have been found there.

Queen Merneith is believed to be one of the first, if not the first, female rulers in Egypt. She would have come to power around 3050 to 3000 B.C.E. after her husband Djet, the third or fourth pharaoh of the First Dynasty.

Experts have not come to a consensus on whether she was the first or second female pharaoh of Egypt. And some scholars argue she never had a solo reign at all, pointing to an ancient seal that lists First Dynasty rulers but doesn’t include Merneith, according to Ancient Origins.

Regardless of the time or validity of her rule, Merneith was a very influential person in ancient Egypt. Inscriptions on a plaque at her tomb state she had a “great position as she was in charge of offices of the central government.” She was also the wife of one pharaoh and mother of another.

Queen Merneith’s tomb was discovered in 1900 in the Umm El Qa’āb necropolis with tombs of other First Dynasty pharaohs. It was constructed of raw brick, clay, and wooden planks, and is the only royal tomb of a First Dynasty woman that has been found in Abydos.

Merneith’s tomb complex is also the final resting place of 41 other ancient Egyptians, believed to be her servants.

After reading about the ancient wine jars found in Egypt, read about the oldest non-evaporated wine ever found. Or, read about the 1,500-year-old wine making factory found in Israel.

Hannah Reilly Holtz
Hannah Reilly is an editorial fellow with All That's Interesting. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Texas Tech University and was named a Texas Press Association Scholar. Previously, she has worked for KCBD NewsChannel 11 and at Texas Tech University as a multimedia specialist.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Holtz, Hannah. "5,000-Year-Old Wine Jars Found In Ancient Egyptian Tomb Of Queen Merneith." AllThatsInteresting.com, October 4, 2023, https://allthatsinteresting.com/queen-merneith-tomb-wine-jars. Accessed May 25, 2024.