Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Greek wine, not so Greek after all

The consumption of wine was widespread throughout antiquity and not only by the Greeks - or Macedonians! I just learn that a DNA study has been undertaken in search of the place where the wild grape was domesticated for the first time .

Botanists collected samples from grape vines all over the Near East, i.e. southeastern Anatolia (roughly today’s Turkey), Armenia and Georgia. They also analyzed the residues from wine jars thousands of years old. I am not familiar with chemical techniques, but as I understand from this article published by Phys.Org, they looked for significant amounts of tartaric acid, which by the way was only available from grapes in antiquity.
Armed with their results from ancient winemakers in Georgia, Armenia and Iran cross-checked with the traces in old clay vessels, the researchers were able to place the very first domesticated Eurasian grape in southeastern Anatolia at some point between 8,500 and 5,000 BC. Southeast Anatolia is part of the Fertile Crescent, where our civilization is claimed to be born. This is generally the area between Euphrates and Tigris called Mesopotamia in today’s Iran and Iraq, and also comprises southeastern Turkey, the Levant down to ancient Egypt. This crescent is widely accepted as being the birthplace of the world’s first known domesticated plants.

Thanks to DNA research, botanists were able to isolate 13 so-called founder grapes by running through a family tree of European grapes. This ancestor grape is called “vitis vinifera” and the very theory cancels the idea that most Western European grapes supposedly came independently at different times from various places in the Middle or Near East, or from Egypt, Greece or Turkey.

It is quite interesting to learn that wild grape vines still grow in gullies and washes somewhere between the Turkish cities of Elazig and Diyarbakir. Specialists call it a true pilgrimage to genetically 8,000-9,000-year old vines! It seems like finding the mother of all grape vines!

Unfortunately these ancestral wonders are being endangered by a virus called phylloxera, which in the late 19th century annihilated so many vineyards all over Europe. It seems that wild wines are somewhat protected by their eco-system, while cultivated varieties are extremely vulnerable. Because of that, experts fear the worst for the Kurdish Diyarbakir region where we may lose a unique genetic diversity. A remedy is to graft vines onto disease-resistant rootstock, but this procedure is being rejected by the local population and eventually the Turkish wine industry is doomed to suffer the consequences. 

It is quite dramatic to realize that these precious grape vines that have survived so many centuries and even millennia might soon disappear for ever.

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