King Tutankhamen was a red wine drinker, according to a researcher who analyzed traces of the vintage found in his tomb. Maria Rosa Guasch-Jane told reporters Wednesday at the British Museum that she made her discovery after inventing a process that gave archaeologists a tool to discover the color of ancient wine.
"This is the first time someone has found an ancient red wine," she said.
Wine bottles from King Tut's time were labeled with the name of the product, the year of harvest, the source and the vine grower, Guasch-Jane said, but did not include the color of the wine.
Several clues led scientists to believe the wine may have been red: drawings from the time of grapes being pressed into wine were red and purple, for example. But the color of King Tut's wine was impossible to verify until Guasch-Jane invented a process to detect a color compound not found in white wine called syringic acid.
To test her method, Guasch-Jane scraped residue from wine jars owned by the British Museum and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Two of the jars came from King Tut's tomb, discovered by English archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922.
Patrick McGovern, an American molecular archaeologist, said he has discovered grape residue in northern Iran that dates winemaking to 5400 B.C.
Scientists believe the first wine discovered in Egypt, buried in King Scorpion's tomb in about 3125 B.C., was produced in Jordan and transported 500 miles by donkey and boat to Egypt, he said. Eventually, grapevines were planted in Egypt.
Research shows that ancient Egyptian kings and members of the upper class drank wine regularly, but common people consumed it only during festivals and special occasions, Guasch-Jane said.
Wine was offered to gods in ceremonies, and kings were buried with jars of wine and food similar to what they consumed when they were alive, she said.
Guasch-Jane first reported her findings in the academic journal Analytical Chemistry last year.