Art and Culture | Jean Leon Wine

Iberian site at Jean Leon reveals unique archaeological remains linked to wine

restos arqueológicos

The Iberian site found in our cellars reveals unique archaeological remains linked to wine.

The most important piece from the site is a bowl with an inscription in Iberian script, the third-longest documented inscription on pottery.

The archaeological work carried out in the vineyards of the winery, in the municipality of Torrelavit, was made possible thanks to the chance discovery of a site dating back to the Iberian period of the 2nd-1st centuries BC.

These have provided “extraordinary results, which suggest ritual or votive actions”, according to archaeologist Dani López, director of the Penedès archaeological research cooperative ArqueoVitis and responsible for the excavation, together with Mireia Sabaté.

The most astonishing discovery

The most important archaeological find at the site is a bowl for drinking wine with an inscription in Iberian script. This is the third-longest inscription on pottery of all those documented to date in the Iberian world (more than 2,000). Other unique elements have also been found in three of the fourteen excavated silos.

For Mireia Torres, “this discovery connects the wine-making past of the Penedès and the present of the Jean Leon winery; it is very exciting to know that in these lands where Jean Leon planted his vines in the early 1960s, there were already people living more than 2000 years before Christ who also grew grapes and made wine”.

archaeological remains

Although the bowl was extremely fragmentary, it has been possible to reconstruct most of the inscription, which begins with the words ‘Neitin iunstir‘, an expression characteristic of the Iberian language that most scholars interpret as a form of greeting or propitiatory.

“Since it is a long inscription made before the piece was fired and begins with the formula neitin iunstir, it seems plausible to think that its function is religious, perhaps votive, in that neitin could be identifying the divinity while iunstir could be a verb indicating a propitiatory action,” says Dani López. And he adds: “It is very unusual to find Iberian inscriptions, especially of this length, which is why it is still a very unknown language“.

In fact, according to Dr Joan Ferrer, a specialist in Paleo-Hispanic epigraphy: “Iberian inscriptions can be transcribed, since the value of the signs is known, but they cannot be translated, since we do not have a sufficiently close language to enable us to find out the meaning of their words”.

archaeological remains

In the silo, where the inscription was discovered, a group of whole ceramic pieces have also been found, such as a calatum (a ceramic vessel with a truncated cone shape and a flat rim), a biconical jug (made up of two truncated cones joined at the base and a handle) and several vases, as well as animal remains.

The most important archaeological remains found in the other two important silos at the site are, on the one hand, two carbonized grape seeds, specifically of vitis vinifera, and on the other, the miniature of a cilia or Greek cup for drinking wine, as well as several fusayolas or spinning frames. The grape silo also has unique remains that denote some kind of ritual or great feast.

Other archaeological remains

In relation to the archaeology of wine, Iberian and Roman amphorae have been identified which indicate that local and imported wine was consumed, these vessels being evidence of the transport and storage of wine. Other ceramic remains linked to the serving and consumption of wine have also been found, such as jugs, a miniature crater (where wine was mixed with water) and a miniature cílica (cup), as well as bowls and glasses, in addition to the carbonized seeds of vitis vinifera which certify that viticulture was practiced at the site.

restos arqueológicos

During the excavation of the rest of the silos, other remains have been identified that indirectly provide information on the activities of the first inhabitants of the estate, such as a throwing weapon or javelin called pilum, rotary stone flour mills, axes and a stone grinder, as well as a large quantity of wood charcoal that will allow us to know, through their analysis, what the forests were like and the paleo environmental situation of the territory at the time.

Silos are deposits dug out of the ground that were used to store grain. Once they were no longer used for this purpose, they were emptied of waste and were sometimes used as tombs or ritual or votive deposits. The 14 silos excavated in the cellar were distributed over an area of 835 square meters and possibly formed part of a granary or production area of an Iberian site from 2100 or 2200 BC.

Who discovered the archaeological remains? The site was discovered at the beginning of April by Alfons Gumà, a resident of Sant Pere de Riudebitlles, who spotted the remains of pottery that had come to the surface as a result of work to prepare some land for planting a new vineyard.

restos arqueológicos

Exhibition of archaeological remains

Now that the excavation has been completed, Torrelavit Town Council will begin the process of declaring the site a Cultural Asset of Local Interest. In the future, it is planned to excavate the other part of the site and to exhibit the archaeological findings in the winery’s visitor center and in the Vinseum, the Museum of Wine Cultures of Catalonia in Vilafranca del Penedès.