Emeritus Professor Albert Pedant (PhD) hosted a packed press conference in Jerusalem on April 1, 2023 with media attendance from around the globe. Here is the transcript.
“Welcome everyone, this is a historic occasion that you will long remember. I’m sorry that this was the largest venue with media facilities available at short notice; the recent leaks and ill-informed speculation forced a response about a significant archaeological discovery.
Firstly, obviously the materials were found some months ago, but arranging and conducting the necessary scientific analyses took some time; as did security and administrative essentials. But at last, I can officially make this announcement.
You will doubtless know that I have had oversight of archaeological investigation at various sites throughout the Middle East. This includes Khirbet Qana (Cana), in Israel. This broader site is now managed by Israel and has been sporadically unofficially excavated since the 1870s. Recently, ground-penetrating radar revealed several small underground pockets, which led to increased focus on one particular portion of the current site.
Given that the cavern was only a few cubic metres in volume, extremely meticulous care was taken by the experienced team of Dr Henry Jones in parsing the mixed sand, gravel and rocks. There were remnants of a room, with surviving sections of mudbrick and timber walls. The “hero” find however was one ceramic pot. Amazingly, the contents had not evaporated. It contained just over three gallons (eleven litres) of liquid. Analysis showed this fluid had an alcohol, sugar, and acidity content consistent with wine, and had been preserved with some covering of straw, cork, and olive oil, protected by the constant temperature and humidity of its special underground location.
Alas, only one intact amphora was located in the storeroom, with many shards of other pots in close proximity. There was uncertainty about its age, but thermoluminescence and moisture recombination dating methods provided evidence that the pot was around two thousand years old. The glaze, patterns, and colours were consistent with established specimens from AD 10 – AD 50.
Hebrew characters carved on the side of the jar were likely the name of the potter, (or the owner’s). The storeroom also contained seeds, papyrus, charcoal, and fabric fragments which provided unambiguous contemporaneous support for the pot’s authenticity and provenance. Two low-value Roman coins were found, and although badly damaged, x-ray and other tests of their underlying images and metallic composition confirmed their concurrent age.
Further, radiocarbon dating methods on the parchment fragments, the timber frames, and bricks yielded similar results. Sadly, fingerprints and DNA were unable to be detected.
Finally, several experts were then assembled to taste the vessel’s contents with no information supplied, other than extreme age of “several centuries”. The professionals’ comments included “remarkable, ethereal, haunting”. When informed that the liquid was at least one thousand years old, agreement was unanimous that the (understandably) pale fluid was in sublime condition given its antiquity. “It’s the oldest wine I have ever had the privilege of drinking” stated Hector Lannible (CEO of beverage behemoth Stoney Goose Ridge) “and it’s not just a curio – it has memorable qualities”.
What makes the Cana find unique?
Pictures of wine drinking go back to the Standard of Ur (c 3000 BC), and early writings include medical papyri from Kahun (c 1900 BC), the Homeric texts (c 850 BC) and numerous “newer” references. But the wine in the amphora is the oldest drinkable sample of wine ever found. Microscopic traces of wine were found in a vessel from Mytros (Crete) dated to 2000 BC. And this Cana wine is also very different to the ‘Speyer Wine Bottle’ discovered in 1867 which held 1,700-year-old liquid that used to be wine (the alcohol had evaporated); its contents dubious and without vinous merit.
According to the New Testament (John 2:1-11 and various apocryphal records), Jesus, his disciples, and his mother were present at a wedding. After the wine ran out, at his mother’s prompting, Jesus turned the contents of six water pots into wine. The steward congratulated the bridegroom for holding the “good wine back”. The Cana contents are potentially from the water that was turned into wine by Jesus, in his first miracle.
There have been all sorts of scams, fraud and fakes involved with alleged biblical material. The shroud of Turin is a well-documented medieval fake. Relics incredibly include numerous bones, foreskins, multiple crowns of thorns, nails, pieces of the Cross, lances, and the grail. Indeed, I have been consulted concerning the authenticity of all sorts of unlikely artefacts allegedly owned or used by the child or adult Jesus (toys, including wooden marbles, and carved animals, sandals, dice, furniture, even impossibilities such as a hula hoop)!
But here we have another matter entirely. The storeroom’s provenance is established; it has been undisturbed for nearly 2000 years; its age has been verified by a variety of methods; finally, the wine’s existence is unparalleled. Other vessels of antiquity have been found – but any liquids are extremely meagre, and unsavoury. To, summarize, it is not definitely proven the wine was created by Jesus; but it is beyond reasonable doubt that finding this wine intact at Cana is extraordinary.
With all these confirmations, security at the dig site was ramped up, to deter theft, vandalism, overcrowding, attacks by religious extremists, drones, and so on.
Israeli Government reaction
There has already been enormous ill-informed commentary about what this discovery means. For some, it verifies the literal existence of Jesus and confirms his divine ability to perform miracles; for others, it’s merely the uncovering of some old wine in a long-abandoned township.
I properly, and promptly alerted the Israeli Government, and personally informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of potential ramifications. I know there were intense and passionate discussion among the parties represented in the coalition Government, and I was vigorously questioned. There were views that the discovery should be suppressed, as inciting division within Israel, as it could inflame religious tensions within the Middle East – and elsewhere.
Thankfully, the combined wisdom of science, political courage, history and academic freedom prevailed.
Understandably, this is a national, and international treasure.
As an Australian, this astonishing find is the pinnacle of my career as an historian, archaeologist, and researcher. I was in the right place at the right time – what a privilege!
And what now?
The Antiquities Bureau of Cana (ABC) has been established to
- Ensure the safety and preserve the integrity of the artefacts – further scientific analysis is currently deemed unnecessary.
- Prioritise submissions from the many institutes, scientists and scholars wishing to study the materials.
- Continue excavations in the vicinity -although the immediate environs seem desolate of evidence of historic habitation.
- Determine the conditions (if any) under which pilgrims will be able to view the artefacts (or replicas)
There is enough material extant to guarantee rigorous excavations over several decades and the forthcoming academic publications and musings will spur a total rewrite of history.
I am unable to take questions at this time; they can be submitted in writing to the ABC –which is the definitive, and only channel that can respond officially. They will soon distribute time-lapse images of the uncovering of the storeroom, and the survey of its interior.
Finally, I, Albert Pedant, am thrilled to have been an active participant in this extraordinary “miracle at Cana” and honoured to make this significant announcement”.