British WWI Stash Uncovered: Hundreds of Liquor Bottles

A glass expert found the bottles would have held a variety of drinks, including alcoholic beverages such as gin, liqueur and whiskey.
A glass expert found the bottles would have held a variety of drinks, including alcoholic beverages such as gin, liqueur and whiskey. (Image credit: Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

Hundreds of World War I-era liquor bottles have been uncovered at a buried British barracks in Israel.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority said the discovery was made a few weeks ago while archaeologists were conducting a salvage excavation near the city of Ramla (between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) ahead of the construction of a highway. 

The excavators unearthed the foundations of an agricultural building from the Ottoman Empire — which ruled Israel from 1517 until the end of World War I — that had apparently been repurposed as housing for British soldiers during the war.

At some point, the building had been burned down, but lots of artifacts from the British soldiers remained inside the foundation walls, including buttons and belt buckles from their uniforms and pieces of riding equipment. Just outside the building, archaeologists found the soldiers' garbage dump. [Photos: 5,000-Year-Old Stone Monument in Israel]

"We were surprised to discover that along with broken crockery and cutlery there was an enormous number of soft drink and liquor bottles," excavation director Ron Toueg said in a statement. "In fact, about 70 percent of the waste that was discarded in the refuse pit were liquor bottles. It seems that the soldiers took advantage of the respite given them to release the tension by frequently drinking alcohol."

Hundreds of bottles that once held wine, beer, soda and liquor were discovered at a site near Ramla in Isreal. (Image credit: world war i, Israel archaeology, british barracks, old liquor bottles, british soldiers)

A glass expert determined that the bottles once contained mainly wine, beer, soda and other alcoholic beverages, including gin, liqueur and whiskey. Most of these drinks came from Europe.

Besides the booze-bottle stash, archaeologists also discovered 250,000-year-old flint tools dating back to the Middle Paleolithic period as well as another artifact of war — the tip of a swagger stick, which would have been carried as a symbol of authority by a senior officer in the Royal Flying Corps. 

Archaeologist Ron Toueg collects artifacts from a pit near Ramla in Israel. (Image credit: Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

"To the best of my knowledge, this is the first item of its kind ever found in Israel," Assaf Peretz, a researcher from the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in the statement.

The area around Ramla was conquered in 1917, and the British soldiers stationed in Israel (who were led by the famous Gen. Edmund Allenby) occupied this area for about nine months before moving north.

Original article on Live Science.

Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.