200-Year-Old Sunken Seltzer Bottle Makes Waves

Archeologists to uncork a fizzy find

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Fond of seltzer? From lime-flavored to orange vanilla, the clear plastic bottles and brightly colored labels are an increasingly common sight in our supermarket beverage aisles.

But did you know that long before modern, flavored seltzer hit our grocery store shelves—even before the age of siphon bottles and seltzer delivery men—there was a naturally-occurring carbonated spring water called Selters?

You’d better believe it. And though it's the ancient ancestor of today's soda water (that newfangled “seltzer”), Selters mineral water can still be found in European stores. Another place you can find it? The bottom of the Baltic Sea, apparently.

Polish archaeologists just discovered an intact 200-year-old bottle of the stuff while exploring a shipwreck near the coast. The kicker? It’s still corked.

“Probably we have found the oldest cork bottle from Selters,” underwater archeologist Tomasz Bednarz told Discovery News.

The discovery follows a string of other drinkable finds, including three bottles of 19th century Scotch that were found beneath the floorboards of explorer Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition base last year.

The 12-inch clay Selters vessel may lack Shackleton’s star power, but it still possesses a great deal of historical significance. Selters was once widely considered the finest mineral water on Earth, shipped from the Taunus mountains in Germany to locations around the world. The original springs were discovered around 1000 A.D. and fully exploited by the mid-1800s.

Selters-bottle
Selters water bottle. [Credit: Wikimedia Commons, "Asdrubal"] View Larger

The unique clay bottles that contained this so-called “liquid treasure” may sound archaic, but they were actually cleverly designed to preserve the carbonation and flavor of the mineral water.

The recently discovered 200-year-old flask features a characteristic short neck. Typically, the bottles would be filled all the way to the top, then corked and cemented, eliminating all but the tiniest bubble of air in the neck. In this way, the Selters water could retain its fizz for months. After all, no one likes flat seltzer.

While Bednarz is sure that the exciting find does not contain seawater, he admits that it’s definitely possible it no longer contains Selters water. The bottles, he says, could have been refilled with wine and recorked. There’s no way to know for sure until Bednarz and his team examine the contents of the jug in a lab.

Regardless of what liquid lies inside, our most burning question is whether someone plans to taste it.

Source: Discovery News
Hero image: Flickr user "quinnanya" (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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