Thursday, April 4, 2013
Light on an Ancient Wine Press in a Future Garden Event
Remains of a Byzantine settlement with an impressive wine press were recently excavated on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority near Hamei Yo’av. The salvage excavation was conducted prior to the construction of a garden event by Shevet Ahim group, led by the Yifrah Brothers. The archaeological site will be incorporated in the projected garden.
According to Dr. Rina Avner, the excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The wine press exceeded 100 square meters in area. It consisted of a large treading floor surrounded by six compartments situated north and east of the treading floor. These compartments were used for fermenting grapes upon their arrival from the vineyards, allowing the production of high-quality wine. The juice flows from the treading floor westward through a lead pipe to a settling vat, where the wastes and dirt sank. Two additional lead pipes connected the settling vat with two collecting vats. The three vats are situated in a row along the western wall of the treading floor.
At the center of the treading floor the cavity of a screw was found that pressed the grape waste from the compartments, to produce vinegar and low-quality wine, mentioned in Rabbinic sources as “paupers’ wine.” The owner of the wine press was probably a Christian, because nearby was found a ceramic lantern decorated by five crosses. The lantern was designed as a miniature church building, with an oval opening on one side that enabled an oil lamp to be inserted. The other sides of the lantern were decorated by geometric impressions creating a design of palm branches. The crosses were carved in the walls of the lantern, so when the lantern was lit in a small room, glowing crosses were projected on the walls and the ceiling.
Sa’ar Ganor, the Ashkelon district archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority pointed out that “the wine press at Hamei Yoav and three similar wine presses are located along the ancient road leading from Beth Guvrin to ancient Ashkelon and its port, thus facilitating the transportation and exportation of the wine to Ashkelon and from the port of Ashkelon to Europe and North Africa. The wine press will undergo conservation and will be incorporated into the modern complex of the garden event, near the spa of Hamei Yo’av.”
(Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)
Field photograph: Saar Ganor, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Studio photographs: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.