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Great Eastern Wine Week, 9-18 September 2022

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

A 1,500-year-old winery unearthed


The remains of a winery - including 1,500-year-old wine presses - has been uncovered by archaeologists in the city of Yavne, south of Tel Aviv.

The factory would have been be capable of producing two million litres of wine a year, The Jerusalem Post reported this week. 

Among the finds were five wine presses, ageing and bottling warehouses as well as kilns for firing amphorae in which the wine was stored, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said.

The site dates back to the Byzantine era around the 4th-5th century, making the winery the largest known to exist from the period, the IAA said.

The directors of the excavation Dr Elie Haddad, Liat Nadav-Ziv and Dr Jon Seligman said in a joint statement: “We were surprised to discover a sophisticated factory here, which was used to produce wine in commercial quantities. 

"Furthermore, decorative niches in the shape of a conch, which adorned the winepresses, indicate the great wealth of the factory owners.”

They added: “A calculation of the production capacity of these wine presses shows that approximately two million litres of wine were marketed every year, while we should remember that the whole process was conducted manually.”

Each wine press at the Yavne site covered an area of ​​about 225 square metres, with a treading floor where the grapes would be crushed underfoot surrounded by separate compartments and vats for fermentation and wine storage.

Archaeologists at the site found earthen jars as well as tens of thousands of fragments at the complex, which also featured well-planned access routes between the different facilities.

Tours of the site are set to be offered in the near future. The plan is for the site to be preserved and later opened as an archaeological park.

The wine produced at the site was known as Gaza or Ashkelon wine, named after the ports from which it was exported to all over the Mediterranean. The wine produced in Yavne was very well known and prestigious, Seligman said.

Yavne is located in central Israel and was an important city some 1,500 years ago. 

“We have been exposing an industrial area of ancient Yavne,” Seligman said. “We found remains of other industries, for example, producing glass and metal. We also found remains from other periods, such as a house from the 9th century and some other buildings from the interim period between the Byzantine and Islamic periods.” 

See the statement here: https://www.friendsofiaa.org/news

Image: Israeli Antiquities Authority 

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