History

Archaeologists discover 'industrial scale' wine production at ancient site

  • Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

     (Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority. )

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  (Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a massive compound dating back to the Byzantine era, which was used for “industrial-scale” production of wine and olive oil.

The site at Ramat Bet Shemesh about 19 miles west of Jerusalem contains an oil press, wine press and colorful mosaics, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Excavations funded by Israel’s Ministry of Construction and Housing revealed a compound containing an “unusually large” press that was used to produce olive oil. A large winepress was also found outside the compound, which consisted of two treading floors. Experts say that the scale of the facilities shows that they were used for production on an industrial scale.

Archaeologists also exposed several rooms in a residential part of the compound, some of which had preserved mosaic floors.

"We believe this is the site of a monastery from the Byzantine period,” said excavation directors Irene Zilberbod and Tehila Libman, in a statement. “The magnificent mosaic floors, window and roof tile artifacts, as well as the agricultural-industrial installations inside the dwelling compound are all known to us from numerous other contemporary monasteries.”

The experts, who directed the excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that, although no church was discovered, it is possible that monks resided in a monastery and made their living from the site’s agricultural installations.

Archaeologists believe that at some point around the start of the Islamic Period in the seventh century, the compound ceased to function and was occupied by new residents.