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Byzantine-Era Winery Discovered

( – Wine is one of those things that get better with age. While ancient wine likely isn’t consumable, the discovery of a winery from the Byzantine-era is exciting. The area has a reputation for its wine production and tradition. A recent discovery only adds to its mystique. 

The Discovery

In the middle of Israel, archaeologists found what they describe as the largest Byzantine-era winery in the known world. The winery isn’t just big; it’s old as well, dating back around 1,500 years. Among the findings were five wine presses, able to produce 2-3 million liters of wine per year, kilns for firing clay jugs, four large warehouses for storing and aging wine and thousands of pieces from broken clay jugs. Each of the five presses covers an area of about 2,400 square feet.

Elie Haddad, co-director of the two-year excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), described the massive winery, saying the scale was incredible. The IAA sent archaeologists to survey the land just outside of Yavne before construction crews began building an overpass. It’s a good thing they did! City authorities expressed plans to turn the discovery into an archaeology park, where tourists can visit the ancient winery. 

The dig also uncovered presses that were 2,300 years old, furthering the belief that the area had a long tradition of making wine. People working on the site believe they have even more to discover. 

How the Winery Worked

Wineries in ancient times obviously didn’t work the same way they do today. Technology has made the process much more efficient and sanitary. While the winery archaeologists discovered produced large volumes of wine annually, techniques they used were much different from current commercial presses. 

Workers would fill the wine presses full of grapes, where others would step on and smash the fruit to a pulp. Around the presses were octagonal containers where liquid would collect and ferment. Processors would move the wine to clay jugs and store them in warehouses. 

The owners of the winery are still a mystery, as are the people who operated it. Some observers feel that the city could have been in charge of the winery. Whoever owned it was wealthy, according to archeologists, noting expensive conch shell decorations. The winery may have produced some of the best wine ancient people could get, with evidence hinting that merchants exported the good throughout the Mediterranean.

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