‘Unusual’ Byzantine wine presses uncovered

Two “unusual” wine presses dating to the Byzantine period have been discovered inside an old water cistern in northern Israel.

Credit: National Parks Authority

The two presses were uncovered at the Zippori National Park and were originally part of the water cistern and aqueduct system at the site.

Two covered cisterns however appear to have been repurposed as wine presses by the people of Tzippori some time around the 4th century AD, think the archaeologists.

The city’s population peaked around that time and there was likely huge demand for wine from the mixed Jewish, Christian and pagan populace.

There is nothing to indicate who might have been working at the presses although the smaller of the two presses might, possibly, indicate it was used by Jews conforming to an obscure Jewish law practiced during the Shmita year*, although the lead excavator, Dr Zvika Tzuk, told The Times of Israel this was just a theory, “we cannot really know”.

Wine presses of all ages, dating back to the time of the ancient Egyptians even, are excavated on a fairly regular basis in Israel indicating just how deep-rooted and long-lasting wine production in the region is.

Last year archaeologists also discovered a Byzantine wine press in the south of the country, in the Negev that would have been capable of holding the equivalent of 8,000 bottles of wine.


*Every seventh year in the agricultural calendar when fields are rested.

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