One of the largest wine presses ever revealed in an archaeological excavation in the country, which was used to produce wine in the Late Byzantine period (sixth-seventh centuries CE), was recently exposed in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The excavation was carried out in a region that will be the farmland of Ganei Tal, a new community slated to be built for the evacuees from Gush Katif.
The impressive wine press is 1,400 years old and measures 6.5 x 16.5 meters. It was discovered southwest of Kibbutz Hafetz-Haim and was partly damaged during the installation of the infrastructure there.
According to Uzi Ad, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “What we have here seems to be an industrial and crafts area of a settlement from the sixth-seventh century CE, which was situated in the middle of an agricultural region. The size of the wine press attests to the fact that the quantity of wine that was produced in it was exceptionally large, and was not meant for local consumption. Instead it was intended for export, probably to Egypt, which was a major export market at the time, or to Europe. An identical wine press was previously exposed north of Ashkelon, about 20 kilometers from the wine press that was just found in Nahal Soreq and we can assume that the two installations were built by the same craftsman.” Ad adds that “The wine press’ collecting vats were neither circular nor square as was the custom, but octagonal. And since this method of construction is far from being practical because sediment would accumulate in the corners of the vats, it seems that they were built in this manner for primarily aesthetic reasons.”