Ancient Christian Wine Factory Found in Israel

A ceramic lantern fashioned in the shape of a miniature church found an a Byzantine archaeological site in Israel (Image credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

A wine-pressing complex covering more than 1,000 square feet (100 square meters) has been uncovered in Israel among the ruins of an ancient Byzantine settlement, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced this week.

At the site near Hamei Yo'av, researchers found a ceramic lantern fashioned in the shape of a miniature church and carved with crosses, suggesting the centuries-old wine factory was owned by a Christian.

The wine-making complex had compartments where the grapes were likely left to ferment after being delivered from the vineyard. At its center was a large, sloped treading floor where the fruit was pressed, sending the juice flowing into settling and collecting vats. The archaeologists said they found a cavity that was probably used to turn grape waste into vinegar and low-grade "paupers' wine."

Part of the Byzantine wine-pressing complex found near Hamei Yo'av (Image credit: Saar Ganor, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

The wine press is one in a string of similar facilities located along an ancient road that led to the port of Ashkelon. IAA archaeologists said these sites likely exported wine to Europe and North Africa.

The church-shaped lantern found at the site gives a clue as to who was behind the wine-making operation. The ceramic artifact had an oval opening on one side where a little oil lamp would have been slipped inside. The crosses carved into the sides of the "church," would have projected glowing crosses when lit up.

Earlier this year, archaeologists found what could be part of another Byzantine wine-making factory underneath a street in the ancient city of Jaffa, now part of Tel Aviv.

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