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Photos: Monks May Have Pressed Wine and Oil in Ancient Monastery

Rocky road

Israeli Compound Rocks

(Image credit: Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

Archaeologists have found an ancient compound with mosaics, a winepress and an oil press that dates back to the Byzantine era. The archaeologist team found some of the walls of the compound hiding in plain site just about 19 miles (30 kilometers) west of Jerusalem.

Arial shot

Israeli Compound Arial Shot

(Image credit: Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

The excavation uncovered a large compound with an outer wall divided into two regions: one from industrial use and the other for living quarters.

Wine and oil press

Israeli compound wine and oil press

(Image credit: Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

The compound has a large winepress and a well-preserved oil press. The impressive size of the operation indicates that the building's inhabitants made wine and oil on an industrial scale.

House of worship?

Israeli compound excavation

(Image credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

It's possible the compound once served as a monastery for monks who made the oil and wine during the Byzantine era, the archaeologists said.

Artistic interpretation

Israeli Compound Mosaic

(Image credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

The archaeologists found several mosaics in rooms within the compound's dwelling space, including this one showing a cluster of grapes with flowers within geometric shapes.

Laura Geggel
As an associate editor for Live Science, Laura Geggel covers general science, including the environment, archaeology and amazing animals. She has written for The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site covering autism research. Laura grew up in Seattle and studied English literature and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis before completing her graduate degree in science writing at NYU. When not writing, you'll find Laura playing Ultimate Frisbee.