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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 is an editor at Live Science. She edits Life's Little Mysteries and reports on general science, including archaeology and animals. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and an advanced certificate in science writing from NYU.