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Archaeologists in Israel uncover large 1,500-year-old wine factory

Archaeologists in Israel uncover large 1,500-year-old wine factory
Workers from the Israel Antiquity Authority on Monday clean a 1,500-year-old wine complex from the Byzantine Period that was found in Yavne, Israel. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Archaeologists in Israel say they have uncovered what's believed to be what was once the world's largest wine production complex that operated during the Byzantine Period some 1,500 years ago.

The Israel Antiquities Authority made the announcement on Monday.

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Scientists said the complex, which is believed to have produced almost 530,000 gallons of wine per year, was discovered during an archaeological excavation in Yavne in north-central Israel about 30 miles northwest of Jerusalem.

"Yavne was a world wine powerhouse about 1,500 years ago, a huge and well-designed industrial estate from the Byzantine period, with a very impressive wine production complex," the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement.

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The excavation is part of the Israel Land Authority's initiative to expand Yavne.

The wine factory includes five large wine presses, warehouses for aging and marketing, kilns for firing the clay amphorae to store the wine and thousands of fragments and intact earthen jars.

"We were surprised to discover a sophisticated factory here, which was used to produce wine in commercial quantities," archaeologists and dig directors Elie Haddad, Liat Nadav-Ziv and Jon Seligman said in a joint statement.

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"Decorative niches in the shape of a conch, which adorned the winepresses, indicate the great wealth of the factory owners. A calculation of the production capacity of these winepresses shows that approximately 2 million liters of wine were marketed every year, while we should remember that the whole process was conducted manually."

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Drinking wine was commonplace in the region during the Byzantine Period, particularly due to the lack of clean drinking water. Wine was also used as a "concentrate" to improve the taste of the area's water.

The scientists said that grapes were crushed by bare feet at the site and compartments were made to ferment the wine.

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"Our archaeologists are doing sacred work by exposing unknown chapters of the history of the country while working hard in the heat and cold," Israel Antiquities Authority Director Eli Eskozido said.

Officials said the site will be opened to tours later this week.

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