Byzantine olive press found in Israel

Aug. 8, 2008 at 2:37 PM
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AKKO, Israel, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- An ancient olive press dating from the Byzantine period was found at an archeological dig in the Western Galilee area of northern Israel, excavators said.

Remains of the elaborate press, which archeologists said dates from the sixth or seventh century, are adorned with a geometric decoration and an inscription in mosaic that hasn't been deciphered, said Michael Cohen, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority excavation.

The press was destroyed in a fire in the 600s, Cohen said.

"A mighty conflagration occurred in the olive press in the seventh century CE," he told Israel National News. "Remains of the blaze, which are quite evident on the walls of the building, destroyed the structure and negated the installation's use."

Based on other artifacts found nearby, the press -- which had a capacity of more than 5,000 gallons -- appears to have been situated in a monastery now in ruins, Cohen said.

The other artifacts include stem lamps, an imported plate with a figure carrying a child carved in its base and a bronze chain used to suspend a lamp, Israel National News reported.

The press' elaborate construction and the inscription's rare quality suggest the press wasn't built at the initiative of a local individual, he said.

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