Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered the largest complex of Byzantine winepresses ever found. The industrial estate, where around 2 million litres of wine were produced every year, was recently unearthed in the city of Yavne and dated to c.1,500 years ago.
The excavation, conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, discovered five large winepresses, four warehouses where the wine was aged, and several kilns used to fire the clay amphorae known as ‘Gaza jars’ in which the wine was stored, as well as surviving examples of these clay jars and thousands of pottery fragments.
At its height the factory was producing wine in large commercial quantities and exporting it across the whole of the Mediterranean. This ‘Gaza and Ashkelon Wine’, named after the ports through which it was exported, was hugely popular in the ancient world, and the discovery of what is thought to have been the main production centre of this prestigious product is an exciting development.
Excavations at the site also revealed older winepresses dating to c.2,300 years ago, suggesting that the tradition of wine production in the area dates back to centuries earlier.