October 11 (NWN) – Archaeologists in Israel say they have discovered what is believed to have once been the world’s largest wine-making complex, operating during the Byzantine period some 1,500 years ago.
This was announced on Monday by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The complex, which is believed to have produced about 530,000 gallons of wine a year, was discovered during archaeological excavations at Yavne in north-central Israel, about 30 miles northwest of Jerusalem, scientists say.
“Yavne was a world winemaking center some 1,500 years ago, a huge and well-designed industrial area from the Byzantine period with a very impressive wine production complex,” the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement.
The excavation is part of the Israel Land Administration’s initiative to expand Yavne.
The winery includes five large wine presses, warehouses for aging and marketing, clay amphora kilns for storing wine and thousands of fragments and whole clay jugs.
“We were surprised to find a modern factory here that was used to produce wine on an industrial scale,” archaeologists and excavation directors Eli Haddad, Liat Nadav-Ziv and John Seligman said in a joint statement.
“The decorative shell-shaped niches that adorn the wine presses are a testament to the wealth of the factory owners. The calculation of the production capacity of these wine presses shows that about 2 million liters of wine were sold annually, and we must remember that the whole process was carried out by hand. ”
During the Byzantine period, drinking wine was common in this region, especially due to the lack of clean drinking water. Wine was also used as a “concentrate” to enhance the taste of local water.
Scientists said the grapes were crushed with bare feet in place and compartments were made to ferment the wine.
“Our archaeologists are doing sacred work, uncovering unknown chapters of the country’s history, working hard in hot and cold weather,” said Eli Escosido, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Officials said the site will be open for tours later this week.