Byzantine wine press uncovered at Zippori National Park

According to researchers, after the ancient water reservoir went out of use it was adapted to become a wine press.

June 10, 2018 18:28
2 minute read.
Byzantine wine press uncovered at Zippori National Park

A Byzantine wine press discovered in Zippori in Northern Israel. (photo credit: ISRAEL NATURE AND PARKS AUTHORITY)


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Excavators have discovered an ancient wine press from the Byzantine period at the Tzipori National Park in northern Israel, the Nature and Parks Authority announced Sunday.

The wine press was found inside a covered water reservoir, which the authority described as “rare and unusual,” the first time in Israel that a wine press has been found inside a water arched, inactive reservoir.

According to the researchers, after the ancient reservoir was no longer in use, probably during the 4th century CE, it was later adapted to become a wine press with additional construction and quarrying.

The treading floor of the wine press is 3.2 square meters and is hewn in the bedrock. Most of the quarrying was done when the reservoir was originally installed, according to archaeologists. The collecting vat of the wine press is 1.5 × 1.7 meters, with a depth of 2.15 meters, having four tall steps descending to the bottom.

A smaller wine press or temporary storage compartment for the grapes measuring 1.7 × 1.9 meters was found next to the large wine press, with a small elliptical pit measuring 0.6-0.7 meters and having a depth of 0.5 meters.

Wine production in Israel flourished during the Byzantine period (4th-15th CE) due to a great demand for it by Jews, Christians and Samaritans, the authority noted, adding that the population during this period peaked. Some of the wine was also exported.

The wine press was discovered during excavations that have been underway since 2002 for the tourism development of the Zippori National Park as well as to further scientific research of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

The work is led by Dr. Zvika Tzuk, Director of the Archaeology Department of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, together with Dr. Yossi Bordowitz and Dr. Dror Ben-Yosef, in cooperation with and partially funded by Prof. Jim Parker, Vice President of the Baptist Theological Seminary.

It is under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Tzuk remarked that the wine press was found in the larger of two reservoirs at the park, between two arches, “which are part of the impressive water system at the site, including long aqueducts that provided water to the ancient city of Tzipori.

The area of the large reservoir in which the wine press was found is 5 x 9 meters, its depth is 3.5 meters, and its ceiling rests on five arches.”

Tzuk added that “the plaster that overlaid the walls and arches of the two reservoirs is white plaster on top of gray mortar, indicating that they were hewn and built in the first century or the beginning of the second century CE, and are believed to have served as the water pool of ancient Tzipori.”

He concluded that, “with the completion of the excavations, visitors to the Tzipori National Park can be impressed by the beauty and strength of the ancient water reservoirs, including the ancient wine press that was discovered.”

Upon completion of the excavation, the Nature and Parks Authority intends to reconstruct part of the arches and roof.

During the excavations, workers and staff of the authority succeeded in relocating an ancient carob tree that had grown in the reservoir and was estimated to be 100 years old. In a complex operation, with the help of a backhoe and a crane, the tree was successfully moved to the other side of the entrance of the national park next to the olive trees.

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