Huge olive press from the 6th century uncovered in Galilee

Site may have been in Byzantine monastery or a large farm.

olive press 224.88 (photo credit: Antiquities Authority)
olive press 224.88
(photo credit: Antiquities Authority)
An olive press from the sixth or seventh century CE - one of the largest ever found in the Land of Israel - has been uncovered during an archeological excavation in the Western Galilee, the Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday. The "impressive and unique" complex for producing oil, which was found in Moshav Ahihud ahead of a building expansion, is believed to be situated inside a Byzantine monastery that was destroyed by a huge fire 1,400 years ago, the state-run archeological body said. The blaze, evidence of which are still evident on the walls of the building, destroyed the structure and ruined the installation's usefulness, but actually "preserved" many of the details of the olive press, said Michael Cohen, the excavation director. During the month-long dig, two oil storage containers were uncovered. The containers, which were paved with mosaic floors and treated with plaster, have a combined capacity of approximately 20,000 liters. Among the artifacts unearthed during the excavations are numerous remains of roof tiles, a marble colonnette, two fragments of a marble chancel screen, stem lamps, an imported plate with a figure carrying a child carved in its base and a bronze chain used to suspend a lamp - items indicating that a church stood nearby. "The formidable and rare olive press and the inscription on the mosaic floor suggest that the complex was not built at the initiative of a local individual," Cohen said. The location of the site, nine kilometers east of Acre, suggests that this was an agricultural production center that served the farming hinterland of the principal city of Acre/Ptolemais, he said. The site, which was occupied throughout the early Islamic period, is located near smaller olive and wine presses previously found. The olive press just unearthed may now be turned into a local tourist site.