Byzantine winepress, unique lantern unearthed in dig

Remains of a Byzantine settlement with an impressive wine press were recently excavated on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority near Hamei Yo'av.

Byzantine winepress, unique lantern unearthed in dig
An Israeli antiquities authority archaeologist is seen at a wine press dating back to the Byzantine era
near the kibbutz of Sde Yoav, near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon
[Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority]
According to Dr. Rina Avner, the excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority,, "The wine press exceeded 100 square meters in area. It consisted of a large treading floor sarounded by six compartments that situated north and east of the treading floor. These compartments were used for fermenting grapesupon their arrival from the vineyards, allowing to produce high quality of wine. The treading floor slopes westward thus, causing the juice to flow westward through and into a setling vat. The juice flow from the treading floor through a led pipe to the setling vat, where the wastes and dirt sank. Two additional led pipes connected the setling vat with two collecting vats. The three vats situated in a row alongthe wetern wall of the treading floor. At the center of the treading floor we found the cavity of a screw that enabled to press the grape waste from the compartments and to produce viniger and low quality wine, mentioned in Rabbinic sources as "paupers' wine".

The owner of the wine press was probably a Christian, because near it we found a ceramic lantern decorated by five crosses. The lantern was designed as a miniature church building, with an oval opening on one side that enabled to insert an oil lamp. 

Byzantine winepress, unique lantern unearthed in dig
A ceramic lantern shaped like a miniature church, unearthed at Hamei Yoav in southern Israel
[Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority]
The other sides of the lantern were decorated by geometric impressions creating a design of palm branches. The crosses were carved in the walls of the lantern, so when the lantern was lit in a small room glowing crosses were projected on the walls and the cieling.

Sa'ar Ganor, the Ashkelon district archaeologist of the Israel antiquities Authority pointed-out that "the wine press at Hamei Yoav and three similar wine presses are .located along the ancient road leading from Beth Guvrin to ancient Ashkelon and its port, thus, fascilitating the transportation and exportation of the wine to Ashkelon and from the port of Ashkelon to Europe and North Africa. The wine press will undergo conservation and will be incorporated into the modern complex of the garden event, near the spa of Hamei Yo'av."

Source: Israel Antiquities Authority [April 05, 2013]

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