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Large Roman winery, baths exposed in Jerusalem

Unexpected finds more than 1,600 years old were uncovered during archaeological excavations financed by the Merom Yerushalayim Company, which the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in Schneller Compound prior to the construction of residential buildings for Jerusalem's ultra-orthodox population.

Large Roman winery, baths exposed in Jersusalem
An ancient rural estate comprising a manor house, large wine press, Roman bathhouse
 and Jewish Mikye, or ritual bath, has been unearthed in Jerusalem beneath 
a famous orphanage [Credit: IAA]
Schneller Orphanage operated in Jerusalem from 1860 until the Second World War. During the British Mandate, its German inhabitants were expelled and a military base was established there. After the British withdrawal in 1948 the compound was turned over to the Hagana and later served as an army base used by the Israel Defense Force until 2008.

Interesting and assorted finds from Jerusalem's past were discovered in the archaeological excavation, most notably a large and impressive winery dating to the Roman or Byzantine period, some 1,600 years ago.

Large Roman winery, baths exposed in Jersusalem
Alex Wiegmann, excavation director, views winepress uncovered 
in Schneller Compound [Credit: IAA]
Large Roman winery, baths exposed in Jersusalem
The buildings and pottery found at the site are some 1,600 years old and have 
been dated to the Roman or Byzantine period. This image shows some 
of the mosaic tiles that were on the wine press [Credit: IAA]
The complex installation includes a pressing surface paved with a white mosaic. In the center of it is a pit in which a press screw was anchored that aided in extracting the maximum amount of must from the grapes.

Eight cells were installed around the pressing surface. These were used for storing the grapes, and possibly also for blending the must with other ingredients thereby producing different flavors of wine.

Large Roman winery, baths exposed in Jersusalem
The ruins were discovered by archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority
 who were excavating the site of the Schneller Orphanage ahead of the 
construction of flats [Credit: IAA]
Large Roman winery, baths exposed in Jersusalem
Terra cotta pipes indicate the existence of an ancient bathhouse 
[Credit: IAA]
The archaeologists believe that this winery served the residents of a large manor house whose inhabitants made their living by, among other things, viticulture and wine production.

Evidence was unearthed next to the impressive winepress which indicates the presence of a bathhouse there.

Large Roman winery, baths exposed in Jersusalem
In the centre of the wine press is a pit in which a press screw was anchored that
 aided in extracting the maximum amount of juice, or must, from the grapes 
[Credit: IAA]
Large Roman winery, baths exposed in Jersusalem
Numerous ancient pottery shards and fragments of glassware that were found inside
 a plastered pit exposed at the site, indicating the possibility that a workshop
 operated there which used the ancient pit for discarding waste 
[Credit: IAA]
These finds included terra cotta pipes used to heat the bathhouse and several clay bricks, some of which were stamped with the name of the Tenth Roman Legion. This legion was one of four Roman legions that participated in the conquest of Jewish Jerusalem, and its units remained garrisoned in the city until c. 300 CE.

Among the Roman legion's main centers was the one in the vicinity of Binyanei Ha-Uma, located just c. 800 meters from the current excavation, where a large pottery and brick production center was situated.

Large Roman winery, baths exposed in Jersusalem
Some bricks are stamped with the name of the Tenth Roman Legion, suggesting 
soldiers were garrisoned there, having played a role in the conquest of 
Jewish Jerusalem in 70AD [Credit: IAA]
Large Roman winery, baths exposed in Jersusalem
A picture of some of the pottery recovered at the site 
[Credit: IAA]
The archaeologists suggest that the Schneller site, in the form of a manor house, constituted an auxiliary settlement to the main site that was previously exposed at Binyanei Ha-Uma. As was customary in the Roman world, here too in the Schneller Compound, a private bathhouse was incorporated in the plan of the estate.

The current archeological exposure is actually a continuation of the salvage excavations that were carried out at the site half a year ago when evidence was uncovered there of a Jewish settlement that dated to the Late Second Temple period.

According to archaeologist Alex Wiegmann, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "Once again, Jerusalem demonstrates that wherever one turns over a stone ancient artifacts will be found related to the city's glorious past. The archaeological finds discovered here help paint a living, vibrant and dynamic picture of Jerusalem as it was in ancient times up until the modern era."

According to Amit Re'em, the Jerusalem district archaeologist, "This is an excellent example of many years of cooperation and deep and close ties with the Haredi community. The general public is used to hearing of the clashes between the archaeologists and the orthodox community around the issue of the graves, but is unaware of the joint work done on a daily basis and the interest expressed by the ultra-orthodox sector. The Israel Antiquities Authority is working to instill our ancient cultural heritage in this population, as it does with other sectors."

Source: Israel Antiquities Authority [March 02, 2016]

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