Boutique Wine for Byzantines: 1,600-year-old Wine Press Discovered in the Negev Desert

Ancient Origins | 7/26/2017 | Staff
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The Times of Israel reports that a 1,600-year-old wine press has been discovered in a vast Byzantine building along the incense trade route in the southern Negev desert in Israel. Experts suggest that the Byzantine-era wine press is truly unique.

In the millennium that the Byzantine Empire lasted, a great civilization was developed, that maintained among many other things, the great tradition of grape vine growing and winemaking of the ancient Greek civilization. Throughout this period the winemaking practices have evolved and the Greek wine has continued to hold an important commercial and social role. The Byzantines appreciated particularly Negev wines, which were seen as boutique wines and were highly esteemed. Now, a glimpse into their making is possible as The Times of Israel reported .

Maintenance - Work - Ramat - Negev - Regional

During maintenance work near the Ramat Negev Regional Council, a team of Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists uncovered a vast Byzantine-era building dating to the fourth century AD, inside of which were found the remains of a wine press. What makes the new find really rare is that only one other press of this type has been found before in the Negev region. Director of the development project in the area, Dr. Tali Gini told The Times of Israel , “The southern Negev is known as an agricultural region which grew grapes for wine that was exported to the far reaches of the Byzantine Empire.”

The pit into which the runoff juice was collected is about two meters deep with a diameter of 2.5 meters, meaning it could hold around 6,500 liters of wine. The sheer scale of the production suggests that the press was most likely connected to a local Byzantine army unit and possibly supplied their wine ration or the winery was producing a lot of wine for export.

Time

This is not the first time that a...
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