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Archaeologists Discover Ancient Winemaking Complex


Fifteen miles south of Tel Aviv at Yavne, the most massive, sprawling winemaking complex of the Byzantine era has been uncovered by Israeli Archaeologists. The enormous find is 1,500 years old and covers an astonishing 75,000 square feet. There are five wine presses as well as warehouses. At its peak, this was the largest winery on the planet. With 1,500-year-old methods like barefoot pressed grapes, and clay storage vessels, it’s amazing to imagine that merchants carried some two million liters of this light white wine to drinkers from Gaul, Naples and Rome to Carthage, Alexandria, and Athens.

“We were surprised to discover a sophisticated factory here, which was used to produce wine in commercial quantities,” stated the directors of the excavation, led by the Israel Antiquities Authority. “At the same time, we should remember that the whole process was conducted manually.”

The Legendary Winemaking of Gaza & Ashkelon

The Jerusalem Post revealed that “The factory was used to produce the legendary regional wine, known as Gaza or Ashkelon wine after the ports from where it was exported all over the Mediterranean. It included five impressive wine presses, large treading floors where the grapes were crushed, two huge octagonal vats, storage rooms and kilns to produce jars to conserve the wine.”

“[The wine] was taken to many, many countries around the Mediterranean,” explained Jon Seligman, of the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) one of the leaders of the excavation. “We’re talking Egypt, we’re talking Turkey, Greece, maybe to southern Italy as well.” according to AllThatsIntersting.

The Mishna or the Old Torah, the Jewish holy book even mentions a vineyard in Yavne.

The archeologists explained.“In the Mishna it is said that after the destruction of Jerusalem [which the Romans destroyed in 70 AD], the Jewish leadership migrated to Yavne, and that the sages of Yavne lived in a vineyard and studied Torah,”

“This was a prestige wine, a light white wine, and it was taken to many, many countries around the Mediterranean,” Seligman told reporters,

Other archaeologists at the site explained, “Gaza and Ashkelon Wine was considered a quality wine brand of the ancient world, whose reputation has spread far and wide, a bit like Jaffa oranges denote their origin and quality today from Israel,”

Below the larger Yavne winemaking complex, a much older winepress from 2,300 years ago, during the Persian period was uncovered.

For context, this would be like people in the year 3500 musing over the ancient ruins of the Holyrood distillery in Edinburgh, the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg, TN or carefully unearthing the Grand Cru vineyard in the Côte de Nuits subregion of Burgundy, France. It’s an amazing glimpse into a distant era of the past, and we can all hope that scientists may unlock the secrets of the ancient winemaking methods used at the site and someday allow us to taste Ashkelon wine again as the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, and Israelis of the old world did.

What do you think?

Written by Staff Editor

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