Archaeologists recently discovered a wine-making factory from the Byzantine era in Southern Israel. They believe it is the largest known complex of its kind from that time period.
The discovery was made by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who had been excavating the Israeli coastal city of Yavne since 2019 as part of the city’s expansion plan.
In an interview with CBN News, archaeologist and Excavation Director Dr. Jon Seligman explained that the area “was one of the major centers of wine growing and wine production for international trade” during the fifth and sixth centuries.
During that time, the industrial facility was known to have produced and marketed over two million quarts of Gazan wine each year. The wine’s name comes from the port it was exported to the Mediterranean basin from.
“This was a white wine, a wine of high quality,” Seligman noted. “It was certainly a prestigious wine. This was a wine that we know was presented during the coronations of Byzantine Kings. Justin the second had wine from this region – what was called Gazan wine – presented at his table during his coronation.”
The recent discovery is one of the largest excavations the IAA has ever carried out.
“This is what is revolutionary in the way that we have not one single wine press somewhere in the field, but we have five wine presses of huge size, for mass production of wine all together in a cluster,” Seligman said.
According to Seligman, wine was usually the drink of choice during that period because the quality of the drinking water was poor.
He also explained the wine-making process, noting that the grapes would first be trodden by foot, causing the juice to flow into a dumping area and filtration pit in order to separate the skins from the juice. The juice would then flow into vats to undergo fermentation for three to four days.
Once fermented, the wine would be collected and stored in jars in the warehouses.
“So the aging would have taken place over a relatively short period in these large warehouses. The wine would have been taken to the port and then exported abroad or drunk here in the various sites around the city,” Seligman said.
The archaeologist added that the site even included kilns, which created the jars.
“They have like a torpedo shape,” he explained. “And that was something that was known to people. Just like, you know, what a cola bottle looks like without having the word cola written on it.”
During that time, Christians, Jews and Samaritans were believed to have lived in the area and vineyards were planted nearby.
Photo courtesy: ©Karsten Wurth/Unsplash
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.