Before Islam was rooted in the Middle East the Holy Land and Mohammad forbid alcohol to its followers, Israel was home to all sorts of pagans, then Jews, then Christians. In Christian and Jewish rights and rituals –– then and now –– wine is used for consecrations purposes: for Christians during the mass to turn the body of Jesus into blood; and for Jews who mark the Sabbath and high Holy Days with a glass of wine shared by all at the table.
So people back then, as it is now, needed vineyards and wineries to produce the wine.
Israeli archeologists are happy to annound unearthing the largest winery from the period of about 1500 years ago. Through this finding, near Yavne, Israelis celebrate how wine was made, and explore its history from an archoelogy site that produced a kind of white wine called Gaza that was most likely consumed locally and shipped south to Egypt and north to Greece.
Yavne was an important historical site for Jewish scholars. The site was more sophisticated than archeologists would have expected. Remember when we wrote about Elusa? This was one of the rare sites to have revealed its name at the site where it exported wine from Israel.
The Yavne dig is so special due to its size and the amount of wine they could process every year.
“We found decorative niches in the shape of a conch, which adorned the winepresses, indicate the great wealth of the factory owners. A calculation of the production capacity of these winepresses shows that approximately two million litres of wine were marketed every year, while we should remember that the whole process was conducted manually,” commented Elie Haddad, Liat Nadav-Ziv and Jon Seligman, the directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
When kids drank wine
The plant includes five magnificent wine presses, warehouses for aging and marketing the wine, kilns for firing the clay amphorae in which the wine was stored, tens of thousands of fragments and intact earthen amphorae (jars), well planned access between the facilities, and more.
Drinking wine was very common in ancient times, for children and adults alike. Since the water was not always sterile and or even tasty, wine was also used as a kind of “concentrate” to improve the taste, or as a substitute for drinking water.
Each of the exposed winepresses covered an area of about 225 square metres. Around the treading floor, where the grapes were crushed barefoot to extract the liquid, compartments were built for fermenting the wine, and next to them – two huge octagonal shaped vats for collecting the wine.
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