In April 2014, a trial excavation was conducted in the northern part of Horbat Bab al-Hawa, along the planned route of a water pipeline (Permit No. A-7068; map ref. 272450–950/783500–50). The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Mekorot Company, was directed by R. Assis (photography), with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration), R. Mishayev and R. Liran (surveying), O. Zingboym and Y. Har’el (trial trenches), H. Bron (area preparation), H. Tahan-Rosen (pottery drawing), Y. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory) and laborers from Buq‘ata.
In the current excavation, one square (25 sq m) was opened on the northern edge of the site, and remains of a winepress were discovered. These included a poorly preserved industrial mosaic floor, a wall, and the stone base of a screw-press. The wine press operated from the Late Roman period to the Byzantine period. When it went out of use, a plastered installation was built within its boundaries. The entire excavation area was overlain with collapsed stones (L102).
Remains of two strata were identified.
Stratum 2. This stratum dates to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods (fourth–seventh centuries CE). A treading floor of a winepress (L107) paved with a white industrial mosaic and a screw-press stone (Fig. 2) were exposed. The mosaic floor had a leveled bedding of fieldstones (average size 5 × 7 × 8 cm), covered by a thin layer of soil (thickness c. 3 cm), and above it plaster (thickness 1–2 cm). The tesserae were laid on the plaster. The treading floor was bordered on the north by a wall constructed of fieldstones (W1; Fig. 3). A square, flat stone, with a recess hewn in it was discovered in the southern corner of the excavation area. The recess housed the wooden base for the screw-press (Fig. 4), and its rectangular outline kept the base from turning as the screw was tightened. The direct pressure caused by the linear movement of the screw, rather than its rotary motion, extracted the juice from the grapes. The screw in this type of installation was mounted in the center of the treading floor, and its position therefore indicates that only the northern quarter of the treading floor was excavated, and most of it remained outside the boundaries of the excavation. The treading floor was very badly preserved. Stones collapsed on it when it was still exposed, causing depressions in the mosaic surface, and nearly destroying it completely. The badly distorted pavement was found directly beneath the collapsed stones (Fig. 5).
Fragments of pottery characteristic of the Ituraean culture were found above the mosaic floor and in a probe that was dug below it. They included Golan pithoi (Fig. 6:3–6) and jars (Fig. 6:7). The precise date of the wine press could not be determined, although a base-fragment of a Golan pithos was found in the floor bedding (L106; Fig. 6:6), because this type was in use from the Early Roman period (second–fourth centuries CE) to the end of the Byzantine period (seventh century CE). The period in which the winepress operated was determined by comparison with winepresses in the Galilee where similar screw-presses were used. The type came into use in this area only in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, and was usually associated with large-scale wine production (Alexandre and Gould 2011). Thus the winepress uncovered at Bab al-Hawa was presumably built, and operated, between the second and seventh centuries CE, probably toward the end of this period in the fifth–seventh centuries CE.
Stratum 1. The stratum dates to the end of the Byzantine period (late sixth–seventh centuries CE). Traces of a plaster floor and a plastered installation (L105; Fig. 7) were identified above the mosaic pavement. The installation, which was built on the treading floor and put it out of use, was adjacent to W1. It was built of neatly arranged fieldstones (the original structure survived only at the point of contact with W1), which were coated with white plaster mixed with pieces of charcoal and pottery sherds. The installation was dated to the end of the Byzantine period on the basis of the pottery.
Fragments of two bowls from the Mamluk period (Fig 6:1, 2) were found above and between the collapsed stones (L102).
A complex which was associated with a winepress was exposed and documented. It was apparently operated by residents of Ituraean or Ghassanid origin in the fourth–seventh centuries CE. Toward the end of the Byzantine period (seventh century CE) the winepress was no longer in use, and an installation, whose purpose is unclear, was constructed above it. The winepress reflects the agricultural character of the settlement, and the introduction of wine-production methods from the Galilee and the southern Golan Heights. This type of winepress with a screw-press is rare in the northern Golan, because the hard, cracked basalt stone is more suitable for building winepresses than for hewing them. The solution devised by the builders of winepresses in the northern Golan, was to construct limestone treading floors and to pave them with a standard industrial mosaic pavement—such as the one that was exposed in the excavation—or alternatively with bigger stones. They surrounded the treading floors with walls that were probably designed to prevent the surface from crumbling from its edges inward. All the stones that were used to construct the screw-press were in secondary use in later buildings (Hartal 2013). A similar treading floor, built of large of limestone with a screw in its center, is known from the site at Sumaqa in the northern Golan, several kilometers west of Bab al-Hawa, but there the installation dates to the Mamluk period, and was used for producing grape-honey (Tsioni 2010:222–244).
The excavation area was located in the eastern part of the settlement of Bab al-Hawa, c. 150 m from its center, and was presumably located near agricultural areas (similar to the situation today). The site was abandoned in the Byzantine period and was reoccupied in the Mamluk period. Evidence for this later occupation comes from the fragments of Mamluk bowls that were discovered in the stone-collapse, and from previous surveys, which identified a late Mamluk settlement in the eastern part of the site (Hartal 1989:98–99).
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Tsioni G. 2010. A Mameluke Grape-Honey Treading Installation in the Golan Heights, Israel. IEJ 60:222–244.