In August 2011, a salvage excavation was conducted at the site of El-Qabu in Ashqelon, within the precincts of the Elat–Ashqelon Pipeline compound (Permit No. A-6238; map ref. 155590-600/616248-300; Fig. 1), prior to the construction of a new power plant. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Dorad Company, was directed by Y. Haimi, with the assistance of Y. Al-ʽAmor (administration), S. Gal (surveying and drafting) and I. Lidsky-Reznikov (pottery drawing).
The current excavation exposed a winepress in a poor state of preservation that dated to the Late Roman period. The treading floor (L3, 7 × 9 m; Fig. 2) was partially destroyed and only its foundation, made of kurkar, fieldstones, plaster and pottery sherds, survived (Fig. 3). A layer of natural kurkar was exposed beneath the treading floor. The floor had evidently been damaged by mechanical equipment during the course of development work. Northwest of the treading floor were remains of a wall (W105, length 2 m) that may have been part of a compartment used to store grapes prior to pressing. In all likelihood, there were other compartments around the treading floor that were not preserved. In the center of the treading floor was the winepress pit (L6, diam. 1 m), from which a channel (length 2.5 m, width 0.25 m; Fig. 4) issued, and conveyed the must to large (L10; 1.65 × 1.65, depth 0.75) and small (1.1 × 1.5 m, depth 0.16 m; Fig. 5) collecting vats. Eight layers of plaster on the walls of the collecting vats revealed the many repairs made to the installation and attested to their long use. Settling pits (diam. 0.75, depth in large vat 1 m; diam. 0.4 m, depth in small vat 0.28 m) were located in the center of the collecting vats. A channel for the excess must that flowed from the large collecting vat to the settling pit was exposed in the wall that separated the two collecting vats.
A structure (tomb? L8, 1.35 × 2.60 m, depth 1.3 m, wall thickness 0.3 m; Fig. 6) was exposed below the treading floor, in the southeastern part of the winepress. It was built of fieldstones and mud bricks.
The pottery assemblage was mainly found inside the collecting vats, without any clear stratigraphic context. It provides a general indication of the settlement periods at the site. The ceramics range in date from the Roman to the Byzantine periods and include an imported terra sigillata bowl (Fig. 7:1) from the first century CE, a bowl (Fig. 7:2) from the late first–second centuries CE, and a cooking jug (Fig. 7:3) and a flask (Fig. 7:4) from the Late Roman period and a juglet (Fig. 7:5) from the Byzantine period. The ceramic artifacts show that the winepress operated during the Roman and Byzantine periods.
The winepress joins the array of Late Roman industrial wine-making installations in the settlement at El-Qabu, known from previous excavations at the site.
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