During June 2011, a winepress was documented at Horbat Pezaza (map ref. 186542/614306), in the wake of an antiquities looting. The documentation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was carried out by A. Ganor (surveying and drafting) and A. Klein (field photography).
Vandals dug cleaned and exposed most of the winepress, which is located c. 30 m from Nahal Pol, where a moderate spur turns south descending toward the nahal channel. The ancient settlement of Horbat Pezaza, where architectural remains, caves and installations dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods, is located at the top of the spur c. 300 m north of the winepress. The site had only been surveyed in the past (Y. Dagan, Map of Gat , unpublished) and has been plundered by antiquities robbers.
A rock-hewn installation covered with alluvium was identified 10 m northeast of the winepress. Another rock-hewn winepress that consisted of a treading floor and collecting vat (2.5×2.5 m) was identified c. 20 northwest of the winepress.
The quarrying of the winepress (c. 7×9 m; Fig. 1), hewn in the nari bedrock and aligned northwest-southeast, was smooth, meticulous and its precise dimensions were clearly evident. The winepress consisted of a treading floor, a filtration pit and a collecting vat (Fig. 2). The treading floor was an exact square (4.5×4.5 m, depth 0.4 m), with a slight inclination toward the southeast (Fig. 1: Section 2-2). Remains of plaster were noted on its walls and it was evident that the walls were originally plastered. A bedding of a mosaic on the treading floor was constructed on top of the hewn bedrock that had been quarried smooth. A section of what was probably an industrial mosaic of white tesserae (c. 3 cm) was preserved in situ in the northeastern corner. A sloping channel (diam. c. 0.3 m) that connected the treading floor to the filtration pit was hewn in the southeastern corner of the treading floor (depth 0.4 m). The end of the channel, on the eastern side of the filtration pit, was made thicker by quarrying and the outlet of the channel was enclosed within a thickened frame (height 0.04 m, thickness 0.1 m; Fig. 3).
The filtration pit was square (1.3×1.3 m, depth 0.7 m). Stepped surfaces were hewn on three sides (Fig. 1: Section 1-1) and its walls were coated with light colored plaster, without potsherds. The plaster was impressed with a combed decoration of triangles in a running-wave pattern (Fig. 4). The floor of the pit was composed of white tesserae (c. 1.5×1.5 cm).
The collecting vat was square (1.95×1.95, depth 1.2 m). Stepped rock surfaces were hewn in the north (0.5×2.3 m) and northeast (0.50×1.95 m) of the pit. Light-colored plaster was applied to its sides. Plaster and small stones were used to repair a spot where the bedrock had been damaged. The floor of the collecting vat was composed of white mosaic. A conical pit (upper diam. 0.75 m, base diam. 0.15 m, depth from the surface 1.7 m; Fig. 5) in its center was paved with a mosaic. Its opening was adorned with a circular frame and it probably served as a sump. In the northern side of the pit were two hewn channels (length 0.3 m, diam. 0.1 m), one above the other, which connected the filtration pit to the collecting vat and allowed the must to flow.
The winepress was designed to produce must and wine, similar to hundreds of winepresses from sites dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods in the Judean Shephelah. Potsherds and several fragments of glass vessels characteristic of the Byzantine period were found on the surface and in the debris, which had been accumulated by the robbers. No potsherds or fragments of glass vessels were found in situ. The builders of the winepress adhered to high quality workmanship as evident by the precise dimensions of the winepress’ components, the quality of the mosaic, the decoration of the filtration pit’s walls and the impressive frame around the channel’s outlet that conveyed the liquid from the treading floor to the filtration pit. The absence of a screw and press installation is conspicuous. Based on the plan of the winepress and the nature of the mosaic, the installation should probably be dated to the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods, and it seems that the winepress and the other rock-hewn installations that were not documented were used by the adjacent settlement at Horbat Pezaza during these periods (Fig. 6).