Remains of a winepress, dating to the Byzantine period, were exposed below the removed surface layer (Fig. 1). The winepress, which was survived by a circular collecting vat and sections of a treading floor, was severely damaged when a sewer line was installed and a modern residential building was constructed (Fig. 2).
A treading floor section (L101, L102) consisted of a thick layer of coarsely dressed stones (thickness c. 0.4 m), superposed by another layer of smaller flat and round stones. Gray plaster was applied to the upper layer and served as foundation for different-sized industrial tesserae (small 2.5 × 2.5 cm, large 3.5 × 6.0 cm). Due to the deteriorated condition of the floor no tesserae were in situ, but rather scattered in abundance on the floor and its vicinity.
The collecting vat (L107; bottom diam. 2.7 m; depth 1.55 m; Fig. 3) was to the west of the treading floor, which abutted the wall that enclosed it. The vat was circular and shaped like an inverted truncated cone. Its western side was not preserved and its upper diameter could not be measured. The wall on the eastern side of the vat was excellently preserved (W201; width 0.5 m; height 1.55 m) and on its western side, the wall (W202; up to 0.3 m wide; preserved to max. c. 0.8 m high; Fig. 4) was poorly preserved. The walls, somewhat slanting outward, were built of debesh coated with pink-white plaster that was applied to an intermediate layer of potsherds in secondary use. The foundation trench of W202 (max. width 0.5 m), which was excavated into the hamra soil, could be discerned in the northern section of the excavation.
Next to the demolished wall in the southeastern side of the vat, a pillar of debesh (diam. 0.9 m) protruded c. 0.3 m toward the center. Its function is unknown, although it may have been a step for descending into the collecting vat.
The floor of the vat was paved with a well preserved industrial mosaic, except for a disturbed section and stone collapse near W202 (1.0 × 1.1 m; Fig. 5). The size of the tesserae varied, but on average they were smaller than those of the treading floor. The mosaic was not decorated and the tesserae were set at random, except for two places: along the walls where the floor abutted them, the tesserae were arranged in three rows and around the pillar––in four rows. It indicates that the pillar belonged to the original construction phase of the winepress and the installation of the mosaic.
Severe damage by modern infrastructures precluded the joining of the treading floor to the collecting vat. A connection most probably existed where the modern sewer pipe was laid and damaged the treading floor, W201 and the side of the vat. Once the installation was no longer used, it was filled with debris and refuse.
The finds on the treading floor and in the collecting vat included a few fragments of jars and bowls, dating to the fifth–sixth centuries CE. A few animal bones that could not be identified were found, as well as a raw glass chunk.
The discovery of this winepress supplements our knowledge with regard to industrial production, including the production of wine during antiquity in the Petah Tiqwa region. Similar winepresses were excavated by J. Kaplan and R. Cohen in 1963, at Fajja in Petah Tiqwa. The three winepresses included treading floors and collecting vats paved with tesserae that were arranged in a circular pattern (The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land 2, 1993:444–445). The excavators dated the installations to the Roman period. Other similar and complex winepresses from the region were excavated in Kefar Sirkin and Mazor (Sidi, Amit and ‘Ad, ‘Atiqot 44:253). These two well-reserved winepresses aid in reconstructing the plan of the Mahane Yehuda winepress. Both have a treading floor, recess for the installation of a screw press, semicircular niches and a circular collecting vat. Another very complex winepress, in an excellent state of preservation, was excavated in Petah Tiqwa by S. Gudovitch (unpublished; per. comm.).
The ceramic finds included body fragments and rims of jars, similar to those from Kefar Sirkin, which the excavators dated from the end of the fifth century until the seventh century CE. The rim of a jar that dated to no earlier than the end of the seventh century CE probably represented the last phase when the winepress was used or when it became a refuse pit. During the Byzantine period the wine from the Land of Israel and especially that of the Sharon region was a highly prized commodity that was marketed throughout the Byzantine Empire. With the Arab conquest and the ban on drinking alcoholic beverages, the use of winepresses declined and the wine industry ceased to exist. New studies have shown that the transition occurred in two phases, the first toward the end of the Byzantine period and the second, a short time after the Arab conquest, during the eighth–ninth centuries CE.