The winepress
The winepress (Figs. 2, 3) is of the ‘four-rectangular plan’ described by Frankel (1999:149). It consists of a treading floor (L105, L115; 25.5 sq m), a settling vat (L103; c. 1.5 cu m), a collecting vat (L122; c. 6 cu m) and a room (L101, L106, L147; c. 18 sq m) to the northwest of the treading floor; the exact size of the intermediate vat and the collecting vat could not be determined because of their proximity to a modern road. The room most likely served as a store room for the grapes prior to treading. The treading floor and the floor in the room were constructed of a layer of small fieldstones, overlaid by a second layer of fieldstones coated with plaster. Pottery sherds arranged in a geometric pattern were embedded in the plastered floor near the southwestern wall of the treading floor (W109), over which a final layer of plaster was placed (L146). The treading floor slopes to the southeast; this allowed the must to flow into the settling vat through a lead pipe, and from there into the collecting vat by way of a ceramic pipe. A depression (L126) in the floor of the collecting vat exhibits at least two phases: an earlier phase with a mosaic floor made of white industrial tesserae, and a later phase, when the mosaic floorwas covered with plaster (Fig. 4). The outline of a large, round installation (L145; diam. c. 1.2 m), possibly for holding a stone that anchored a press screw, was detected in the middle of the treading floor; the stone was not preserved.
The winepress complex (65–70 sq m) was enclosed within a wall, which was partly preserved (W107). The collapsed remains of additional walls (L124), partly coated with plaster, were revealed to the west of the winepress; their date could not be determined, as no floors or living surfaces were found in this area.
The Finds
Finds from the winepress complex include pottery sherds from the Roman and Byzantine periods, a bronze bell, and coins from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods.
Ceramic Finds. Several sherds date from the Roman period (late first–third centuries CE). These include a bowl with a molded rim probably produced in the Jerusalem area (Fig. 5:1); a base of an imported Eastern Sigillata A jug (Fig. 5:2); an amphora rim (Fig 5:3) of a type dated at Tel Ashqelon to the second–third centuries CE (Johnson 2008:151, No. 434); and a knobbed base of a third-century CE amphora (Fig. 5:4; Zemer 1978: No. 41). Also found were at least three imported African red-slipped bowls (Fig. 5:5) corresponding to Hayes’ Form 67, a form dating from the beginning of the fifth century CE (Hayes 1972: Fig. 19:6); the upper part of a cooking-ware jug (Fig. 5:6); the rim of a Gaza wine jar (Fig. 5:7) from the fourth–early fifth centuries; as well as parts of Beit Nattif lamps (Fig. 5:8, 9).
Byzantine-period ceramic finds include a worn-out rim of an imported fine ware LRC bowl from the middle of the Byzantine period (fifth–mid-sixth centuries CE; Fig. 6:1); fragments of Gaza wine jars dated to the fifth–sixth centuries CE (Fig. 6:2; Majcherek 1995:167–168, Pl. 5, Form 3)—which made up the balk of the sherds uncovered in the excavation—that were apparently used for storing and transporting wine produced at the site; and part of the base of a wheel-made sandal lamp (Fig. 6:3), which may have been produced in this or the succeeding phase of the Byzantine period.
A smaller number of sherds date from the late Byzantine period (mid-sixth–mid-seventh centuries CE). These include a heavy basin with an incised wavy decoration (Fig. 6:4) and the latest form of a Gaza wine jar (Fig. 6:5).
Bronze bell. This small dome-shaped bronze bell (height 0.9 cm, diam. 2.1 cm; Fig. 7) was most likely part of a piece of jewelry—hung from a bracelet or a necklace. Bronze bells dating from the Roman–Byzantine periods are found throughout the country.
Coins. Fifty-five coins were uncovered; of these, twenty-two were identified (see Appendix). The majority date from the late fourth–early fifth centuries CE and were found mainly in the area of the winepress treading floor (L102, L105, L106, L115). Like some of the ceramic finds, a few coins found outside the winepress pre-date the Byzantine period: a Ptolemaic coin, dated to the end of the second century BCE (No. 1; Fig. 8), and two coins (Nos. 2, 3) dated to the Early Roman period.
The coins found in the plaster in the walls of the winepress as well as the structure’s plan suggest a construction date in the fifth century CE. The installation apparently reached peak production during the middle of the Byzantine period (fifth and first half of sixth centuries CE). Several wall remains have no apparent stratigraphic context. However, the presence of earlier coins and pottery sherds suggest early activity in this location, in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.