A 1,500-year-old Byzantine wine complex found in Israel

Excavations at the site
The size of the find was unexpected for archaeologists

A 1,500-year-old wine-making complex, said to have been the world’s largest at the time, has been discovered in Israel, archaeologists say.

Five presses were unearthed at the huge Byzantine-era winery at Yavne, south of Tel Aviv, which is estimated to have produced two million litres a year.

After a sophisticated production process it was exported around the Mediterranean.

Those working at the site said they were surprised by its size.

There are plans to make the complex a visitor attraction once preservation work is completed.

Archaeologist carries Gaza Jar at the site
The wine was aged in clay jars known as Gaza Jars, many of which were found intact at the site

The site contains five wine presses spread over a square kilometre (0.4 sq miles), warehouses for aging and bottling the wine, and kilns for firing the jars used for storing it.

The end product was known as Gaza and Ashkelon wine, after the ports through which it was exported to Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor.

Excavation site at Yavne
The site is spread over a square kilometers

It had a reputation for quality throughout the Mediterranean region, but at that time wine was also a staple for many.

“This was a major source of nutrition and this was a safe drink because the water was often contaminated,” said Jon Seligman, one of the excavation’s directors.

Excavations site at Yavne
Decorative niches in the shape of a conch indicate that the factory owners were very wealthy
Fragments of pots found at the Yavne site
Tens of thousands of fragments have been found at the site

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