An archaeological survey by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in preparation for the construction of a new elementary school in the city of Ashkelon has revealed a 2,100-year-old wine press dating back to the Hellenistic Period.
Alongside the wine press, which is the oldest one ever found in the area, excavations uncovered the remains of a large building. The findings appear to indicate that a large farm existed and operated there during the late Hellenistic Period.
The square wine press consists of a flat surface where people trampled wine grapes with their bare feet to extract the juice, a pit used to separate the grape skins from the grape juice, and a collecting vat into which the filtered grape juice was piped. All sections of the press were covered with a thick layer of white plaster mixed with seashells to prevent the liquid from leaking out.
Ilan Peretz, the excavation’s director, explained that the building discovered next to the wine press appears to have been used for storing wine jugs and for housing workers.
“Although we knew that there had been extensive agricultural activity, especially wine production, in the area during Roman and Byzantine times, we are now seeing evidence that the farming activity began much earlier than that,” Peretz said.
The IAA and Ashkelon authorities intend to preserve the wine press in the yard of the school and to have children take part in the preservation efforts.