Israel winery: 1,500-year-old Byzantine wine complex found

Image source, ReutersImage caption, 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.

Image source, ReutersImage caption, 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.

  • Fancy a 13,000-year-old beer, anyone?

Image source, ReutersImage caption, The site is spread over a square kilometre

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.

Image source, ReutersImage caption, Decorative niches in the shape of a conch indicate that the factory owners were very wealthyImage source, ReutersImage caption, Tens of thousands of fragments have been found at the site

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