On Monday, Israeli archaeologists discovered a Byzantine-era, industrial-scale wine complex that produced approximately two million litres of the beverage annually and was the world’s “largest” such centre at the time.
The facility in Yavne, south of Tel Aviv, which was a Jewish settlement during biblical times and a key city following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, is made up of five wine presses spread across a square kilometre (0.4 sq mile).
The 1,500-year-old site hides warehouses for ageing and marketing the wine, kilns to prepare the clay amphorae used to store the wine and “tens of thousands of fragments and intact earthen jars”, the Israel Antiquities Authority said of the “sophisticated” site.
According to IAA excavators Elie Hadad, Liat Nadav-Ziv, and Jon Seligman, the Holy Land wine was a prized product and was known as “Gaza and Ashkelon wine” due to the nearby ports from which it was exported.
In antiquity, fermenting grape juice into wine was a tried and true method of avoiding illness from contaminated drinking water. The two-year dig uncovered Persian-era wine presses that were 2,300 years old at the same location.