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DIGGING UP THE PAST

Ancient Liquid Extraction Installation Uncovered in Tel Aviv-Yafo

Digging up the streets in Israel is a great way to discover ancient history, such as a 1,500-year-old installation for extracting liquids, like wine from grapes, found in Tel Aviv-Yafo.
Remains of Byzantine era liquid extraction installation found under Tel Aviv-Yafo

Remains of Byzantine era liquid extraction installation found under Tel Aviv-Yafo
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) exposed the remains of a liquid extraction installation – most likely used for pressing wine from grapes – dating to the Byzantine period.

It is also possible that the installation was used to produce wine or alcoholic beverage from other types of fruit that grew in the region.

The find was made as part of an excavation being conducted in preparation for municipal infrastructure work for the Tel Aviv municipality.

IAA’s excavation director Dr. Yoav Arbel said, “This is the first important building from the Byzantine period to be uncovered in this part of the city, and it adds a significant dimension to our knowledge about the impressive agricultural distribution in the region in this period.”

Yaffo’s rich and diverse agricultural tradition has a history thousands of years old beginning with references to the city and its fertile fields in ancient Egyptian documents up until Yaffo’s orchards in the Ottoman period.

“The installation, which probably dates to the second half of the Byzantine period (6th century – early 7th century CE), is divided into surfaces paved with a white industrial mosaic,” Dr. Arbel explained. “Due to the mosaic’s impermeability, such surfaces are commonly found in the press installations of the period which were used to extract liquid.”

“Each unit was connected to a plastered collecting vat. The pressing was performed on the mosaic surfaces whereupon the liquid drained into the vats. It is possible that the section that was discovered represents a relatively small part of the overall installation, and other elements of it are likely to be revealed in archaeological excavations along adjacent streets which are expected to take place later this year.”

Following the find, the installation was covered as new infrastructures were laid in place above it without damaging it, enabling the continued work on the city’s infrastructure without compromising the preservation of the antiquities for future generations.

The Tel Aviv municipality is modernizing the underground infrastructure, roads and sidewalks. Overhead electrical and telephone wires are being lowered, and street furniture and landscaping are being added.

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