Wine Presses  in the Holy Land

   Wine production was a popular industry in the Holy Land.  Many winepresses are found in most of the Biblical places and ancient sites.

 

Emmaus Nicopolis - wine press

 

Isaiah 5:2: "And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes".

 

 

 

Home > Info > Structures > Wine Presses

 

This web page summarizes the sites that feature wine presses.

 

 

 

 

 

Contents:

Overview

History

Structure

Sites

Biblical

Etymology

Links

 

 

Overview:

  

  Wine production was a popular industry in the Holy Land.  Many winepresses are found in most of the Biblical places and ancient sites.

 

History:

 

 

   Wine was first produced in 6,000 BC in the area of Mesopotamia. During the Biblical times (Iron/Persian Age) the wine making industry was wide spread in the Holy Land and was one of the largest exports.

 

 

  The Bible has dozens of references to wine, wine making and winepresses. The first reference is of Noah, the World's first winemaker  (Genesis 9 21-22: "And Noah ...  planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken...").

 

  Initially the winepresses were small and installed in the fields near the vineyards, normally cut into the local stone. Later, some of the villages evolved around the winepresses, and even became cities bearing the name of the winepress. Clusters of winepresses, with3 or more systems, were later installed at central industrial areas, or were installed close to the ports along the sea.

 

 

  The number of winepresses increased considerably during the Roman/Byzantine period, and its production and export was one of the leading incomes.  Hundreds of winepresses are found in the fields, villages  and the cities of the Holy Land.

 

   One of the reasons for the large demand was due to the Roman Legionnaires stationed in Israel. As per our wine expert, Uncle Ofer, each Roman soldier consumed a liter per day, or 6,000 liters per day for one Legion stationed in the Galilee. The wine has medical advantages - killing bacteria and making the drinking water safer.  The wine was often diluted with equal portion of water, and used as their drinking water, keeping the soldiers healthy (and happy).  This may have been one of the Roman soldiers advantages in the battlefield.  To supply this demand the wine was produced in a short period of a month or so, producing a low alcohol (4%) sour wine.

 

   Most of the vineyards and winepresses were located in the hills of the lower and upper Galilee, the Golan, the Sharon and the hills of Judea.

 

 

    The wine production ceased completely during the Arab conquest starting in the 8th C. Islamic faith prohibits the consumption of alcohol. Only during the Crusades the wine production was resumed for a brief time (12th - 13th C).

 

 

    In the recent 10 years, wine making is booming again in Israel. The number of wine makers increased from a handful to over 175 (25 commercial wineries and 150 boutique wineries) and rising. Once again the Holy Land is returning to a world class wine status.

 

Structure of winepress:

 

The typical ancient winepress  consists of the following elements:

 

 
  • Collection Area - where the grapes are brought from the vineyard- normally a large flat area near the winepress.

 

  • Treading floor - a large area, normally covered by mosaics, where the grapes are laid and crushed by the feet of the workers, extracting the juice

 

  • A small hole in the center of the treading floor - for secondary crushing of the grapes, using a single fixed-screw press. The press squeezed out the must left in the grape skins and stalks after treading. (Thanks for Rafi Frankel for his correction).

 

  • Optional pole holes on the side of the floor - to provide a shade for the workers

 

 

 

   
  • A pipe or canal that lets the grape juice flow down to the pool through the filter

 

  • A filter hole - to let only the juice flow through, while the grape shell and pits remain in the treading floor

 

  • A collecting pool - where the juice is accumulated. It is usually covered by a mosaic floor. The pool is lower than the treading floor, so the juice flows down into the pool.

 

  • Steps that lead to the bottom of the pool - used by the workers to collect the juice into jars, and clean the pool

 

  • Jars - to store the juice for subsequent fermentation

 

  • Cool storage area, such as a cave - to store the jars

 

 

 

Sites with Winepresses:

 

   The following table lists the sites of winepresses that are featured in BibleWalks. Click on the site's name to see more information on each site.

 

    Site   Structure description  Period  Photo  
  Khirbet Masref

 The treading floor is hidden under the sand.  The smaller hole - the filtration pit - has a mosaic floor. The larger pit has 6 steps, which allow the workers to step down and collect the juice into jars, then store them for subsequent fermentation.

 Roman

Byzantine

Khirbet Masref - wine press  
  Emmaus / Nicopolis   Several winepresses are located around the ancient city. The photo shows the grand winepress on "observation-hill".  Roman

Byzantine

Emmaus Nicopolis - wine press  
  Tell Yizrael     On the eastern side of the Tell is a large winepress, among other installations and cisterns. The crushing area is a rectangular pit with a mosaic floor, typical of Roman/Byzantine wine presses.

The Bible tells about the vineyard of Naboth in the city of Yizreel (Jezreel), and how Ahab and Jezebel plotted to posses it. This winepress may have been located in the famous vineyard.

  Roman

Byzantine

Tell Yizrael wine press  
  Achziv

    Salvage excavations uncovered one of the largest Industrial winepress complexes in Israel. Its size is 9.5 x 40M. This indicates that the city was one of the major wine centers, and exported its wine through the local port of Achziv.

  Late

Roman

   
  Migdal Haemek

  The agriculture industry relied on wine presses, and 8 bronze-age presses were found cut into the rock. All the presses were based on a similar simple design. On the top side of the wine press was a steep rectangular floor where the grapes were arranged. The workers squashed the grapes with their feet, and the juice would flow down to the lower side, through a hole and into a collecting basin.

  Bronze Migdal Haemek winepress  
   Habonim    The site is located on a sandstone ridge, on the coast of Mt Carmel. A cluster of 3 winepresses were unearthed in the salvage excavations of 2007.   Byzantine  

Habonim, Carmel shore - winepresses

 

 
   Usha    A group of 3 winepresses are located on the located on the east side of the village. The complex shares a common collecting vat.

 

 Roman  

Usha winepresses

 

 
   Manot    Just south to  the road to new Avdon  is a large rock-hewn winepress. The treading floor is a 4x4M cavity cut into the rock, and covered with mosaic stones, as seen below. There is also a square collecting vat with wide ledge cut into the side of the collecting vat.  Roman Manot winepress  
   Khirbet Zagag  

 Ruins of a Byzantine monastery,  located on a hill in the center of Karmi'el.  On the foothills are several winepresses cut into the rock.

 

Byzantine  

Khirbet Zagag, Karmi'el

 

 
 

Hippos

   (Sussita)

 

 

  A large winepress near the city's forum, with two basins and treading floor.

 

 

 

 Byzantine Hippos winepress  
   Hurvat Kav

   Ruins of a Byzantine monastery,  located in an archaeological park in the west side of Karmi'el.   A large treading floor and collecting pool was excavated near the church.

 Byzantine  

Hurvat Kav - Karmi'el

 

 
   Mt Gerizim   A winepress was part of the Byzantine monastery on Mt Gerizim. This complex is located on the south side of the Church.

 

 Byzantine  

 

 
   Shiloh  An impressive rock hewn winepress, 300m south of the Holy site of Tel Shiloh.

 

 Early

Roman

 

 

 

Anim

The winepress is cut into the rock. It consists of a large treading (crushing) floor, 10 M2.  Roman

 Byzantine

 

  More sites will be added...

 

Biblical references:

 

  These are dozens of references to wine, and many others for winepresses. Wine is significant to Jewish and Christian cultures. Wine making was one of the important industries in the Biblical times -

 

Num 18:27: "And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress".

Num 18:30: "Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress".

Deut 15:14: "Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him".

Judg 6:11: "And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites".

Judg 7:25: "And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan".

 

Judg 9:27: "And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink...".

2 Kings 6:27: "And he said, If the LORD do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress?"

Job 24:11: "Which make oil within their walls, and tread their winepresses, and suffer thirst".

Is 5:2: "And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes".  It is recommended to read the whole chapter, since it revolves around wine.

Is 63:3: "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment".

Jer 48:33: "And joy and gladness is taken from the plentiful field, and from the land of Moab, and I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses: none shall tread with shouting; their shouting shall be no shouting".

Lam 1:15: "The LORD hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the LORD hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress".

Hos 9:2: "The floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her".

Zech 14:10: "All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses".
 

Mt 21:33: "Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country"

Rev 14:19: "And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God".

Rev 14:20: "And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs".

Rev 19:15: "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God".

 


Etymology (behind the name):

 

  • Ya-in - Wine in Hebrew; probably the source of the word "wine".

 

  • Gath, Gat - press in Hebrew, normally a winepress (although it may refer to oil and Pomegranateas-Rimon well).  There are many sites with the prefix Gath, such as: Gath, Gittaim, Gat-Asher, Gat-Rimmon, GathGathsemane, Gat-Carmel, Jat.

 

  • Anav (Anavim in plural) - grape in Hebrew. There are sites with this prefix, such as: Anav, Kiryat-Anavim.

 

  • Tirosh - grape juice in Hebrew.

 

Links:

 

 

 

 

 

BibleWalks.com - exporing the Bible places in Israel

 

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