Archaeologists digging near a spa in southern Israel have uncovered Byzantine-era remains that include a large wine-press and a unique clay lantern decorated with crosses.
The stone remnants of what must have been a significant wine-making apparatus include compartments for storing grapes, a treading floor, and pits for collecting liquid, all spread over an area of more than 100 yards. It would have been in use about 1,500 years ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement Thursday.
The lantern, which was found nearby, includes cross-shaped openings on the sides, and the archaeologists in charge of the dig believe it is shaped like a miniature church building. “When the lantern was lit, crosses were projected on the walls and ceiling,” according to the IAA.
The existence of the lantern suggests that the owner of the press might have been Christian, according to the archaeologists.
The newly uncovered wine-press, and three others that have been found nearby, are near the ancient route from the interior to the Ashkelon port, suggesting the wine might have been exported to Europe and North Africa.
The findings were unearthed at the spa of Hamei Yoav, between Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat, during a salvage dig carried out to allow the construction of a garden for outdoor events.
The wine-press will be preserved as part of the new garden, the archaeologists said.