Huge Byzantine olive press found in Israel

It might be a part of a 6th c. monastery, and it’s not just an olive press but rather the remains of a huge olive pressing operation destroyed — but also in a way preserved — by fire.

Three screw-type press beds and a stone weight that was originally connected to the end of a beam were revealed at the site. Alongside the press beds collecting vats, settling pits and other pools that were used to separate the oil from the watery lees (the non-oily liquid that is also expressed from the olives) were exposed.

Two stone containers that were used to store the oil were exposed next to the oil production installations. The containers had a combined capacity of approximately 20,000 liters, and have mosaic floors and are treated with plaster. The top of the wall that separates the two containers was paved with a mosaic, part of which is adorned with a geometric decoration and part bears an inscription that has not yet been deciphered.

This very formidable and rare olive press and the inscription on the mosaic floor suggest that the complex was not built at the initiative of a local individual.

That would lend credence to the monastery theory. Check out the bird’s eye view architecture of this place:

The circle in the middle is the crushing mill. Beasts of burden would be tied to it, the stone would turn and grind up the olives into mush.

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