During July 2011, a salvage excavation was conducted at Ramat Bet Shemesh (Permit No. A- 6222; map ref. 198402–14/623502–12), prior to development. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, was directed by E. Kogan-Zehavi, with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), M. Kunin and A. Hajian (surveying) and B. Antin (drafting).
The site is located on a hill overlooking Horbat Bet Natif to the south, Khirbat al-‘Alya to the north and Tel Yarmuth to the northwest (Fig. 1). In a survey conducted prior to the construction of Ramat Bet Shemesh, the hill was examined and a rock-hewn winepress, basins and cupmarks were documented (IAA Reports 46:1–6, Site 288.1).
Two squares were opened and a winepress and a pressing installation were exposed.
A simple rock-hewn winepress and other rock-cuttings around it were exposed (Fig. 2). The winepress included a rectangular treading floor (L102; width 1.4 m, length c. 1.8 m), oriented north–south, whose southern side was destroyed. A collecting vat (L103; 0.80×1.29 m, depth 1.35 m) hewn north of the treading floor was connected to it via a short channel. The bottom of the collecting vat was partly destroyed, yet remains of a sump could be discerned.
Two cupmarks were hewn near the winepress; one adjacent to the northern corner of the collecting vat and the other next to the northern corner of the treading floor. East of the treading floor was a rock-hewn installation, consisting of a square pit (L100; 0.70×0.75 m, depth0.4 m) and a circular vat (L106; diam. 0.6 m, depth 0.5 m), which were connected via a channel. The installation was probably used for storing grapes, although the connection between it and the winepress is uncertain, and its quarrying might not be at all related to the winepress. A rounded basin and a channel (L107), whose northern part was not preserved, were discovered north of the collecting vat. The installation was presumably intended for crushing plants that were added to the must for improving its taste. A rock-hewn installation (L105; Fig. 3) was identified on the surface c. 40 m west of the winepress. The installation was composed of an elliptical basin (0.45×0.58 m), a round depression and a short channel linking the two (diam. 0.12 m, depth 0.04 m). The installation was probably used for crushing and extracting spice plants.
Scant finds were discovered around the winepress, including ribbed body fragments of jars from the Roman or Byzantine periods. No datable artifacts were recovered from the pressing installation or around it.
The winepress was located on a hill where no nearby settlement is known; only installations hewn in bedrock outcrops were documented in the survey conducted around it. The meager soil in the area did not make cultivation feasible; hence, it is reasonable to assume that the region was mostly utilized for grazing. Nevertheless, the excavated winepress and the winepress documented in the survey indicate that grapes were grown in the vicinity and wine was produced. The winepress type of is characteristic of family winepresses and there probably was no extensive industrial activity in he area.