During May 2011, a salvage excavation was conducted at Gan Dina in ‘Ir Gannim (Permit No. A-6167; map ref. 216311–28/629351–62), prior to construction. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Jerusalem Municipality, was directed by D. Storchan (photography), with the assistance of N. Nehama (administration), and A. Hajian (surveying).
The excavation was located within the borders of Kh. el Fawaqisa (Fig. 1), which had previously been surveyed (Kloner A. 2000. Survey of Jerusalem: the Southern Sector, Site 7). The survey identified the remains of an ancient settlement, including winepresses, water cisterns, and surface scatterings of potsherds dating to the Byzantine period. Two winepresses (A, B) were discovered in the current excavation.
Winepress A (Fig. 2) consisted of a large rectangular treading floor (4.00×4.25 m) and a square collection vat (1.75×1.75 m, depth 2 m), separated by a wide step (width 1.7 m ; Fig. 3). Both treading floor and collection vat were found completely covered with a layer of sand. No means of connection between the collection vat and the treading surface were uncovered during the excavation. A rectangular niche (0.5×0.8 m) was carved in to the winepress's eastern wall and an additional shallow oval surface was discerned within the northern wall (1.3×2.3 m, depth 0.4 m). The western limit of the treading floor was not preserved; it may have been built of stones that did not survive. Only the northern half of the collection vat was excavated. The vat’s upper section was hewn in the bedrock, while the lower section was built of small fieldstones bonded with a grayish mortar. Two rectangular flat stone slabs (0.5 ´ 1.3 m) were uncovered at the base of the vat, resting upon a layer of white cement (Fig. 4). At the southeastern corner of the vat, a circular sump (width 0.5 m, depth 0.3 m) was hewn, intended for the collection of lees. To the east of the collection vat, additional shallow rectangular carvings may be the remains of an earlier phase, an additional winepress, or quarrying activities.
Winepress B, located c. 30 m to the southeast of Winepress A, was partially excavated (Fig. 5). The winepress consisted of two shallow hewn treading floors, an upper and lower one. Only the southern and western borders of the upper floor were uncovered and thus, complete dimensions of the floor cannot be determined. Similar to Winepress A, an oval niche was carved into the southern wall of the upper treading floor (Fig. 6). The lower treading floor (1.5×2.0 m) has a generally rectangular plan. It was hewn deeper into the bedrock and connected to the upper floor in the northwest by a carved step. At the southeastern corner, a narrow channel connected the treading floor to a rectangular collection vat (unexcavated).
Winepresses A and B share a similar plan, composed of a rectangular treading floor and a single collection vat. The oval surfaces hewn into the borders of the treading floors may have served as a storage niche to hold grapes before and during juicing. It is worth noting that a narrow strip, carved along the southern lip of the collection vat in Winepress A, along with two small niches to the east and west, may indicate that the vat was originally intended to be covered.
The two staggered treading floors of Winepress B may indicate multiple phases of use and reuse of the installation. A narrow channel carved into the western wall of the lower treading floor, which is typical of quarrying activities, may suggest that the site served as a small stone quarry during its construction.
No stratified ceramic remains were recovered from the excavation and the dating of the winepresses remains enigmatic. Plaster samples taken from inside the collection vat of Winepress A, as well the pottery scattering in the immediate area that was noted in the survey, suggest a Byzantine date for their construction. The size of Winepress A and its close proximity to Winepress B indicate that the wine industry was important and sizeable in the area during the Byzantine period.