During October–November 1998 a salvage excavation was conducted at Dhahr el-Khirba (A-2941
*; map ref. NIG 18955–60/65550–60; OIG 13955–60/15550–60), after ancient remains were exposed during development work at Ben-Gurion airport. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by D. Weinberger and O. Shmueli, assisted by H. Lavi (administration), A. Hajian and R. Berin (surveying and drafting), T. Sagiv (photography), E. Ayalon, E. Yannai and R. Kletter.
Five squares were excavated, revealing a large industrial winepress, dating to the Late Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (Fig. 1).
The winepress consisted of a square treading surface (L103), a rectangular settling vat (L112) and two circular collecting vats (Loci 114, 115). The treading surface (7
× 7 m) was founded on soil that was leveled with large fieldstones (0.5 × 0.5 m). Overlying it was a layer of small and medium-sized fieldstones, bonded with grayish material that contained clay, pottery fragments and crushed chalk. It was superposed with a mosaic floor, composed of large tesserae, which were arranged diagonally, except for the three rows along the perimeter of the floor, where they were placed parallel to the walls, creating a frame. The massive construction of the treading surface was meant to stabilize and reinforce it because of the constant pressure exerted on it over time. Ashlar-stone walls surrounded the surface; sections of the southern (W106) and western (W108) walls were preserved. A circular crushing stone from an oil press, in secondary use, was placed in the northern part of the treading surface. A square hole in its center was intended for anchoring a wooden screw press; a wooden pin that was inserted horizontally beneath the stone affixed the bottom of the screw.
The must flowed from the treading surface via a built conduit that was mostly destroyed to a settling vat (0.8 × 1.2 m, depth 0.43 m). The bedrock-hewn vat was coated with two layers of plaster. Potsherds were visible in the outer plaster layer, where repairs were made. From the settling vat the must flowed in ceramic pipes (diam. 7 cm, length 0.4 m) to two rock-cut collecting vats, the southern of which was only excavated (diam. 2.3 m, depth 1.8 m). It was lined with reddish-brown plaster and its floor was paved with small tesserae. Two protrusions in the vat’s northern wall served as steps; one consisted of a column fragment with a square base from a marble chancel screen that was decorated with a chiseled pattern of lotus flowers (Fig. 2). A circular settling pit (diam. 0.2 m, depth c. 0.3 m) was hewn in the center of the collecting vat.
Segments of a stone wall (W109) and of a floor that was composed of small and medium-sized fieldstones were discovered to the west of the winepress; it was intended for placing the grapes before they were trod on.
Some of the ceramic finds in the winepress dated to the Byzantine period; most were from the Early Islamic period (8th–10th centuries CE). The buff-ware vessels that stood out among the finds included bowls (Fig. 3:1–5), a jar (Fig. 3:11), jugs (Fig. 3:15–19, 22, 23) and a lamp (Fig. 3:24). Other pottery vessels consisted of bowls (Fig. 3:6–9), jars (Fig. 3:10, 12), a goblet (Fig. 3:13), jugs (Fig. 3:14, 20), several fragments of greenish glazed pottery vessels and an incised bone (Fig. 3:25).