A large area of sloping bedrock (11×17 m) was visible on the surface prior to the excavation. The remains of several rock-cut installations were found and cleaned out. These included two large treading floors with collecting vats and two small treading surfaces with small collecting basins (Fig. 2), as well as remains of two adjacent press beds. The immediate juxtaposition of these press beds to the treading surfaces could indicate that all the installations were part of a winery complex. However, these presses were usually used for the production of olive oil. It is also possible that they were used for both seasonally.
Installation A was a carefully rock-cut, complex winepress, located in the middle of the exposed bedrock surface. It had a rectangular, slightly sloping treading floor (L101; c. 4.6 × 6.0 m), with surrounding bedrock sides of various heights (0.25–0.90 m). The lower part of the floor was not bordered by the bedrock sides and must have been enclosed by no longer extant low stone walls. A circular irregular cavity (L102; diam. c. 1.3 m, depth 0.6 m), hewn in the middle of the floor was probably used for standing the base of a single fixed screw press (Frankel R. 1999. Wine and Oil Production in Antiquity in Israel and Other Mediterranean Countries. Sheffield. Pp. 140–145). A plastered channel (L103; length 1.9 m, width 0.2 m) led from Cavity 102 into a smaller square intermediate vat (L104; 0.6 × 0.7 m, depth 0.5 m), and a short round ceramic pipe (diam. 0.12 m) led from Vat 104 into a large rectangular plastered collecting vat (L105; c. 2.0 × 2.9 m, depth 1.1 m), in whose southeastern corner was a staircase with three small steep square steps. The treading floor and its sides were paved with a mosaic floor of medium-sized white tesserae (c. 45 tesserae per sq dm), set in a plaster base. Although the mosaic floor only partially survived, it was evident that it originally covered the whole floor, including the floor overlying the rock-cut channel, leaving the central Cavity 102 and Vat 104 open and unpaved. The liquid from the trodden grapes in this installation flowed from the treading floor into Collecting Vat 105 via the small square Vat 104, in which a vegetation strainer would have been fitted to prevent the skins from entering the large collecting vat. The trodden grape skins would have been secondarily pressed in the no-longer extant press located in Cavity 102, and this expressed liquid would have flowed via the covered channel into Collecting Vat 105, wherein the wine would have fermented without the skins.
Installation B was a simpler version than Installation A. It consisted of a sloping treading floor (L106; 4.5 × 6.0 m, depth c. 0.25 m) that led directly into a large, yet worn square-shaped collection vat (L107; 2.3 × 2.4 m, depth c. 0.7 m), whose floor was uneven, without any intervening channels or intermediate vats. The expressed liquid would have flowed directly into the vat and there was seemingly no system to prevent the skins and the residue from entering the vat. It is probable that the grape must in this installation was fermented in the collection vat together with the skins, thus producing wine of a darker color. The two treading floors (L101 and L106) were interconnected via a small narrow channel (length c. 0.35 m, width 0.2 m) that led from Treading Floor 106 into the adjacent slightly lower Treading Floor 101; hence, the liquid from Treading Floor 106 could also have flowed into Collecting Vat 105.
Installations C, D and E. Evidence for some very small, shallow treading installations on the slightly higher sloping rock surface was visible on the eastern side of Installation A. Three round cavities (L112, L113 and L114; average diam. 0.6 m, depth 0.35–0.60 m) were each associated with some shallow cuts in the rock surface that appeared to be small treading surfaces from which the expressed liquid would have flowed into the cavities. Another cavity (L115) at a slightly higher level was not visibly associated with a treading surface. The grapes may have been stored in this area prior to the main pressing activities.
Installations F and G. The remains of two rock-hewn pressing bed installations were located immediately west of Installation B. Pressing installations were used in the production process of olive oil and of wine, and it is not certain whether grapes or olives were pressed here. The immediate juxtaposition of these presses to the grape treading floors could indicate that these presses were probably used for the production of wine, whereby the remainder of the must left in the grape skins after the treading was expressed. However, the press-bed type is well suited for olive pressing. The two presses could not have functioned contemporaneously as they were located too close to each other. Installation F was a large shallow worn press bed (L110) flanked on one side by a rectangular closed mortise (0.3 × 0.5 m) that was the negative impression for an upstanding rectangular stone pier. The mortise that must have been hewn out on the opposite side of the press bed was no longer extant as it was probably destroyed by the hewing of Treading Floor 106 and possibly by other later hewing activities. A small channel led from Press Bed 110 into a small round lateral collecting vat (L116; diam. c. 0.9 m, depth 0.4 m). Installation G consisted of a round press bed (L109; diam. 1 m), surrounded by a shallow circular channel that led into a small circular lateral collecting vat (L111; diam. 0.8 m, depth 0.45 m). The press bed was flanked by two rectangular closed mortises (c. 0.25 × 0.45 m) for upstanding stone or wooden piers. These two presses were of the direct screw pressing type that functioned with a wooden screw exerting direct pressure on the baskets that contained the previously trodden grapes. This technology was in use in the Late Roman period onward. A similar free-standing screw press bed was uncovered in Sepphoris (Frankel 1999:130–133).
It is possible that Installation G replaced Installation F when the latter was damaged by the rock-hewing of Treading Floor 106.
The Pottery. The several rather worn potsherds found in and around the installations (not illustrated) were dated to the Byzantine and Mamluk periods. The earlier potsherds could date the period of hewing and use of the installations to the Byzantine period, while the later potsherds may have come from the general occupation at the site of Ilaniyya, although this is not definitive.
In summary, the agricultural processing complex consisted of two large grape treading floor installations, some small treading floors and a couple of pressing beds and complex winepresses that dated to the Late Roman or Byzantine periods (fourth–fifth centuries CE). This date is based on the presence of the direct screw press, which was a technical development attributed to this period. All these installations were probably in use within this period. The complex winepresses reflect large-scale wine and probably oil production that was carried out at the site at the same time that the large public building—synagogue or church—stood in Ilaniyya. Since the public building and the large pressing complex lay only about 150 m apart, it is probable that the presses were publicly owned and operated.