During August–September 2009, a salvage excavation was conducted on Kinneret Street in Benē Beraq (Block 6196, Lot 104; Permit No. A-5730; map ref. 183562–75/666862–90), following the discovery of ancient remains in a preliminary inspection (H. Ben Ari). The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by A. Glick, with the assistance of S. Ya‘aqov-Jam (administration), V. Essman, M. Kipnis and T. Kornfeld (surveying), A. Perez and C. Amit (field and studio photography) and L. Kupershmidt (metallurgical laboratory). Additional aid was provided by Y. Levi, M. Ajami, A. Gorzalczany, D. Barkan, P. Gendelman, U. ‘Ad, R. Frankel and E. Ayalon.
The excavation is located within the precincts of the antiquities site on Kinneret Street in Benē Baraq. The site was excavated in the 1940s and 1950s by J. Kaplan and J. Ori and again by J. Kaplan in 1977 (HA 63-64:42 [Hebrew]); tombs dating to the Middle Bronze Age and mosaic floors that dated from the second century BCE to the eighth century CE were exposed. A large, very well-preserved winepress was revealed in the current excavation.
The winepress (7.20×9.85 m; Figs. 1, 2) belongs to the type identified as ‘Four Squares with a Round Element Plan’ (R. Frankel. 1999. Wine and Oil Production in Antiquity in Israel and Other Mediterranean Countries. Sheffield); it consists of a square structure with three rooms, which contain a square treading floor, a square intermediate vat and a circular collecting vat. The walls of the winepress (width c. 0.5 m, max. height 0.5 m), preserved three–four courses high (height of each course 0.2 m), were carefully built of small (0.10×0.15 m) and medium (0.25×0.40 m) stones.
The treading floor was in the southern part of the installation (L108; length 6.95 m, max. width 7 m); its floor walls were covered with two layers of white hydraulic plaster, separated by a layer of potsherds. The floor bedding consisted of small kurkar stones. A small plastered step (length 0.45 m, width 0.45 m, height 0.12 m) was discovered in the southeastern corner of the floor.
The room in the northeastern corner of the installation contained a square intermediate vat (L123; 2.8 ´ 2.8 m) that was entirely plastered like the treading floor. The elevation of the intermediate vat’s floor was 0.6 m lower than that of the treading floor (Fig. 1: Section 1-1); however, no channel that linked them was discovered because of the poor state of preservation. Two steps (length c. 0.25 m, width 0.3 m) were exposed along the vat’s eastern and northern sides. A third step, carelessly constructed and affixed above the plaster floor of the vat, was added along the southern and western sides of the vat in a second phase. This step reduced the area of the intermediate vat and blocked the opening of a plastered channel that connected this vat to the collecting vat (Fig. 2). The modification probably indicates that the intermediate vat was a filtration vat at its inception and later was converted to a settling pit.
A circular collecting vat (L122; diam. 2.1 m, depth 2.5 m; Fig. 1: Section 2-2) was discovered in the northwestern room of the installation. The walls of the room were destroyed. The vat was coated with plaster that survived mostly on the upper part. A plastered channel, located at the eastern end of the vat, connected between the latter and the intermediate vat. The partly preserved floor of the vat was overlain with stone collapse that included two fragments of basalt grinding stones. These stones were probably incorporated in the floor beneath the channel’s outlet, to prevent damage to the floor from the must flowing from the intermediate vat. Yet, the possibility that the slabs were discarded into the vat after it was no longer in use cannot be ruled out.
The fill inside the winepress contained fragments of pottery vessels from the Roman period (first–second centuries CE), including cooking pots (Fig. 3:2), jugs (Fig. 3:4–6) and bag-shaped jars (Fig. 3:7). Other potsherds recovered from the fill included a cooking pot (Fig. 3:1) from Iron Age II and a jug (Fig. 3:3) from the Hellenistic period. The small finds included fragments of glass vessels (Fig. 3:10), two fragments of basalt grinding stones and a Scythian-type bronze arrowhead (Fig. 4).
The winepress should be dated to the first–second centuries CE, based on the finds, although the ‘Four Squares with a Round Element Plan’ winepress is a relatively rare type for the period and the region. This discovery contributes to the data regarding the agricultural hinterland of the region in the Roman period and attests to the growing of grapes and wine production.