Two squares were initially excavated and eventually, the area was enlarged and four other squares were opened. A layer of beach sand beneath an asphalt road covered the remains of a large winepress. The sand may have been placed intentionally to cover the remains of the winepress. Apparently, when the road was paved at the time of the British Mandate, the winepress was discovered and the layer of sand was deposited over it for protection. An examination of the Ramla city archives from the time of the British Mandate, which is located in the Israel Antiquities Authority, did not turn up any documentation regarding such a measure. Another part of the city archives is on file in the Jordanian Department of Antiquities and has not yet been examined.
The winepress (preserved length c. 18 m; Fig. 1) consisted of eight complexes, each composed of a treading floor (2.0 × 3.2 m) and an adjacent collecting vat (c. 1 × 2 m). The complexes were arranged in a row next to each other and it seems that each one operated independently, as no connection between them was discerned. The treading cells were paved with tesserae and enclosed within low plastered partitions built of debesh (height 0.3–0.4 m). The level of the collecting vats was lower than that of the treading floors and they were coated with hydraulic plaster. A circular plastered settling pit (diam. 0.4–0.6 m, depth c. 0.5 m; Fig. 2) was revealed in each of the collecting vats. Hewn channels in the eastern half of the treading floors led to the built channels in the collecting vats, which in turn led to the settling pits.
It seems that the four southern complexes predated the four northern ones. The southern complexes were better and more precisely constructed than the northern complexes and the partition that separated the two middle complexes was wider than the rest of the partitions.
The tesserae in the four southern floors were arranged in straight lines, parallel to the walls of the complex, whereas in the northern floors the tesserae were placed diagonally. The northern complexes were not as well preserved as the southern ones and it is possible that originally, other complexes had existed north of the exposed eight but did not survive.
East of the treading complexes, a debesh work surface was exposed in a probe; it abutted the eastern enclosure wall of the complexes and was probably added to reinforce the complexes.
The area west of the winepress was mostly damaged by work carried out over the years. Despite this, the poorly preserved remains of a treading floor (3.0 × 3.2 m), plastered and paved with a diagonal mosaic pattern that was similar to the northern complex, was exposed to its west. The meager remains of a complex were exposed south of this floor. All that remained of it were a few in situ tesserae and a circular settling pit (diam. 0.4–0.5 m, depth 0.4 m) that was paved with a mosaic (Fig. 3), unlike the plastered settling pits in the eastern complexes. It is unclear how the remains in the western area were related to the eastern treading complexes.
The winepress complexes contained ceramic finds from the Early Islamic period (eighth century CE) that were useful in dating the end of the installation’s use. This dating is in keeping with the cultural and economic changes that transpired in the country with the increased influence of Islam and the changes in the population’s consumption habits, including the abstention of drinking wine for religious reasons. Dating the beginning of the winepress’ use is more difficult because the date of the ceramic finds exposed below the installation’s floors is ambiguous. Similar winepresses, which are unique and rare, were exposed at Akhziv, Tel Hefer, Jaffa and Bahan. The winepress at Akhziv is dated to the fourth century CE (‘Atiqot 34:85–99 [Hebrew]), whereas the other three winepresses are from the end of the Byzantine period (six–seventh centuries CE). It should be noted that the Ramla winepress is the largest and best preserved of all the winepresses of this type that have been exposed to date.