Winepress Z (Figs. 3, 4; map ref. 197484/617384) was hewn in a leveled bedrock surface, east of the southeastern end of the settlement. It consisted of a rectangular treading floor, a settling pit and a collecting vat, both of which were square. It was enclosed within three walls built of fieldstones; the wall (width 1.5 m) on the northern side served as a retaining wall. The treading floor (4.7×5.0 m) was meticulously hewn and sloped gently in the direction of the vats.It was coated with white plaster. The soil covering the treading floor contained coarse white tesserae that indicate it was probably paved with a mosaic. A raised bedrock partition (width c. 0.45 m), hewn along the eastern side of the treading floor, separated it from the settling pit and collecting vat. A hewn channel led from the treading floor to the settling pit (c. 0.7×0.8 m, depth c. 0.6 m). A pierced-through hole (diam. c. 0.1 m), hewn c. 0.3 m above the bottom of the settling pit, led from the latter to the collecting vat (c. 1.9×1.9 m, depth c. 1.6 m). Two narrow steps were hewn in the eastern corner of the collecting vat and a circular sump for removing waste was cut in the vat’s northern corner. Fragments of a coarse white mosaic pavement were exposed in situ on the bottom of the settling pit and the collecting vat.
A secondary installation for pressing the grape pulp that remained on the treading floor after the grapes were trodden on was installed in the winepress (Fig. 5). A circular depression (diam. c. 1.7 m, depth 0.6 m) was hewn in the middle of the treading floor. It was probably intended for a stone base with a square hole in its center that secured a vertical wooden screw; this stone was not discovered in the excavation. The grape pulp was placed inside rope baskets or a wooden box that was built around the screw. A heavy wooden plank was slipped onto the screw and placed on top of the grape pulp. By means of a wooden nut that was threaded on the screw, the pulp was pressed and the must was extracted. Stones meant to secure a vertical wooden screw were discovered in complex winepresses in Judah (e.g., ‘Atiqot 36:9*–10* [Hebrew]; Y. Hirschfeld, 1981, Eretz Israel 16:386–389 [Hebrew]; R. Frankel and E. Ayalon, 1989, Vine, Wine Presses and Wine in Antiquity. Pp. 49–51 [Hebrew]). The must extracted in this installation flowed from the circular depression in a channel (max. depth 0.6 m) that led directly to the collecting vat. Covering slabs were inserted in a groove that was hewn in the upper part of the channel. These slabs were meant to allow the continuation of work on the treading floor and prevent the grape pulp from getting into the channel (for a similar channel, see ‘Atiqot 36: 9*–10* [Hebrew]).
At some point in time the bedrock partition that separated the treading floor from the collecting vat was negated, as was the use of the settling pit. These changes seem to indicate that baskets, intended for collecting the remains of the pips and grape skins, were placed beneath the press screw and thus, it was possible to relinquish the settling pit.
The winepress seems to have had two phases of operation. In the early phase, the winepress included a treading floor, a settling pit and a collecting vat, which is characteristic of the Second Temple period (e.g., Soreq Ridge, ESI 19:72*–74*). A rock-hewn partition separated the treading floor from the two vats. The winepress’ treading floor was probably coated with a light colored plaster and there may have been a niche in the northern wall of the winepress that secured a horizontal beam for the secondary pressing of the pulp. In the later phase, the treading floor was apparently paved with tesserae and the bedrock partition that separated the floor from the vats was removed. A circular depression was hewn in the middle of the floor for installing a wooden screw that was used in the secondary pressing process. A square recess at the bottom of the circular depression may be the remains of a depression, left over from the early phase. The plan of the winepress in this phase is characteristic of the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, probably from the early third century CE, when gentiles reoccupied the village and renovated parts of the Jewish settlement that had been destroyed in the Bar Kokhba Revolt (Qadmoniyot 123:20 [Hebrew]).
Winepress Z1 (Figs. 6, 7; map ref. 197583/617299) was hewn in a bedrock surface on a slope east of the ruin, c. 150 m east of Winepress Z and alongside the ancient road that linked Horbat ‘Etri with Horbat Shua‘. The winepress included a treading floor, a settling pit and a collecting vat; the bedrock wall that separated the two vats was subsequently removed and today, they are connected. Remains of plaster were discerned on the treading floor and in the collecting vat. The treading floor was square (c. 2.2.×2.2 m, depth c. 0.3 m) and a large karstic fissure in its center was sealed with mortar and stones and paved over with a mosaic of large tesserae. Prior to the repair, a sunken frame was hewn around the fissure for the purpose of matching the mosaic elevation with that of the bedrock in the treading floor. A depression (0.4×0. 6 m, depth 0.45 m) for securing the base of a press screw was hewn in the center of the treading floor; it became wider toward the bottom of its western side. A raised frame, c. 4 cm above the treading floor, was dressed around the edge of the depression. Two niches, one square (c. 0.2×0.2 m, depth 0.1 m) and the other elliptical (c. 0.15×0.25 m, depth 0.18 m), probably intended for wooden beams that supported the screw, were hewn in the treading floor. A raised stone strip (width c. 0.3 m) that separated the floor from the eastern settling pit (c. 0.8×0.9 m, depth c. 0.6 m) and the western collecting vat (c. 1.4×1.9 m, depth c. 0.7 m) was left in place in the northwestern side of the treading floor. A short channel led from the treading floor to the settling pit.Another channel, from the settling pit to the collecting vat, was most likely hewn in the bedrock partition that separated between the two vats and was removed. Two bedrock surfaces hewn north of the winepress were intended for placing the fruit that waited for treading, or were used as additional treading floors. Ribbed body fragments of jars dating to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods were discovered in the winepress.A complex winepress of this type is characteristic of the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.
Winepress Z2 (Figs. 8, 9; map ref. 197621/617162).The winepress was hewn in a bedrock surface on a hillside, east of Horbat ‘Etri and on the fringes of Horbat Shua‘, along the edge of a plateau with cultivable soil where vineyards are planted today. The winepress consisted of a treading floor, a settling pit and a collecting vat, which are poorly preserved. The rock-cutting of this winepress was planned and it belongs to the type referred to as ‘The Four Squares Plan’ (Frankel and Ayalon 1989, pp. 53–58). The square treading floor (c. 4.8×4.8 m, max. depth c. 0.9 m) is paved with small white tesserae. A raised stone strip (width 0.5 m) in the southeastern side of the floor was left in the rock-cutting that separated the treading floor from the settling pit (0.9×0.9 m) and the collecting vat (2.1×2.4 m, depth in excess of 1.2 m). A short hewn channel led from the treading floor to the settling pit whose bottom had collapsed. A channel hewn in the northeastern side of the settling pit led to the collecting vat. After the grapes were trodden on, the must flowed from the treading floor to the settling pit and then to the collecting vat. A square depression (c. 1.2×1.2 m, depth c. 0.5 m) was hewn in the treading floor to secure the stone base of a screw press, used in the secondary pressing process. A hewn channel (length c. 1.7 m, depth c. 0.5 m) beneath the depression led to the collecting vat. A pipe of terracotta sections was discovered at the bottom of the channel. The must produced in the secondary pressing process flowed by way of the pipe directly into the collecting vat. The bottoms of the settling pit, the collecting vat and the treading floor, which surrounded them, were paved with a white mosaic. The plan of the winepress points to a possible date in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.
Winepresses consisting of a treading floor flanked by two vats are mentioned in the Tosefta (Tractate Terumot 3, 7; English translation taken from A.J. Avery-Peck in J. Neusner (ed.) The Tosefta: First Division – Zeraim [the Order of Agriculture], p.143, 1986): “R. Yosé says, All [of the wine in] a winepress room constitutes a single batch [and therefore heave-offering may be separated from discrete quantities of wine within the room]. How so? [If there was] one press for two tanks, two presses from one tank, two presses for two tanks …” The “classification” characteristic of winepresses, which include treading floors and vats hewn at different levels, to allow the flow of the must and its filtration, is described in the Mishnah. The treading floor is referred to as “the upper winepress: whereas the settling and collecting vats are referred to as “the lower winepress” (Mishnah Ma‘aserot 1, 7; Terumot 8, 9). The parts of the pressing installation in the winepress are mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud (Avoda Zara 5, 45, 72; English translation taken from J. Neusner 1996, The Talmud of the Land of Israel, III The Division of Damages, Vol. B Sanhedrin, Makko, Shebuot and Avodah Zarah, Atlanta): “[If] one’s wine vats [and olive presses] were [cultically] unclean and one wanted to clean them – the boards and the two posts supporting the beams of the press and the troughs does he dry, and they are clean. The cylinders of twigs and of hemp [he must dry]. As to those of bast and of reeds, he must leave them unused. [And how long does he leave them unused?] Twelve months”.
Frankel and Ayalon (1989, p. 74) discussed this halacha and suggested identifying the cylinder of twigs (lulavim in Hebrew) with the vertical wooden screw, the boards (dappin in Hebrew) with the press planks that were placed on the grape pulp and the trough (adasha in Hebrew) with the press bed, that is, the stone used to secure the screw. The bast (‘eqel in Hebrew) is the basket that holds the grape pulp around the screw and is made of reeds (hutim in Hebrew) or a wooden box. It seems that this halacha makes a distinction between parts that do not decay easily, such as the lulavim, dappin and adasha, which should be wiped down to purify them, and the rest of the parts that disintegrate after a period of twelve months and have to be replaced anyway.
The treading and secondary pressing process, done with the aid of a vertical screw, secured in a stone on which a nut turns, is described in considerable detail on the mosaic pavements of the Byzantine churches at Khirbat el-Makhayyat on Mount Nebo (S.J. Saller and B. Bagatti. 1949. The Town of Nebo [Kh. El-Makhayyat]: Other Christian Monuments in Transjordan, Jerusalem. Pp. 60, 70, 92, Pls. 18:1, 24:1).
The dating of the winepresses is consistent with that of the settlement at the site, as the excavations have clarified. Two phases of operation were identified in Winepress Z; the early phase dating to the Second Temple period (until the Bar Kokhba Revolt), when Jews inhabited the site, and the later phase dating to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, when a gentile settlement occupied the eastern part of the site. Winepresses Z1 and Z2 date to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods. It is difficult to determine if they were used by the residents of Horbat ‘Etri or the nearby settlement at Horbat Shua‘, which was apparently founded during this period. The three winepresses were public installations located near the settlement, which made it convenient to work and transport the wine for storage in the settlement houses (Frankel and Ayalon, 1989, p. 36). The Mishnah that mentions “if two people put the yield of their vineyards into one wine press” (Demay 6, 7; English translation taken from H. Guggenheimer 2000, The Jerusalem Talmud, First Order Zeraim, Tractates Peah and Demay, New York) probably refers to these kinds of shared winepresses.
The winepresses near Horbat ‘Etri shared in a broad phenomenon, which is evident on the rocky slopes around other ancient sites in the region. It seems that viticulture and the processing of grapes for wine and raisins was one of the most important branches of agriculture in the Judean Shephelah in antiquity, thanks to the climate, topography, type of soil and the variety of grapes.