Dedicated to the military history and civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire (330 to 1453)

"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity."

- - - - Princess Anna Comnena (1083–1153) - Byzantine historian

Sunday, February 15, 2015

1,500-Year-Old Charred Byzantine Grape Seeds Discovered in Israel’s Negev Desert

The charred grape seeds. (Photo: University of Haifa)

“And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.’” (Genesis 1:29)

(Breaking News of Israel)  -  Charred grape seeds dating back 1,500 years were discovered recently in an archaeological excavation in the ruins of the ancient Byzantine city of Halutza, about 19 miles southwest of Beersheba.
In its heyday, in the 6th and 7th centuries A.D., Halutza or Elusa as it was called in Greek, was the most important Byzantine city of the Negev area.
The excavation is part of a broader bio-archeological research examining the rise and fall of the Negev Byzantine society, in the seventh century A.D. The research is conducted by the The Zinman Institute of Archaeology form the University of Haifa, and the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Tazpit News Agency interviewed Professor Guy Bar-Oz, one of the researchers participating in this project. Prof. Bar-Oz explained there are three main explanations for the fall of the Byzantine society in the Negev. “Climate change, Muslim conquest, and plagues all contributed to the fall. But until now there were no physical evidence to support any of these, only historical sources,” Bar-Oz told Tazpit.
“Though historical sources might provide a lot of useful information, they are very subjective to the writer’s agenda and premises. There is also different current interpretation to each source. It’s very much like a modern day newspaper, it gives you a certain perspective but it’s not enough when looking for conclusive evidence,” elaborated Prof. Bar-Oz.
Byzantine art - Noah drinking wine among the
vines, detail from the Story of Noah.

Byzantine depiction of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.

The charred grape seeds were found in Halutza’s refuse dump, as the city itself was ruined over time due to stone theft. Prof. Bar-Oz explains the importance of what he calls garbage-archaeology.
“For an archaeologist, garbage is like a time capsule. We can extract a lot of useful information from garbage, like what the people of Halutza ate and drank, the pots and tools they used, and what livestock they kept,” he told Tazpit.
In regard to the broader research, Prof. Bar-Oz explained that “a change in diet or even pottery can imply a change in the culture and ethnicity of the population of Halutza. In addition, we can analyze the remains of dead animals such as rats, and through that find out whether the city was hit by plague.”
The charred grape seeds are a very interesting finding. According to historical sources from the Byzantine era, wine from the Negev or “Gaza wine”, named after the port from which it was sent to all corners of the Byzantine Empire, was considered to be of very high quality, and very expensive.
The Halutza grape seeds could be of great importance to the wine industry, because they indicate that wine was produced in the harsh desert climate of the Negev and was almost certainly grown with scarce usage of water.
“Wine production can be very much affected by changing climates. Therefore, finding a strain of seeds that can grow using only a little bit of water in a warm climate, could be a great revelation to the wine production industry,” Prof. Bar-Oz further explained.
According to Prof. Bar-Oz, the Halutza grape seeds will be recreated through DNA reconstruction. And though it won’t explain the downfall of the 7th century A.D. Byzantine society of the Negev, it could explain why the wine of the Negev was so renowned in the Byzantine Empire.
(Breaking Israel News)

1,500-year-old Byzantine wine press


The Israel Antiquities Authority made the discovery during an excavation at the site, near Kiyrat Gat in southern Israel. Archaeologists believe the owner of the winepress was a Christian because of the rare find of a complete ceramic model of a church.

A Byzantine community about 1,500 years old with a large wine press was discovered a few weeks ago by the Israel Antiquities Authority near Kiryat Gat. Remains of the site, where the 100-square-meter wine press and a miniature ceramic model of a church building have been unearthed, will be displayed at an events hall to be built at the location.
The IAA made the discovery during an excavation at the site, near the Hamei Yoav hot springs, between the Beit Guvrin national park and Ashkelon. Archaeologists believe the owner of the wine press was a Christian because of the rare find of a complete ceramic model of a church, which had an opening through which an oil lamp could be inserted so the model could be used as a lantern.
The finds include the wine press’s mosaic treading floor with a cavity into which a screw was inserted, used to press the grapes. Three collection vats were found to which the juice flows, as well as compartments to hold the grapes while they fermented.
“Ashkelon was a seaside commercial city through which wine was exported from the Land of Israel to the entire Mediterranean basin,” said Sa’ar Ganor, the IAA’s archaeologist for the Ashkelon district, adding that the newly discovered winepress would have served this commerce.
IAA Southern District archaeologist Yigal Israel said: “The finds enrich our knowledge of the material culture of the people of the Byzantine period. This was an industrial wine press on the road to Ashkelon; we have wine presses all along the road to Ashkelon and this shows us how the wine industry flourished in this area.”   (Haaretz.com)

Ceramic model of a church oil lamp found at the site.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice detail that lantern