Archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority provide a glimpse at hundreds of years of magnificent history that lies beneath the busy streets. The excavations are being conducted prior to modernizing the infrastructure, on behalf of the Tel Aviv municipality, by the Mashlama Le-Yafo, within the framework of the Magen Avraham Compound project. Recently impressive remains of an industrial installation from the Byzantine period which was used to extract liquid were exposed on Hai Gaon Street.
Installations such as these are usually identified as wine presses for producing wine from grapes, and it is also possible they were used to produce wine or alcoholic beverage from other types of fruit that grew in the region. Yafo’s rich and diverse agricultural tradition has a history thousands of years old beginning with references to the city and its fertile fields in ancient Egyptian documents up until Yafo’s orchards in the Ottoman period.
According to Dr. Yoav Arbel, director of the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is the first important building from the Byzantine period to be uncovered in this part of the city. The fact that the installation is located relatively far from Tel Yafo adds a significant dimension to our knowledge about the impressive agricultural distribution in the region in this period.
The installation, which probably dates to the second half of the Byzantine period (sixth century – early seventh century CE), is divided into surfaces paved with a white industrial mosaic. Due to the mosaic’s impermeability such surfaces are commonly found in the press installations of the period which were used to extract liquid. Each unit was connected to a plastered collecting vat.
The pressing was performed on the mosaic surfaces whereupon the liquid drained into the vats. It is possible that the section that was discovered represents a relatively small part of the overall installation, and other elements of it are likely to be revealed in archaeological excavations along adjacent streets which are expected to take place later this year”.
Upon completion of the excavation the installation was covered over, and new infrastructures were laid in place above it without damaging it, thereby enabling the continued work on the infrastructure without compromising the preservation of the antiquities for future generations.
The Magen Avraham Compound project constitutes another tier in the development of the tourist, commercial and residential region in Yafo and encompasses seven streets: Noʽam, Magen Avraham, Hai Gaon, Yossi Ben Yossi, Ardon, Ba’alei Ha-Tosafot and Resh Galuta. The municipality is modernizing the underground infrastructure, roads and sidewalks within the framework of the project. The overhead electrical and telephone wires are being lowered as well and street furniture and landscaping are being added.