Saturday, January 06, 2018

Herodium’s Royal Winery Discovered

The link posted in this morning’s roundup to the Google-translated version of the Herodium’s royal winery had some significant errors, and Joseph Lauer has sent an improved translation so we can avoid “wine ghettos” and the like. The Hebrew press release, with photos, is here.

Israel Nature and Parks Authority

December 14, 2017

The first royal winery of its kind in Herod's palaces was discovered at Herodion

The large royal winery that is now being revealed in Herodion sheds light on, among other things, the reasons for the agricultural flourishing of vineyards and wine presses in Judea at the end of the Second Temple period.

Among the remains that were found are dozens of huge jugs, densely arranged in the storage space, which is located in the structure that surrounds the circular palace

During archaeological excavations conducted at the Herodion National Park, which is run by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Chief Officer of the Nature Reserves and Parks Unit of the Civil Administration, were revealed for the first time in the palaces of King Herod remains of a large royal winery. These remains are now exposed to the public for the first time as part of a Heritage Week in Israel, held annually during Hanukkah by the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the  Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites, and intended to raise public awareness of the importance of preserving the heritage.

Ze’ev Elkin, Minister of Jerusalem and Heritage said: "When I stand here today in Herodion, a five minute drive from my home in the village of Kfar Eldad and pass in my imagination all the important events in the history of our people that took place on this mountain or at its foot, I do not need to explain why it is easy to mark Heritage Week in the State of Israel. In every corner of our country, no matter where you live, you will know how to discover a heritage site near the home of each and every one of you. Thousands of years of our history are folded into every square kilometer in the Land of Israel and there is nothing like Chanukah to feel and demonstrate to our children the spirit of the saying ‘in those days in this season’.”

Shaul Goldstein, Director General of the Nature and Parks Authority said: "King Herod's palace in Herodion is a site that changes its face all the time, every day there is revealed there ancient and fascinating history. There is nothing like the Herodion site to open the Heritage Week of our country. In the coming year we will also continue in the Nature and Parks Authority, together with our natural partners, to invest a great deal of resources in the heritage sites and to expose the findings to the general public, while enhancing the experience of visiting the sites."

The winery was discovered during an excavation that was carried out in the past year in the warehouses and impressive cellars of the fortified palace that Herod built at the top of Herodion Mountain. The remains include tens of gigantic pits, densely arranged in the storage space, which is located in the structure of the circular palace. They were probably used as fermentation tanks, from which the wine was poured into jars and amphorae, which may have been stored in cellars with vaulted ceilings that were built at this point in the area, and which were exposed in recent excavations.

These excavations are being conducted by the Ehud Netzer Expedition [to Herodium] of the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University, headed by archaeologists Roi Porat, Yakov Kalman and Rachel Chachy. The excavations are being conducted as part of the development of the Herodion site, led by the Jerusalem and Heritage Authority, the Israel Nature and National Parks Authority, the Antiquities Authority and the Israel Institute of Archaeology.

Wineries of this type from the Roman period are known from archaeological finds from the Italian region and around the Empire. The use of ceramic fermentation tanks is common in wineries for many periods, and in fact to this day (for example, in Georgia, etc.). The wine industry was of great importance in the Roman period, and the production, importation and use of high quality wines by Herod was, of course, also an expression of economic and cultural status. It should be noted that during the course of the excavations at Herodion, as well as at Masada,  dozens of amphorae (large jars) were discovered bearing shipping inscriptions and seals, indicating large shipments of fine Italian wine to Herod the King. The great royal winery that is now being discovered in Herodion sheds light, among other things, on the reasons for the agricultural flourishing of vineyards and wine presses in Judea at the end of the Second Temple Period.

The winery, like the palace-fortress of the entire mountain, ceased to be used upon the death of Herod, during the conversion of Mount Herodion to the monumental tomb of the king. During the Great Revolt, about 70 years later, when Herodion was used as a bastion for the rebels, the warehouses in which the winery was located were used as a residential area, and even as a goat pen. The rich finds from this period include many coins from the rebellion, pottery and glass vessels and remains of food. During the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-136 CE), the basements of the palace served as passages to the system of guerrilla tunnels that were quarried in the mountainside. To support the tunnels, the rebels used many wooden beams that were removed from Herod's palace, and these survived well in the recently discovered cellars.

Another surprising discovery in Herodion -- a fortification from the time of the Hasmonean revolt against the Greeks -- the Hellenistic period

In the meantime, during the course of the excavations were also revealed by surprise, under the level of King Herod's Palace’s courtyard, remains of buildings and a water reservoir that dated to the Hellenistic period -- mid-second century BCE. The remains were buried and sealed under the walls of the palace and under the layer of garden soil that was based in the courtyard at its establishment. It should be noted that to date no evidence has been found at the site of any activity prior to Herod.

The remains of the structures indicate a well-organized construction project that was built at the top of the mountain, including straight, wide walls that delineated large square rooms. Next to the buildings was exposed a large rock-hewn water reservoir, which was also dated to this period. The construction of these structures at the top of Mount Herodion, with its strategic characteristics, and not near the agricultural area in the valleys below it, indicate that these are remains of a fortification rather than an agricultural settlement.

It is possible that the holding of the site was connected to the events that took place in the region during the outbreak of the Hasmonean revolt. This is the case of the campaign that the Seleucid commander Bacchides conducted in 156 BCE against Yonatan and Shimon the Hasmoneans in the community of Beit-Betzi, located northwest of Herodion, as well as the line of fortifications that Bacchides built in Judea a few years earlier, and fortifications he built in this area. It may be, then, that the fortification at the top of Mount Herodion was built as part of these systems, whether by the Greeks or by the Hasmoneans. However, it should be noted that until now there has not been discovered at Herodion any ceramic assemblages characteristic of the Hasmonean period itself, and it is possible that in this period until the time of Herod the mountain remained empty.

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