2,600-Year-Old Phoenician Wine Press Was Just Discovered In Lebanon

Tell el-Burak Archaeological Project - Universität Tübingen

A team of American University of Beirut (AUB) archaeologists, in collaboration with archeologists in Germany, have unearthed groundbreaking evidence of the Phoenicians’ local manufacturing of wine over two millennia ago.

The archaeologists excavated discernible remains of a wine press around 9 km south of the southern city of Saida, estimated to have been used around 700 B.C. It is the oldest Phoenician wine press ever discovered in Lebanon.

The large numbers of seeds at the site indicate that grapes were brought from nearby vineyards stomped in a large basin that could hold more than a thousand gallons of juice.

The resulting requirement would then be collected and stored in amphorae before being fermented, aged, and transported, according to the study that features the discovery, published in the journal Antiquity on Monday.

Phoenicians are known to have spread a “wine-drinking culture” during their extensive seafaring throughout the ancient world, to which they also spread the alphabets, olive oil, the distinct Tyrian purple dye, and various innovations.

They boosted wine’s popularity when they transported it to Greece and Italy because, while wine was known at the time in that region, it was not so highly developed, University of Toronto archaeologist Stephen Batuik told National Geographic.

While their contribution to the popularity of the beverage was agreed-upon by experts, evidence of Phoenicians having partaken in local winemaking remained scarce, until this new discovery.

Along with the wine press, the excavations at Tell El-Burak revealed 4 mudbrick houses dating back between the 6th and 8th centuries B.C.

The houses are believed to have belonged to a Phoenician settlement devoted to winemaking for trading with other civilizations.

Tell El-Burak, a lush agricultural section of the southern coast of Lebanon, has been a site of interest to the archeologists of AUB and the German University of Tübingen since 1998. 

Since then, the site revealed through their excavations so far three different ancient settlements dating back to the Middle Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and the Ottoman Period. The archeologists believe that a fortress existed on the site since its earliest era.