Ruins of Ancient Winery and Roman Bathhouse Unearthed in Jerusalem
Archaeologists excavating the site of the Schneller Orphanage, which operated in Jerusalem from 1860 until the Second World War, were surprised to find the remains of a winery and Roman bathhouse from about 1,600 years ago. Evidence suggests that the site was probably part of a manor house that produced wine and also a camp for members of the Tenth Roman Legion.
Arutz Sheva reports that the winery had a white mosaic floor and a pit at the center in which a press screw was anchored to extract the maximum amount of must from the grapes. Eight cells were found installed around the pressing surface and archaeologists believe that they were used to store the grapes before they were pressed, or to blend different flavors of wine after the process.
Alex Wiegmann, excavation director, at the winepress uncovered in the Schneller Compound, Jerusalem. (Israeli Antiquities Authority)
Evidence of a Roman bathhouse was found near the winery. The archaeologists uncovered terra cotta pipes used to heat the bathhouse and several clay bricks. According to The Jewish Press, the two elements were both part of the manor house, as it was customary in the Roman world for a private bathhouse to be incorporated in the plan of an estate.
The archaeologists also uncovered the foundations of a bathhouse, including terracotta pipes used to heat the building. (Israeli Antiquities Authority)
Interestingly, the two buildings may also provide an illustration of a medical doctrine that was endorsed by a group of Roman physicians known as Methodists. Wine and a relaxing bath were two of the treatments that were prescribed by this group of physicians to treat pain and some other ailments. Their belief in relaxation for pain went against the standard Roman practice of inflicting more pain to nullify the first instance. However, a recent article in The Atlantic shows that the Methodists did not only treat with pleasure, they also used the “normal” means of treatment (i.e. bloodletting or purging) if they believed them necessary.
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The buildings at the Schneller Compound site correspond to the Roman or Byzantine period. Some of the bricks found along with the bathhouse are stamped with the name of the Tenth Roman Legion, suggest that soldiers were garrisoned there and may have even constructed the buildings as well.
This legion was one of the four that were posted to the region and took part in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. They also were in Jerusalem during the Bar Kokhba revolt circa 132–136 AD. Some of the units of this legion allegedly stayed in the city until around 300 AD.
Some bricks, such as the one pictured, are stamped with the name of the Tenth Roman Legion. (Israeli Antiquities Authority)
The archaeologists suggest that the manor house was likely an auxiliary settlement to a site that was previously exposed at Binyanei Ha-Uma. Binyanei Ha-Uma is located 800 meters (2,625 ft.) from the current excavation site and has also been linked to the Roman Legion.
Numerous ancient pottery sherds and fragments of glassware were found inside a pit at the site, indicating the possibility that a workshop operated there which used the ancient pit for discarding waste. (Israel Antiquities Authority)
The current archaeological discoveries are a continuation of salvage excavations that were carried out at the same site half a year ago. A Jewish settlement dated to the Late Second Temple Period (538 BC to 70 AD) was found during those excavations.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, archaeologist Alex Wiegmann, excavation director of the site, said:
“Once again, Jerusalem demonstrates that wherever one turns over a stone, ancient artifacts will be found related to the city’s glorious past. The archaeological finds discovered here help paint a living, vibrant and dynamic picture of Jerusalem as it was in ancient times up until the modern era.”
Excavation director Alex Wiegmann with oil lamp. (Israel Antiquities Authority)
Featured Image: Aerial view of the winery at the Schneller Compound in Jerusalem. Source: Guy Fitoussi, Israel Antiquities Authority