Intentional, dual purpose of ancient wine presses as cisterns for runoff water harvesting in drylands

Ilan Stavi, Matan Chocron, Sagi Filin, Reuma Arav, Oren Ackermann, Boaz Zissu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Rock-quarried wine presses were prevalent across the Mediterranean Basin throughout ancient times and particularly during the Late Roman and Byzantine ages. Archeological surveys have uncovered many presses across Israel. Overall, a ratio of ~5 m−1 has been recorded between treading floor area (in m2) and volume of collecting vat (in m3). A recent survey of two presses located at the transition zone between the semi-arid northern Negev, Judean Lowlands, and Southern Hebron Hills of Israel revealed a considerably smaller ratio between the treading floor and collecting vat. In addition, extensive rock exposures were located around the treading floors of the two presses. A 3D laser scanning revealed that the surrounding rock exposure formed a drainage network which flows to the treading floor. Moreover, indications for light modifications of the surrounding rock exposure were recorded for the two presses. In one of the presses, this modification was indicated by remnants of ancient plaster, which were found filling several gaps in the surrounding rock exposure. It is suggested that the purpose of the plaster was for allowing hydrological connectivity between the upslope and downslope edges of these gaps. In the second press, this modification included the chiseling of adjacent bedrock, for the purpose of, it is suggested, channeling runoff water to the treading floor. The findings suggest the intentional collection of raindrops falling on the surrounding rock exposure, together with those falling on the treading floor, which were drained as runoff into the collecting vat. The collected runoff could be used for domestic consumption in this dryland region, augmenting the provision of water for the local populations during the agricultural off-season.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1107-1112
Number of pages6
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • ancient agriculture
  • byzantine archeology
  • dryland inhabitation
  • human adaptation
  • source:sink ratio
  • viticulture


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