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Fruit of the Vine, Work of Human Hands

Al Ahram reports on several recent archeological finds, including a Byzantine-era wine factory near St. Catherine’s in Sinai. I can’t help but love the presses that made the wine for the Masses of the saints.

The third discovery was made during routine excavation in the area of Sayl Al-Tuhfah, west of Saint Catherine’s Monastery in South Sinai, where an SCA team discovered the well-preserved remains of a limestone wine factory dating to the Byzantine era (sixth century AD).

Farag Fada, head of the SCA’s Islamic and Coptic Department, says the factory consists of two parts. The first is a square basin with a pump at one end; the bottom of the basin is covered with plaster, and some sections still bear traces of red colour. The northern wall of this basin is decorated with a cross-shaped pattern inside a circle, under which is a clay pump. “This type of pump was used to make the wine flow after treading the raisins and dates,” Hawass said.

Fada says the second part of the factory is a circle- shaped basin that looks like a well with a hole. On two sides were limestone slabs which may have been used by the factory workers to stand on.

Tarek El-Naggar, head of South Sinai Antiquities, said the area connecting the clay pump to the second basin had a hole in order to place the jars used to hold the wine. Early studies have shown that the area of Sayl Al-Tuhfah was an industrial region for the production of wine, as there were many vines and date palms.