|Ben Shemen, Cross-Israel Highway|
|Reproduction of an oil press|
|Orderer||“Derech Eretz” Company|
In 2001 an oil press was discovered while paving the Cross Israel Highway. A salvage excavation directed by Yehiel Zelinger, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was conducted there. The “Derech Eretz” Company, which is building the road, initiated a project to reproduce the Ben Shemen oil press at the Cross Israel Highway’s visitors’ center, located between Rosh HaAyin and Elad.
The purpose of the project therefore was to dismantle the oil press and reassemble it in its new location.
The Ben Shemen site is one of a group of settlements from the Roman period that were excavated in recent years along the low plain in the vicinity of the Lod. These sites are almost completely representative of the agricultural hinterland lying along the fringes of the Roman city of Lod. The settlement picture that arises from the multiple sites in the region shows that the city of Lod’s sphere of influence was considerably more extensive than previously thought and that the distribution of agricultural settlements was far denser than has been known to date. The location of the sites on the fringes of the Judean Hills allowed the inhabitants to take advantage of the nearby fields on the Lod plain.
The oil press dates to the sixth century CE – the late phase of the settlement, which is concentrated in the northern part of the site. The oil press was preserved to a maximum height of 0.50 m. On the ground floor of the oil press were two rows of arches spanning 3.8 m that supported the roof. The bases of the arches were preserved. The first story was above part of the building, as indicated by the pieces of white mosaic floor that collapsed and fell on top of the ground floor level.
The oil press consists of crushing and pressing installations. The crushing installation was not found during the course of the excavation; however, on a section of leveled bedrock in the corner of the ground floor a circular conduit was revealed around a place where the crushing basin was previously situated. The pressing installation consisted of a long beam, one end of which was anchored in the eastern wall, and two stone weights (height 1.20 m, diameter 0.80 m) that were attached to the other end. The oil, which was squeezed by means of a screw installation, drained into a square stone collecting vat (1.00 x 1.20 m, depth 0.80 m) that was located west of the weights and was incorporated into the stone slab pavement. It seems the oil press was used during the Byzantine period and was abandoned as evidenced by the vessels that were found on the bedrock floor.
Conservation measures that were taken at the site:
Constructing a tamped foundation surface.
Stabilizing the edges of the surface by means of debesh, a layer of mortar and a soil covering.
- Surface preparation:
Constructing a debesh conduit along the slope (the primary conduit).
Assembling secondary conduits (2’-4’ plastic pipes).
Establishing gradients on the surface in order to convey the run-off outside the site.
- Arranging drainage:
Preparing gravel foundations before assembling the elements.
Assembling the elements in their locations.
Constructing debesh vats around the elements.
Arranging drainage between the vats.
Designing vats similar to the original installation (lined with a layer that resembles bedrock).
- Positioning the elements in place:
Reconstructing a stone floor.
Reconstructing the bases of the arches (including assembling the original column).
Assembling other architectural elements on the surface.
- Reconstruction work:
Construction of a perimeter wall around the surface.
Arranging an entrance (using the original stone threshold).
Covering the surface with mortar (to resemble bedrock).
- Additional work:
To view the figures, click on the figure caption