The Schneller Orphanage operated in Jerusalem from 1860 until the Second World War. During the British Mandate, its German inhabitants were expelled and a military base was established. After the British withdrawal in 1948, the compound was turned over to the Hagana and served as an army base by the Israel Defense Force until 2008.
Excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to construction of new housing on the site has led to impressive discoveries. The current archaeological exposure is a continuation of the salvage excavations that were carried out at the site. Steps of a mikvah were uncovered, one indication of a Jewish settlement dating to the Late Second Temple period.
The press was allowed in briefly on Wednesday to view the new finds.
A large and impressive winery dating to the Roman or Byzantine period, some 1,600 years ago. The complex installation includes a pressing surface paved with a white mosaic. In the center of it is a pit in which a press screw was anchored to extract the maximum from grapes. Eight cells were installed around the pressing surface. These were used for storing the grapes, and possibly also for blending with other ingredients, thereby producing different flavors of wine. The archaeologists believe that this winery served the residents of a large manor house whose inhabitants made their living by, among other things, viticulture and wine production.
Next to the impressive wine press, are remains which indicate the presence of an elaborate bathhouse. These finds included terra cotta pipes used to heat the bathhouse and several clay bricks, some of which were stamped with the name of the Tenth Roman Legion. This legion was one of four Roman legions participating in the conquest of Jewish Jerusalem, and its units remained garrisoned in the city until c. 300 CE.
According to archaeologist Alex Wiegmann, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "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."
Amit Re’em, Jerusalem district archaeologist, was on the site and shared his enthusiasm with BJL in a short video message. Retired Archaeology Professor Amos Kloner, and archaeologist Rabbi Asher Altshul are also in photo essay.