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A late hellenistic wine press at Knossos

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 September 2013

Jill Carington Smith
University of Tasmania


In a rescue excavation at Knossos in 1977, a building dating to the last years of the hellenistic period was discovered. In it were an area with a stone tub and lid, the use of which was unknown, a well, and a wine press. The wine press had a treading-floor with remains of flooring composed of flagstones and plaster, which sloped towards a hole in a low barrier wall. The hole gave onto a stone spout, set above a tank coated in waterproof plaster. Adjacent was part of a store building, which was probably used as a cellar: it contained one pithos and there were indications that there had been others. Two tests below the building uncovered the violent destruction of a house of earlier hellenistic date, a stratum with sherds of the end of the 8th cent.–beginning of the 7th cent. BC, and scanty remains of the Minoan period.

Copyright © The Council, British School at Athens 1994

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1 The material from this excavation (code KWW) is in the Stratigraphical Museum, Knossos. D. Vavouranakis, the Archaeological Service's Knossos guard, noticed and reported the subsidence. The writer excavated the site, while Knossos Fellow, at the request of the Herakleion Ephoreia represented by the epimelete (later ephor) Miss A. Lembesi, who took a friendly interest in its progress. The land belonged to Mrs Maria Kalathaki, whose assent to repeated requests to extend the excavation is remembered with gratitude. The excavation was backfilled. The date for the LG/EA level was a verbal communication from J. N. Coldstream at the time of the excavation; the dating of the hellenistic levels and the identification of the Hadra ware derive from verbal information from P. J. Callaghan, also during the excavation. The pottery and finds were assigned to Dr Callaghan for publication by the then director of the British School, Dr H. W. Catling, and will appear in a separate article. Philip Kinns studied the coins, and Sheilagh Wall kindly provided the attached report on the animal bones in 1980. Photographs and plans are by the writer, but Fig. 1 is based on David Smyth's work in the Knossos Survey (2nd edn) and in AR 1977–79, fig. 105, while Fig. 4 incorporates sections drawn by Guy and Jan Sanders, whose help was much appreciated.

An article referring to two byzantine wine presses at Syllata in Chalkidiki, which are well preserved and resemble the Knossos example, appeared too late to be taken into account: Pazaras, Th. and Tsanana, A., ‘Ανασϰαφιϰές έρευνες οτη Βεριά Ν. Συλλάτων (1991)’, Το αρχαιολογιϰό έργο στη Μαϰεδονία ϰαι Θράϰη, 5 (1991) (Thessaloniki, 1993), 289–98, plan 2, fig. 2–6.Google Scholar

2 The type is seen in Pendlebury, J. D. S., The Archaeology of Crete (London, 1939), 357–8, pl. 42. 3Google Scholar, top left, beneath handles.

3 For comment on such doors in buildings connected with vineyards in both ancient and modern Rheneia, see Kent, J. H., ‘The temple estates of Delos, Rheneia and Mykonos’, Hesp. 17 (1948), 293 n. 181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

4 A sample of the earth inside the tub was kept.

5 Samples of the grey silt from the tank ledge and within the tank were kept for analysis, but this has not so far proved possible.

6 As n. 5.

7 Bruneau, P. and Fraisse, P., ‘Un pressoir à vin à Délos’, BCH 105 (1981), 127–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

8 Ibid., figs. 10–14.

9 Bruneau, P. and Fraisse, P., ‘Pressoirs déliens’, BCH 108 (1984), 723, fig. 6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

10 Ibid. 723–5, fig. 7.

11 Ibid. 725, figs. 8–9.

12 Bruneau and Fraisse (n. 7), 129, figs. 7–9.

13 Papapostolou, I. A., A. Delt. 29 (19731974), Chr. 2, 354–5, fig. 7, pl. 219 γ–δ.Google Scholar

14 Agallopoulou, P., A. Delt. 29 (19731974), Chr. 2, 370, fig. 5.Google Scholar

15 Ibid. 376–7, fig. 8.

16 Lalaki, M., A. Delt. 40 (1985), Chr. 129.Google Scholar

17 Frödin, O. and Persson, A. W., Asine, i (Stockholm, 1938), 33–5, fig. 16.Google Scholar

18 Ibid. 38, figs. 17–18.

19 Wace, A. J. B., ‘Excavations at Mycenae, 3: the ramp’, BSA 25 (19211923), 68–9, pl. 1, rooms 30–1.Google Scholar

20 Dörpfeld, W., ‘Die Ausgrabungen am Westabhange der Akropolis’, MdI 20 (1895), 168–70, figs. 5–6.Google Scholar

21 Isler, H.-P., ‘Heraion von Samos: eine frühbyzantinische Zisterne’, MdI 84 (1969), 202–86, figs. 1–3, pl. 82.Google Scholar

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23 Bonias, Z., A. Delt. 41 (1986), Chr. 170, fig. 3.Google Scholar

24 Olynthus, i, no text, fig. 3; Olynlhus, ii. 2, 3, fig. 23.

25 Olynthus, i, fig. 3; ii. 2, 3, figs. 17, 22.

26 Olynlhus, viii. 342–3, pls. 82. 4–5, 97.

27 Ibid. 343, pl. 99.

28 Pelekanidis, S., ‘Ἀνασϰαφὴ Φιλίππων’, PAE 1958, 89Google Scholar, fig. 2, pls. 65 β, 66 α.

29 Kourkoutidou-Nikolaïdou, E., ‘Ληνοὶ εἰς τὰς πηγὰς Βοϊράνης’, Arch. Eph. 1973. Arch. Chr., 3649.Google Scholar

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31 Michalowski, K. and Gajdukiewicz, W. F., Mirmeki, i (Warsaw, 1958), 4864Google Scholar (French summary at 143–5), figs. 56–75.

32 Wasowicz, A., Olbia Pontique et son territoire (Paris, 1975), 122–3 and nn. 21–2CrossRefGoogle Scholar; figs. 128–9.

33 For references to other wine presses in the Black Sea area, not available to me, see Michalowski and Gajdukiewicz (n. 31), 143, nn. 18–22; Hind, J. G. F., ‘Archaeology around the Black Sea’, AR 19921993, 98, 101Google Scholar; id., ‘Greek and barbarian peoples on the shores of the Black Sea’, AR 1983–4, 86.

34 See Bruneau and Fraisse (n. 9), 720 3; Kourkoutidou-Nikolaïdou (n. 29), 40–1.

35 For a comprehensive, welli-llustrated account see Hadjisavvas, S., Olive Oil Processing in Cyprus fiom the Bronze Age to the Byzantine Period (SIMA 99; Nicosia, 1992)Google Scholar; also Forbes, H. A. and Foxhall, L., ‘The queen of all trees’, Expedition 21.1 (1978), 3747.Google Scholar

36 Dawkins, R. M., ‘Excavations at Palaikastro, IV’, BSA 11 (19041905), 276–7, fig. 8.Google Scholar

37 Shown on black-figure vase: Bosanquet, R. C., ‘Excavations at Praesos, I’, BSA 8 (19011902), 266, fig. 33.Google Scholar

38 Blitzer, H., ‘Olive cultivation and oil production in Minoan Crete’, in Amouretti, M.-C. and Brun, J.-R. (eds), La Production du vin et de l'huile en Méditeranée de l'âge du bronze à la fin du XVIème siècle (BCH suppl. 26; Paris, 1993), 166–7, figs. 2–3.Google Scholar I would like to thank the author for an advance copy of this article. The rest of the volume was not available to me.

39 Hadjisawas (n. 35), 119–20; Forbes and Foxhall (n. 35), 42; Drachmann, A. G., Ancient Oil Mills and Presses (Copenhagen, 1932) 52–3Google Scholar, for discussions on date.

40 Boardman, J., ‘Excavations at Pindakas in Chios’, BSA 53–4 (19581959), 303. 304Google Scholar, figs. 3, 6, Pl. 72 c.

41 Bosanquet (n. 37), 264–9, 31–5, pl. 11.

42 At first pure oil runs from the pulp in the sacks, but to remove all the oil they have to be drenched with hot water. The oil and water separate in the collection receptacle, and the oil can then be skimmed off. This is tedious, however, and it is better if the receptacle has a low-set spout or bunghole, through which the water can be allowed to drain away: then, when the oil starts to flow, it can be caught in a different container. Our stone tub was considered for this use too, but again the blocked hole negated the idea.

43 Young, J. H., ‘A migrant city in the Peloponnese’, Expedition (Bulletin of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, 5.3 (19621963), 3Google Scholar, fig. on p. 4. Pressbed diameter c.1.0 m; jar diam. c. 0.05 m.

44 Paton, W. R. and Myres, J. L., ‘On some Karian and Hellenic oil presses’, JHS 18 (1898), 214, fig. 5.Google Scholar

45 Where pithoi were used as collection tanks, it was probably possible to put a strainer directly over the vessel's mouth.

46 Vasileiadis, D., ‘Η λαϊϰὴ ἀρχιτεϰτονιϰὴ τῆς Αἴγινας’, Λαογραφία, 16 (1956), 488–9, fig. 42.Google Scholar This article records and describes the use of wine presses and an oil press on Aegina in the 1950s and shows their differences well (wine presses at pp. 488 ff.; oil press, pp. 491–5).

47 Isler (n. 21), 230.

48 Bruneau and Fraisse (n. 9), 721.

49 Herodotos (iv. 17) records the Greco-Scythian Kallippidai, west of the mouth of the Dnieper and thus close to Olbia, as growing wheat, onions, garlic, lentils, and millet. Recent studies have mentioned grape seeds, wheat, barley, and grains in the S. Crimea near Chersonesos (Hind 1983–4 (n. 33), 85) and wheat, barley, millet, chickpeas, peas, and vines in the NW Crimea (id. 1992–3 (n. 33), 98). There is no mention of olives.

50 This appendix was written in 1980.

51 Schmid, E., Atlas of Animal Bones (Amsterdam, London and New York, 1972).Google Scholar

52 Harcourt, R. A., ‘The dog in prehistoric and early historic Britain’, Journal of Archaeological Science, 1 (1974), 151–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

53 Silver, I. A., ‘The ageing of domestic animals’, in Brothwell, D. and Higgs, E. (eds), Science in Archaeology (London, 1969). 150–68.Google Scholar

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