Washington, June 19 : Archaeologists have found two ancient wine presses in Egypt, which are most likely part of the area's earliest winery, producing holy wine for export to Christians aboard.
According to a report in National Geographic News, Egyptian archaeologists discovered the two presses with large crosses carved across them near St. Catherine's Monastery, a sixth-century A.D. complex near Mount Sinai on the Sinai Peninsula.
Weeks after discovering the first wine press, excavators unearthed a nearly identical press with limestone walls, about 340 feet (100 meters) away
The find may indicate the presence of many other presses in the area, according to Tarek El-Naggar, director for southern Sinai at Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.
"More presses are likely to be found in the area, which was probably an ancient wine-industry hub," he added.
The discoveries so far include the presses, clay vessels called amphorae, and grape seeds. Archaeologists also reported red residue on some walls.
Although the presses have not yet been conclusively dated, archaeologists believe the tools were made between the fourth and sixth centuries A.D.
Several gold coins picturing the Roman Emperor Valens, who ruled from A.D. 364 to 378, were also found near the presses. The wine presses could date to the same period, according to the archaeologists.
According to El-Naggar, said the coins were produced in Antioch in today's southeastern Turkey.
Similar coins have been found in Lebanon and Syria-the areas of origin for many of the grape varieties used for wine in ancient Egypt.
The wine, made near Sinai was stored in the amphorae, standard vessels of the time for shipping wine, olive oil, grain, fish, and other items.
The wine would have been considered to be from a holy site and used in religious ceremonies-such as the Christian Eucharist-at St. Catherine's Monastery and abroad.
"I think the monastery was using these presses to make the holy wine, because it's near to Mount Moses (Mount Sinai)," said El-Naggar, referring to the site where some believe the prophet Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. he wine presses have 4-foot-square (1.2-meter-square) basins, where monks would have used their feet to smash grapes. A hole at one end of each press likely fed into a lower basin, which caught the pressed juice.
The structures are similar to presses used by ancient Egyptians, beginning as early as 3,000 B.C., when pharaohs started a royal winemaking industry in the fertile Nile Delta.