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Oiling the Wheels of Trade: Wine and Winemaking in the Jebel al-'Arab in Late Antiquity (4th-8th centuries AD)

4pm, Thursday 28th April, 2011

Stevenson Lecture Theatre, Clore Education Centre, The British Museum, London WC1

A lecture by Andrea Zerbini, Department of Classics, Royal Holloway, University of London

Followed by wine

Lecture Abstract

Recent field surveys in the vicinity of Si’a in the Jebel al-‘Arab (Hawran) have unveiled a group of large wineries preliminarily dated to the Byzantine and early Arab period. These wine presses closely resemble the “complex wineries” found across the southern Levant, and most notably in modern Israel and Jordan. By drawing on the results of the 2010 survey, this paper will focus on the winemaking process in ancient Auranitis as it is reflected in the material evidence: in particular, the establishment of a winemaking “industry” and estimates of its output in the valley of Si’a will be considered.

A photograph of winery Si’a looking south (taken by Andrea Zerbini)

Above image: A photograph of winery Si’a 21, looking south (by Andrea Zerbini)

The relationship between wine producing infrastructure and the landscape of the jebel will also be explored: in this respect, the aerial photographs of the area taken by the French air force in the 1920s and by the Russians on behalf of the Syrian government in 1958 have proved essential tools in reconstructing a landscape which, by far and large, has retained its ancient features (parcellation, boundary walls, hamlets, towers and tombs) until the demographic and agricultural boom of the second half of the twentieth century. In conclusion, the objectives of the 2011 survey in the Jebel al-‘Arab will be presented.

 

 

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