The Debate on Negev Viticulture and Gaza Wine in Late Antiquity

Daniel Fuks, Gideon Avni, Guy Bar-Oz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One hundred fifty years have passed since the first published reference in modern Western scholarship to ancient wine production in the Negev Highland desert, and much is now known about its hydrological, climatic, agricultural, economic, social and political context. Yet, in 2020 two studies reached opposite conclusions regarding the extent and intensity of Negev Highland viticulture, its relationship to Byzantine ‘Gaza wine’ and the associated regional wine trade. This raises wider questions on how to evaluate apparently conflicting archaeological evidence for ancient microregional production and trade, with relevance to longstanding debates on the nature of the ancient Mediterranean economy and the onset of the Middle Ages in Europe. We survey previous research on Negev Highland viticulture, including the two most recent papers, demonstrating problems of equifinality in the calculations- based approach to ancient production/consumption, and clarifying our own position regarding the relationship between archaeologically attested Negev viticulture and ‘Gaza wine’ of Late Antique historical texts. We then analyse additional sources of new evidence contributing to a more holistic synthesis of Negev Highland wine production and trade. At this sesquicentennial commemoration of Negev viticulture’s historiography, we close with unresolved issues and promising directions for future research. 1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-170
Number of pages28
JournalTel Aviv
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program Grant 648427 and Israel Science Foundation Grants 340-14 and 915-20. D.F. was also funded by a British Academy Newton International Fellowship. The authors gratefully acknowledge stimulating conversations held with Tali Erickson-Gini, Yotam Tepper, Lior Weissbrod, Ehud Weiss, Yoel Melamed, Eli Ashkenazi, Steve Rosen, Ze'ev Safrai and John Seligman which broadened and deepened our understanding of ancient Negev viticulture. We also wish to thank Sapir Haad for graphical assistance and Nahshon Roche for editorial assistance, as well as Israel Finkelstein and an anonymous reviewer whose comments on an earlier draft improved the paper. D.F. would like to thank Peter Sarris for sharing a draft of his unpublished manuscript on the Justinianic plague. The authors assume responsibility for any remaining errors.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Ancient Mediterranean economy
  • Ancient viticulture
  • Byzantine
  • Economic archaeology
  • Negev Highlands
  • Wine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Archaeology


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