About the database

This website was inspired by the book of the same title by Tomasz Waliszewski, analyzing diverse aspects of olive cultivation and olive oil production in Roman and Byzantine Syria–Palestine. The observations presented in the book were based on evidence of olive oil production known to the Author, from complete oil presses to single elements of their equipment. These traces, either registered by the Author himself or published by other scholars, come from present day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestinian Authonomy. The sheer volume of these data, necessitated the only practical form of presentation, that is an online database.

The database is designed as a work in progress. It will include new data based on current discoveries of oil-production facilieties in ancient Syria–Palestine, as it is made available. However, the Author’s scholarly interest reaches beyond this chronological framework, both back, toward the oldest relics of this kind, and forth, reaching toward the present. Users are therefore invited to share information on oil installlations that have not been mentioned in this database. Any comments, corrections and suggestions regarding the information presented in the database are also welcome.

To cite this database please use the following reference:
Waliszewski, T., 2014, Elaion. Olive Oil Production in Roman and Byzantine Syria–Palestine, Database. Revision 1.0. Accessed (date): http://elaion.uw.edu.pl/database/


Regional diversification of the data

To facilitate a review of the body of the collected archaeological evidence for oil presses in Syria–Palestine, the data has been presented in the form of a database that includes an open list of sites according to their geographic position and typology.

The database is aimed at presenting oil-press sites and installations of relevance to the study presented in the book, which the author visited and where he was able to verify existing published documentation and/or document artifacts in cases where no publication exists (Syria, Lebanon and Jordan). It does not apply, however, to Israel and Palestinian Autonomy, where the list is based only on published evidence. The arbitrary division by country reflects the state of research on the Roman and Byzantine oil industry in the region.

With regard to Syria, especially the Limestone Massif, it was considered sufficient to refer to published material, even if it was quite modest in cases. Only examples from Palmyra were based on the evidence gathered by the author. A more comprehensive review of the evidence of the oil industry from the territory of Syria is essential in the future to fill in the gaps in the present picture of the oil industry in this region in antiquity. It seems incongruous for a region perfectly suitable for the cultivation of olives, especially the coastal mountain belt extending from Antioch in the north southward alongside the Limestone Massif, to be completely deprived of oil presses in the Roman and Byzantine periods, as the available archaeological evidence seems to suggest.

Sites in Lebanon were visited by the author and documented at least once between 1999 and 2010. Readers may note a certain imbalance in favor of the region between Beirut and Saida. This reflects the author’s growing interest in the subject, accompanying progress in his excavations of the rural sites of Chhîm and Jiyeh situated a few dozen kilometers to the north of ancient Sidon. The search for parallels for oileries found mainly at Chhîm concentrated naturally first on the territory between Saida and Beirut, much less on the more distant regions. Without doubt, future investigations, focused on northern Lebanon and especially the southern coastal region of the country, will give a similar effect as in the case of Syria, in the form of a considerable number of new discoveries of oil presses.

The scope of the author’s prospection of sites with oil-making installations in Jordan covered the entire country and followed from an intensive query search. Confronting data collected in the Jordan Archaeological Database Information System (JADIS) with field data from a personal survey by the author carried out in 2010–2011 turned up negative results in many cases, but in many others it brought new discoveries or refreshed awareness of evidence of the oil industry in Roman and Byzantine Jordan.

Records contain information on the archaeological context of the sites, geographical coordinates, a description of the relevant oil-press elements, chronological data and bibliographic references. Information may be missing in cases where the author was unable to locate reliable data. Material is given only when specifically not limestone.

The online database is a work in progress and will be developed continually. The present version of the presentation follows closely the book form. Individual maps are presented as published in the volume and fields refer to the printed catalog.


Data collection: Tomasz Waliszewski
Data processing: Iwona Zych
Database design: Iwona Zych, Robert Mahler
Project coordination and text editing: Agnieszka Szymczak
Maps: Jakub Kaniszewski, updated by Urszula Wicenciak
Layout: Marta Momot
Original graphics: Angus Burbridge
System design and coding: Robert Mahler


My special thanks go to the directors and staff of the departments of antiquities in all the countries where I have worked, who were able to solve the formal and logistic problems encountered during my excavations and my work on documenting traces of olive oil production.

I am particularly indebted to the general directors of the Direction Générale des Antiquités in Lebanon, Frédéric Husseini and Camille Asmar, as well as my Beirut friends, Renata Ortali Tarazi, Asaad Seif, Anne-Marie Afeiche, Myriam Ziadé, Samar Karam and Bahija Traboulsi. In Syria, my work was facilitated by the friendly interest of the Excavation Director of the Direction Générale des Antiquités et des Musées, Michel al-Maqdissi and the director of the Palmyra Museum, Waleed al-Asad. I received equally warm welcome in Jordan from the directors of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, Fawwaz al-Khraysheh and Ziad al-Saad. The study of oileries in Jordan would not have been possible were it not for my successive visits to this country enabled by the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship Foundation East-Central European Research Fellows Program in 2005, 2010 and 2011. I am sincerely indebted to the former directors of the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, Patricia and Pierre Bikai, and to the present directors, Barbara Porter and Chris Tuttle, and wish to thank the entire staff of this institution. Their generous support was vital to the successful completion of the Jordanian chapter of my work. I have also always met with equally kind and effective assistance from my French colleagues at the Institut Français du Proche-Orient in Beirut and Damascus. I would like to thank the successive directors of these institutes, François Villeneuve, Jean-Marie Dentzer, Jean-Louis Huot, Bertrand Lafont, Marc Griesheimer and Frédéric Alpi, for their unfailing faith in the merit of our cooperation.

My work benefited greatly from the research of other scholars who were kind enough to share with me the results of their discoveries. Lévon Nordiguian was instrumental in getting us started at Chhîm and Jiyeh, sites so fruitful in turning up evidence regarding olive presses in that region. Olivier Callot provided me with invaluable information regarding an olive oil press in Khan Khalde. Grzegorz Majcherek shared with me his extensive knowledge of Palmyra. Many other researchers have trusted me with information about their discoveries relating to my field of research: Fawzi Zayadine, Adeeb Abu Shmais, Saad Hadidi, Yazeed ‘Ulayan, Abdel Sami ‘Abu Dayyeh, who took me to their respective sites in the el-Salt and Amman areas. I wish to express my sincere thanks to Khairieh ‘Amr, Jacques Seigne, Pauline Piraud-Fournet, Burton MacDonald, Neil MacKenzie and Ibrahim Smadi, with whom I explored olive oil production sites around Petra, Jerash, Khirbet el-Dharih and Ajlun. At various stages of my investigations I received support from Jean-Baptiste Humbert, Alain Chambon, Claude Doumet-Serhal, Robert Schick, Bernhard Kolb, Chaim Ben David, Ingrid Périssé-Valero and Krzysztof Jakubiak. But despite the fact that the data presented in this book was provided by many people, I alone assume full responsibility for any errors or omissions that it may contain.

Yet I would not have succeeded in this endeavor had it not been for the support of my closest collaborators, who shared with me the highs and lows of field- and office work. I am indebted to Urszula Wicenciak, Mahmoud el-Tayeb, Tomasz Szmagier, Marek Puszkarski, Kazimierz Kotlewski, Karol Juchniewicz, Jolanta Juchniewicz, Mariusz Gwiazda, Magdalena Makowska, Zofia Kowarska, Szymon Lenarczyk, Jakub Kaniszewski, Marta Momot, Marcin Wagner, Marcin Kisielewicz, Andżelika Dłuska, and Aleksandra Kubiak-Schneider. Have I omitted someone, I hope to be forgiven. They may all rest assured of my deep gratitude. A Fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (2005–2006) and Fulbright Senior Fellowship at Brown University (2006) gave me the opportunity to wade through the essential literature and consult numerous colleagues to whom I owe many an inspiration in my pursuits of the subject of ancient agriculture and olive oil production. Crucial support came in the form of grants from the Polish Science Foundation (2005) and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Poland (2007–2010).

The current version of the database was designed, based on data collected by Tomasz Waliszewski, by a team of specialists from the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw. My special thanks go to Iwona Zych, for her editorial ideas and overall management of the publication process, as well as for the translation and correction of the English text. Robert Mahler was tasked with system design and coding. Agnieszka Szymczak and Urszula Wicenciak spent long hour correcting and proofreading the records. I would also like to thank Marta Momot for designing the website’s layout, based on graphic elements created by Angus Burbridge for the book cover.


A similar database, comprising 233 records concerning Roman-period oil and wine presses from various parts of the Mediterranean basin was developed within the framework of The Oxford Roman Economy Project and is coordinated by Annalisa Marzano.


system version: 1.0
database revision: 1.0
current record count: 1781
last updated: 30 March 2015

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